Wednesday, September 19, 2018

ISSUE NUMBER 210   September 2018

Carl Writes

I never knew Our Granddad Perry to walk. Multiple sclerosis had taken a hold of him when he was in his forties and quickly changed his life for the worse. One of the last times Granddad was able to walk without help was when he escorted Our Mom down the aisle for her wedding in 1954. After that he was able to stand but soon lost his mobility.
 Within a few years he was only able to move around in a wheelchair, but though he may not have been able to get about he was one of the most important people in my life. His fortitude and his humour in the face of adversity, his compelling words and sayings, his vivid recollections of the great players of Blues and the Villa – all imprinted themselves upon my mind. So too did his upset at his stay in Summerfield Hospital.
 I was only five or six years old and we had gone to see Our Granddad in convalescence. He had been operated on in the adjacent Dudley Road Hospital because the MS had forced his legs to cross over so that they could not be uncrossed. That made things really difficult when Our Nan and Mom and Dad were lifting Granddad in and out of his wheelchair. So the doctors took the guides out his legs, which allowed them to be moved more easily.
 We went to see Granddad regularly and I still recall the one visit most vividly. It was a Sunday. Over dinner time we had listened to ‘Two Way Family Favourites’ on the Light Programme, as we always did, with its fascinating and exotic BFPO locations. Then in the afternoon we headed off to the hospital.
 It was a sunny day. ‘Beyond Our Ken’, with Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams, was on the wireless in Dad’s car as we went across Victoria Square, past Chamberlain’s Fountain into Congreve Street, and from there down to the Sandpits, Summer Hill and the Dudley Road to Western Road.
 Dad parked the car and we went in to Summerfield. When we got to Granddad’s ward he was distressed and I remember him saying to Our Mom, ‘You’ve got to get me out of here Our Sylvie, they’ve put me in the workhouse’. As a child I was unable to grasp the significance of why Our Granddad was so disturbed, all I knew was that he was really upset. Years later I came to understand. Summerfield Hospital had been the Birmingham Workhouse – and as such it had been a hated and feared institution.
 There was little provision for disabled people like Our Granddad in the 1950s and my memories have been stirred by David Barnsley’s important, moving and powerful account of life as a child with a disability in that decade.  As ever there is much more to read, including a fascinating account of African American female soldiers in Birmingham and the tale of a group of lads who met up through football in the early 1970s and who have remained pals ever since.

Have a bostin read.
Tara bit





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