I had female cousins: Jean and Elsie Muir, my Uncle Jack’s daughters, and Dorothy Rowlands. Dorothy was the daughter of my Auntie Beat (Beatrice – “Our Beattie”) who had died long before I was born.
My Mom told me about Auntie Beat. She had died young – not long after Dorothy was born – of tuberculosis. It was family folklore that Bill Rowlands, her husband, had not looked after her well and that she had died from his lack of care. After her death, Dorothy had come to live with Gran’ma and Gran’dad Bayliss, next door to us.
When she grew up, she lived at our house or, perhaps, just slept in our then-spare room. She was a bubbly, giggling girl, and very modern in her dress and make-up. Her modernism did not please Gran’ma and Gran’dad, mainly due to Gran’dad’s puritanical attitudes born of him being a member of The Band of Hope as a lad.
Dorothy was about eight years older than me. She married a chap called Vic Byrne and the wedding was a laughter-filled affair. They had two children: Robert and Diane.
Jean Muir was older than me, too. She married a nice, hard-working chap called Randall Leadham and the two went to live in Codsall – a really posh little village way back then.
Her sister Elsie was more my age: about eighteen months separated us, she being the older. Uncle Jack and Auntie Ethel lived at the other end of our “back”, so Elsie and I were playmates. Well, we were until Elsie “failed” her 11-Plus and went to Hordern Road Secondary Modern School and she immediately started to be woman-shaped.
From that statement, it is clear that I had started to notice girls early on. Oddly enough, and without any teaching from Mom, I always respected them, and grew up a little scared of the fairer sex.
I took an interest in girls as . . . well . . . girls as soon as I’d “passed” my 11-Plus. Obviously, sitting the 11-Plus Exam caused hormonal changes. My voice, though, didn’t break until I was fourteen.
Opposite the Grammar School was Ashley House, a private school in a big house and a garden converted to a small playground. It was for infants and secondary-school age girls. Some of the lads claimed to have “gone out” (and other things) with some of the Ashley House girls. I, being shy, could only observe them from across the road.
The Wolverhampton Girls High School girls were out-of-reach of any lad. They went to and from their school in their parents’ cars or, if they used the buses, they would travel in little groups. One passed them in the streets sometimes, but never would they exchange a word nor even a smile. Snobby little ladies, them.
When going to School in a morning with Godfrey Ault, we would meet up with one or two of his “mates”. With these, Godfrey would trade stories of what he’d done the previous evening with various girls. He’d give his tales a bit of spice by naming the girls he’d done it with. His mates would spin the same sort of yarns. I could not believe any of what they said.
* * * * *