The Shop Becomes a Home and The Early Holidays

Gilbert, my father, was a small shop-keeper and owned a tobacconist/newsagents shop in Harborne High Street directly opposite the Green Man pub.

The business traded as E.W Hyde and Son and was originally established by my paternal grandfather Ephraim Hyde after the First World War. The shop property was leased from the Vickers family who owned and ran a bakery business from a site located between Grays Road and Nursery Road and bordered by High Street.

When I was born, in 1953 my Mom and Dad were living above the shop (it was a three-storey building). They had moved in to the shop after their marriage and granddad Hyde had bought and moved to house in Quinton Road, Harborne.

Because we did literally live over the shop and because the nature of the business meant that the shop was open from very early in the morning to around 7pm except on Sundays when we closed at 1pm, holidays etc. were extremely limited and difficult to have as a family.

Dad owned a car and every Sunday afternoon, from Easter till the middle or end of September, meant a trip out to the countryside, with a picnic tea. No matter what the weather was like in Harborne at 1pm we still made the journey out, often repeating the mantra “it will be better when we get there”!

These trips out were to such places as Breedon Down, the Malvern Hills, Usk, the Clee Hills, Ombersley by the River Severn, Gloucester, Portishead and Clevedon, the Forest of Dean or Wyre Forest if time was short. Before Easter and after September, trips out included more local places such as the Lickey or Clent Hills, Canon Hill Park for the Tulip Festival and Sutton Park.

My own summer holidays were somewhat strange too – mostly I holidayed with my Mom until I was around 12 – Dad stayed back in Harborne and ran the shop. Mom and me would go and stay with distant relatives or people who became friends of Mom when she was in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during World War Two.

I remember trips to Kew Gardens and central London because we were staying with a long-term friend in Hounslow. I also have vague memories of a short break in Brighton, probably because we also went there from Hounslow.

During my junior school years, we had coach or railway-based short-stays (3-5 days) in Somerset, Devon and Dorset. The secondary problem with holidays was that Mom never managed to learn to drive and therefore all trips were limited to where we could go by public transport or shank's pony (walking).

When he was small Dad had been taken to a place called Fairbourne, near Barmouth in Wales and he stayed in a three-storey B&B close to the mainline and miniature railway stations. I remember him telling me stories of that first, magical, holiday. Of his wonderment of seeing and hearing trains travelling over the big bridge to Barmouth. Of the steam trains climbing the embankment and travelling around the cliffs and of the wide, safe beach.

In 1960, it was agreed that both Mom and me should have a 14-day “proper” holiday and it was to Fairbourne that Dad looked for suitable accommodation because he knew that once we were put on the Great Western Railway Cambrian Express (steam-hauled) train at Snow Hill Station Birmingham, we would not need to get off until we arrived in Fairbourne. So started a long association with the Cambrian Coast and North Wales.

I will expand on life at the shop and all these holiday and day-trips in other articles, having now “set the scene”.