April 2005

April 4 2005

Throw another log on the fire and draw near while we turn the clock back. Hands up those who remember the days when the river that put Stafford on the map was a force to be reckoned with? We’re talking history here. Long before the Bridge Cafe stopped serving cream teas and became the Curry…

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April 11 2005

The Titfield Thunderbolt turned heads, but it took a mermaid to stop the traffic. In the early 1950s, Staffordians became accustomed to odd happenings in the main street. You want a Victor Mature lookalike in loincloth and fake tan wrestling a stuffed lion? Right this way, madam. But a mermaid? In Foregate Street? Pure fantasy.…

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April 18 2005

Tough choice: the Magic Pound Note Machine or the pea-shooter and a quarter of parrygarrick? Saturday in the old St John’s market always presented a dilemma. The toy stall was the big attraction, but to get there you had to pass the sweets and for kids whose taste buds had been stunted by years of…

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April 25 2005

A question for all you local history buffs: what’s the link between Stafford’s main post office and the Battle of Culloden? Here’s a clue: it involves a military order written on a playing card – the nine of diamonds as it chances – and the slaughter of hundreds of Highlanders. Give up? Let me explain.…

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May 2 2005

The Cubs had Akela and the Law of the Jungle. We had Noake and the New Moral World. We (that’s me and my friend Bugs) were members of the Woodcraft Folk, the non-military youth wing of the Co-operative Movement. If we had uniforms I don’t remember them, but we had a motto: “Span the world…

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May 9 2005

We didn’t carry donor cards, but half the eight-year-olds of Stafford had an organ or two removed in the 1950s whether we liked it or not. A generation like ours, raised on a ration book diet supplemented by daily doses of cod liver oil, Virol, Radio Malt, concentrated orange juice and National Dried Milk, should…

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May 16 2005

It’s not something my family talks about much, but my mum was a junkie. Long before it became fashionable. As addictions go, hers was fairly harmless, but her cravings were real, rarely satisfied and never kicked. She made regular visits to a dusty, long forgotten den hidden in the maze of terraces that lay between…

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May 23 2005

Recycling was something we didn’t know much about in Stafford in the 1950s, but some of us did our green bit without realising it. And it kept us on the streets. Two regular visitors made it easy – and lucrative: the Corona pop lorry and the rag-and-bone man. Both offered incentives. The Corona driver was…

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June 8 2005

Shakespeare wasn’t much of a poet, but he was a great banjo player. And a painter whose work never failed to attract attention. We’re talking Reg here, of course, not Will. Reg Shakespeare (Shaky to his friends) was a man of many parts. He earned his living as a signwriter. His creations were often the…

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June 15 2005

Keeping warm, before central heating made it too easy, was a risky business. There’s nothing like a chimney fire for turning your knuckles white. We had them regularly. Sweeps were expensive, so my father would use Imps, stamp-sized packets of wonderstuff that promised to blast the flue clean safely but which inevitably turned nasty and…

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