From 1945 Young Phillip and I would be taken to the city centre week ends, if there was no racing on and see all the sites of the Birmingham Bull Ring. were every thing would be sold we would then go to the Old Bull for lunch, I remeber having Fagotts and Pea’s ar a venue called Redferns people would que outside for a table although my father seems to have had a permanent one when required.
It was as early as this when he warned me that every thing was possible if you bunged (Payed)
Some nights we would stay up so late that the famous characters from the Birmingham Hippodrome would join the festivities, the Prince of Wales another famous venue would be full of the stars appearing that week
Tommy Trinder, Max Miller, would mix with the traders, were my Dad once told me that there were better comedians seen late at night, and probably the stars got there jokes.
and script from listening to the street grafters.
One particular, character would just get up in stage and the audience would go deadly silent,
What with the many Bookmakers and there staff who would also arrive back from the dogs at Perry Bar,
From tea time until 2 in the morning ir was a sea of laughter and back chat.
Even as a young Kid It was sad if I fell asleep and missed something.
On a few occasions my pal and I would wake up, and see every one having breakfast, for it was the next day. Sunday
Eggs, Bacon, Sausage, Fried bread and of course Black Pudding. Mushrooms, followed by toast. with many people in the midlands starving it was not possible to feel sorry,for them, it was clear that Dad was a great giver as well as taker, there seemed to be a knock on our door, on many occasions, and he would walk up stairs and come down followed by a great deal of thanks you’s,
At the end of 1940s Phil was 15 and I was 12. we were playing a great deal of football. for a team opersire Yardley Wood playing park called Westcroft FC It wasn’t long before I was being selected, over my brother I was sure that if he hadn’t been in the racing game, were he could earn £2 a day even at these ages, were a newspaper round would be the same for a week.
Both of us were in the Boys Brigade at Warstock. but we were facing disaster, for our fathers business had encountered massive change Ernest Fletcher, the Guardsman, who had been a Heo all through WW1, had Died, and although an application to the Bookmakers trade association required a change of ownership. because Dad had been working for the firm for so long he was allowed to take over the rights to trade, in the Fletcher pitches.
At first Dad seemed to manage the change although to be a wonderful tick tac was not actually Bookmaking, the change although subtle it was a disaster,
Dad was already a known hard drinker, but the stress of having to run the business was out of his comfort zone.
Firstly Bookmakers on course have to offer a certain amount of credit, Philip senior, offered to much credit, not only losing some great clients, but a great deal of cash in the process.
Phil left school and our mother had insisted that we had a trade as well as Bookmaking, and Phil became a apprentice Toolmaker and Die setter, of which must be stated he was good, when I left school there had been massive change as explained with the sale of our house at Warstock. sale of the Kings Heath grocers followed by a short period no more than 2 years in Shirley.
I was to young to understand but kniw it was clear that we were sliding down the snakes with no chance of connecting a ladder.
It was this period when I was offered the chance of being a stable Lad at Walter Millers training establishment, between Shirley and Solihull Miller was owner of Shirley Poneys a few miles down the Stratford road.
The only experience I had every had was when on holiday at Weston Super Mare and my favourite donkey Stella.
He had over 20 ponies in his table being got ready for the 1948/9 season.
“The day I turned up. it was January, and I was 13. and was offered the job as trainee stable hand, evenings and week ends.
As soon as I arrived I knew that this was no normal job. I was told to clear out the horse muck, or in this case Pony shit, and was told just keep the pony’s head nearest to you, don’t ever allow the Pony to get his back legs next to you.
With a great big broom in my freezing hands, I forgt the golden rule.
There was all of a sudden a great crash, and the Wooden Door, half open and closed, was sent flying off its hinges, I had allowed the Pony to get me the wrong side and he attempted to break every bony in my legs, with a serious amount of bucking and kicking, fortunately every one missed me by inches but showed what damage they could achieve.
This moment I lost the full ,love of the animal and although I never told Phillip who I am sure had dreams of me becoming a Gordon Richards, or perhaps Lester Piggott,
The next week, I was still carrying on the function of stable cleaner, the Trainers a old Irishman, I have forgotten his name was about to shave the surplus coat off the one particular Pony who was well thought of by both trainer and owner.
I was off school. and it was late february, spending the time at the stable, I was certainly no expert but this Pony had become a right bitch, with increased meanness, she certainly didn’t like me, the duty this day was to saddle up the pony, (Called Wizard not sure why.) and walk it to the racetrack a mile from the track.
At first it seemed fine but with traffic on the road the trainer advised me to walk it the rest of the way,
When we arrived at the stadium. there were many Pony,s, being trained on the course, ,
Standing at the Winning Post was Walter Miller, Trainer and I assume an owner, the way that Miller was promoting the ability of Wizard it was pretty obvious it was being sold.
I was told to get up on its back and trot out to the end away to the left, and follow Michael a Boy a little older than me, and he would show me what to do.
We both cantered our ponies to what I now realise was the 5 furlong post,
Mick told me to keep a hold of Wizard, and we would just canter past the winning post so that the owner and trainer could see Wizard’s action.
I had been taught to keep the reins, behind the Ponys neck so that if he pulled hard he was ony pulling against his own neck, and would be kept under control
The reins not new were badly worn, and the rubber on the reins that should have been similar to the back of a table tennis bat, was flat with was did I have any control if the pony bolted.
As we began to canter Wizard gave a buck pulling the reins out of my hands and bolted like a maniac. .
At first I thought I was out of the side but managed to keep my position, the Pony was dashing to the grandstand and the winning post were the visitors were watching .
As I passed the post instead of Wizard showing his paces he was showing Miller and the would be owner two things one that it was a nut case and twi I was no would be Richards.
Straight past the visitors, I vaguely remember the trainer attempting to stand in the way detracting the pony however it was clear that the pony not only hated me for he crashed into the old Irishman sending him head over heals.
All I could do was sit and pray, The only thing that I feel saved my life for the pony was approaching a 10 ft Hedge, that even Golden Miller a 5 times Gold Cup winner would have rejected.
Wizard had no such shrewdness, he was flying towards the hedge as if he was about to take it on.
My legs had always been over developed in the thigh area having played football. three times most week ends, so sitting like a clam, it may well have looked as If I was as crackers as the Pony, I had not moved. so although I was out of control with the Poy I was firmly in power in the saddle.
I had to make a quick decision, to fly though the hedge onto the busy A34. or jump off.
I decided on the later,
The Pony decided to jump the fence, running straight into the hedge as if it didnt exist. doing a somersault. I landed on my well honed back side, and slide for 25 yards on my back as for the Pony I never did quite find out.
As I got to my feet a red faced Walter Miller, was poking mr with his stick. as if he was testing the going.
“Dont bother to come back to the stable, I don’t know what your furure holds but it will not be anything to do with Horses, or even Ponies”.
When Philip found out what had happened he was as angry as Miller. for I am sure he had dreams of me being a jockey riding some odds on favourite,
And about to carry out his instructions to jump off during the race.
There was one chance and that was Phils obvious ability, to make a book. he was certainly shrewd and had befriended many of Das old pals, some of them successful Bookmakers, themselves and were happy to explain what Dad was doing wrong.
In a short time the last resemblance of a happy life for Mom and Gran.disintegrated when the house at Shirley was taken off us.
We were now potless homeless and chance less.
Half the time we never saw Dad, although he appeared from time to time with some cash, ussually after a festival meeting, so he was still hanging in there.our mother however made a move that I must give her all my respect,
“Well I lived there one before so whats wrong with moving there again” she said.
She took what little furniture she had and moved into a cousens back room and one bedroom, flat, In William Henry Street, only 100 yards from the house in Angelina Street, that she was born. talk about snakes and ladders,
We were now rock bottom.
Phil junior was working the two jobs, as Tool maker and part time Bookie one of the youngest at 17.
I had a job in Balsall Heath, making runner boards for cats a firm that had been doing so for 25 years but running boards were about to become outdated.
All of a sudden things began to change Philip Junior was making the game pay even Dad was pulling himself together, do the job he was expert at Tick Tak.
All though Mom and Diane a young sister and I were still living in a slum, things could never get any worse.
That was until a letter arrived with an official stamp on the envelope, (Conscript)
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service.
The only bread winner of note was now to be enlisted in the Army. at £3.50 a week. living accommodation, in a nissen hut, a uniform that gave you no chance of ever pulling a bird, and the chance of getting a crack on the chin if you ever spoke out if tern. this would make it inevitable that all we had was mothers, wages from working in a local factory.
Men were exempt from National Service if they worked in one of the three “essential services”: coal mining, farming and the merchant navy for a period of eight years.
So the letter to the Home Office that my mother sent, asking for lenience owing to the family’s plight and Phillip being the only bread winner. must have created a laugh in Parliament, when in the column What do you do for a living, “Bookmaker”
There was only one thing he could do and that was similat to murder in the Russell household,
When Mother was told she had a fit,
No the only way Phil was going top escape from 2 years in a make believe Army was to use the age old plan of Bunging.
But who would you Bung, after all the head of British forces is the Queen, I doubt a £50 in her back pocket,
For several months Phillip ignored the demand and carried on making a book all over the country.
Just before christmas when less expected the Military Police stepped in and took Phil to Caterisk.
After a few weeks in a Glass House, he was interviewed by the Provo Sargent, who seemed fasinated by the Kids job. for he loved a bet and went racing when ever he could.
This was the chance for Phil taking £50 out of his back pocket he placed it in the sarg’s had and squeezed it tight.
“What this for” can a very surprised NCO.
” I want you to find the best way for me to get out of this waste of time and quickly”
I will not divulge any more of the plan, but suffice to say that Phillip was back in civvy street within 2 months.
In 1952 a miracle took place, Dad in one of his Drinking Spree’s he found himself in the company of a Birmingham Council leader. who not only had been one of our customers he also had failked to pay and still owed £150.
I can only assume that Dad was in a story telling mood.
And all he had to do was tell the truth.
He was to repeat what took place to me many years later.
“When I got to the time that we lost every thing and Mother and the two my oungest Kids had to move to Balsall Heath”
The Council worker began to cry. not only did he pay the £150 he told Dad how he could guarantee a council house at a new over flow at West Heath.
All she had to do was get the police to give her a letter saying that she was homeless,
On monday my mother and I sat on an dingy old settee in the road opposite the flat.
When the Police arrived they were compassionate when we told them we were homeless,
Within 3 hours we had a pink slip that we took to the council offices and Mom was given a set of Keys, for a brand new Maisonette in West Heath
It was as if she had won the Football Pools.
With Philip junior making money it was not very long before the firm was having success. again.
In 1954 It was my turn to play for queen and country I say play because that is all I did during my 3 years in the RAF, One person who was happy was Edith, my Mother it had been seen as a criminal act, when Phill battled against doing his conscription, when I told her that I was going in the RAF. she was over joyed.
Arriving at West Kirby RAF.was strange loke a gang if kids at Boot Camp.
1954 was the time when we all had a Ducks Arse Haircut called a Tony Curtis. when I arrived for my sqaure bashing (Drill)
The CO (Commanding Officer) noticed my hair and placed me on report.
That night all the lad’s in my hut were getting me at it, telling me that I would get at least 14 days CB (confined to barracks) for having long hair.
I thought I would bet on it
Get away with it .evens
3 days evens
7 days 4/1
All the Airman who had been in the camp more than a week knew that it was a certainty that cialis comparison I would get 3 days for a first offence. and get my hair sheared. afterwards .
Within 1/2 hour I had taken over 40£ with people coming in from other huts to clean up. every bet 3 days.
As I walked in with the RS (Regimental Sargent) the CO gave me a right bollocking about my DA. before saying
“3 Day Confined to barracks.Take him out.Sargent.”
I never budged “What do you want? ” cried the CO.
” I don’t think its fair I only had it cut on Wednesday”
The CO had a fit, he had never been spoken to by a newbie since the war. “Sargent Take the fool out in quick time and make it 14 Days.”
You should have seen my comrades eyes when they found out. and a nice £40 Earner.
All through the my conscription I did nothing but play shove halfpenny and Football.
The RAF Stafford, MU15. had a great team. full of pro,s who were allowed to play for the Professional team saturday,
On wednesday they just messed about, passing great pass’s for me to score. after all we were only playing local kids,
I was the star scoring 2/3 goals a game.
However the best touch I had was when on Fire Duty and shine my torch on a women’s back side, followed by the scot gaurd in charge of camp discipline.
I was clever enough to know that I would have to ignore what I had seen,
This I did and for the remainder of my time I did what I wanted to do.
With 12 months to go I paid one of my visits back home were my mother was so proud of me, you would have thought I was a VC.
As I opened the door to the Maisonette, there was no one there but a great big piece of white paper..
“Your Mothers in Selly Oak Hospital me and Phil will see you Ward 18.”
She had suffered a few minor problems but never nothing serious.
I ran 1/2 a mile just in time to catch a bud to Selly Oak.
As I walked onto the car park I could see the Hospital entrance 200 yards away.
Standing by the door was Dad and Phil.
I whistled recognition. and they responded with a wave
It was then that my Dad, raised his hands in the very familiar stance when Tick Tacking at the races.
As he showed a not very well known sign.
Not well known because the odds of 1000/1 were never reached in bookmakers terms.
I only guessed it because it was shown as 2 x 500s, in fact two circles.
I gulped once then twice, what was he indicating .
All it could mean was My Mom was 1000/1
That meant Death or close to It.
My poor mother had passed away from a brain Hemorrhage. God Bless her.
At the very time when things were looking up. she had lost the fight,
Page 3. Rock and Roll.