All names and events are fictitious

TEZZA the TIPTON TED

By Terry Henwood

It was 12 December and the year was 1962, one of the coldest winters on record. A little after 10pm a young 16 year old boy, clad in a black simulated leather jacket and tight blue jeans lay motionless in the snow, his breathing becoming more and more laboured. Blood poured from his left cheek where the a flick knife had lacerated his skin; both eyes were closing having taken a multitude of punches and kicks and his ribs felt crushed. His whole body was racked with pain and his broken teeth could scarcely allow his mouth open to let the stream of blood trickle down his jaw. Snow began to fall and the temperature had again dropped below freezing; Tezza couldn’t survive much longer……………….


Born in 1946 Eddie Hanwood was a war baby and lived in a council house in Cupfields Avenue, Ocker Hill, Tipton with his parents and brother John and younger sister Joan. Their house backed onto Jubilee Park and he and John could easily climb the metal railings to give them access to an endless world of football, cricket and tennis, except on Sundays when all ball games were forbidden. The ‘Parkie’ as he was known was Desperate Dan Randall, a tall stout man with only one arm, always clad in a dark blue overcoat complete with a conductor’s style hat. Dan would chase him and John whenever they dared to kick a ball on the Sabbath.

The head Park keeper was Mr Judd who lived with his family in a large house just inside the main park gates located in Powis Avenue, next to the Coop. His wife was absolutely gorgeous and his daughter Barbara took a fancy to Tezza’s mate Jimmy Cross.

In his early teens life was idyllic for Tezza as he was naturally gifted as a sportsman and so was John. As on any council estate there was no shortage of kids and life was a continuous merry go round of games and fun.

The mighty Toll End Wesley football team had their home pitch on Jubilee Park, as did Ocker Hill Cricket Club, but in truth neither playing surfaces were up to much. Most Sundays a mob of boys from the dreaded Lost City always came to play, amongst them the Bulls, Leadingtons and Garrets. No quarter was asked or given and as dark descended the Lost City boys made their way home via the canal and high railway bank, which enclosed the whole area; only two ways in and out, that’s why it was called the Lost City.

Tezza and brother John walked every day to Great Bridge Junior School, passing a semi illiterate man who everybody called Harry Pigeon; he would stare at the boys, but once past him a shout of ‘Pigeon’ would give him cause to chase them down to the Golden Cup, at that time run by Reg Thacker. Their walk would take them past golden icons of yesteryear such as Toll End library, the Tan Sad Pram Works, Cramps ball bearing factory and close to Devis’s slaughterhouse where on occasions the stench of dead animals took their breath away. A multitude of pubs were passed despite the short distance such as the Crown, Dewdrop Inn, Kings Arms and Tipton Tavern.

Returning home Tezza and John sometimes came another way past the Rising Sun pub via Aston Street and then the strangely named Monkey Bridge and the Shakespeare Inn, culminating in a race across Jubilee Park and over the railings to home.

And then in 1957 Tezza passed the eleven plus and was off to Tipton Grammar School, where life became a bit more serious. Most of his friends in the street failed and trooped off to Willingsworth Secondary Modern, but at least they were together. He hated the first few weeks, not really knowing anybody, but worse than that having to do three hours homework every night whilst his street mates were out playing ‘tin can lerky’, killarney, hide and seek or even marbles. Oh how he missed the fire cans that they swirled in the air on cold dark nights! The foggy nights were manna from heaven for young teenagers as it was easy to knock someone’s door and run off; one of the funniest japes he ever took part in was when he and his best mate Jimmy Cross tied two adjacent doorknockers fast with sturdy ropes, hammered on the doors and then hid behind a fog encrusted wall to see the householders having an internal tug of war.

Then there was the trick of tying black cotton to a door knocker and pulling it until the householder came out, hiding in the fog behind privet Tezza and Jimmy couldn’t be seen and as soon as the door closed they gave the cotton a pull and knocked again.

Childish but harmless pranks, but as time went on outside influences began to change Tezza. This was the dawning of rock and roll and the dominance of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and with them the emergence of the Teddy Boy era. Riots were taking place in cinemas especially when Jailhouse Rock was shown. Race riots took place in Dudley and the whole country was becoming restive.
America had a new young and vibrant president, John F Kennedy, but England was still ruled by what seemed to be old codgers such as Harold Macmillan, Rab Butler, Lord Hailsham and Alec Douglas Hume, all well into their 60s and 70s who ran the country. Young men under 21 could die for their country, but amazingly in 1962 couldn’t vote.

Motor bikes and Vespa scooters were commonplace and teenage clothing changed dramatically; jeans of all colours, shapes and sizes became the standard dress with drainpipes (trousers 13 inches and less at the bottom) becoming fashionable. The real Teds wore very long Edwardian style jackets that almost hung to the knee, mainly with the collars draped in a velvet material, string ties, thick leather wristbands and finished off with either winkle picker shoes or thick crepe soled shoes called ‘brothel creepers’. Transistor radios operated by batteries were the norm and everywhere the raucous rock and roll music blared out. The days of the crooners were over!

Moreover, there was a black side emerging as even teenagers of 16 plus began to turn from sport to violence. knuckledusters, flick knives and even bicycle chains became what we would now call a fashion accessory and many young lads began to carry knives. At night the Teds roamed the streets and harmless pranks now changed to gang warfare with head to head fights particularly at dance halls such as the Adelphi at West Bromwich and the Plaza at Old Hill.

Tezza was now 16 and had left school and started an apprenticeship at a local firm, gone was the paper round which initially gave him 7/6 a week at age 13 and finishing with 30 shillings at 16. He now had money in his pocket and began to drink at pubs that would turn a blind eye to his age, in truth, with the onset of shaving he looked older apart from when his Wilkinson sword razor blades massacred his tender face and left him displaying an abundance of cuts. Friday and Saturday nights were for the boys and initially he hung around the Harrier Pub in Powis Avenue. A group of 10 to 12 met all sporting the DA, and all hoping to pick up a girl, but in truth none of them had any experience, but none equally would let on. The only thing he knew about sex had been instilled in him at grammar school when an elderly teacher Miss Hamilton Roberts had extolled the procreation habits of the rabbit, everyone was too embarrassed to ask questions so at 16 he was no wiser nor indeed were any of his mates.

‘There’s a fair at Princes End next Saturday’ said Jimmy Cross, ‘near Batman’s Hill, Coseley, so we could all go there a pick up a bit of skirt’. ‘Yeh, OK’ was the consensus so they all arranged to meet at 7pm outside the Harrier. After an hour of harmless banter the group moved off and made their way to Uppper Church Lane and up to the level crossing at Princes End. The landlord of the George Inn was known to turn a blind eye to underage drinking so they all barged in and ordered pints of mild at 1/3 each. Bitter was always more expensive at 1d more and no one would even think about whiskey at 2/6d a nip. Wine was unheard of in pubs, but every other person in those days smoked; almost all teenagers tried to smoke mainly to look big, but Tezza had tried 6 Woodbines when he was 13 and threw up. Never again.

Then off past Laws Garage and the Tilted Barrel pub and right pass Allen’s Works, steadily making their way to Batman’s Hill, the lights of the fairground lit up the dark cold December night and the temperature was steadily dropping to zero. It was a Pat Collins fairground which consisted of a few sideshows, a Ferris wheel and a dodgems circuit. The dodgems was always favourite except that no one trusted the guys who collected the money whilst manoeuvring themselves on the back of each dodgem cart, experience taught Tezza and his mates always to have the correct change as you never saw it again.

Attention was suddenly aroused by two very good looking girls riding in their own dodgem cart; heavily made up with short skirts, Mildred and Janice couldn’t help but show their knickers when they got out …… and they knew it! Their next stop was the giant wheel and the group of boys got a grandstand view as the giant wheel turned full circle. Giggling incessantly Mildred and Janice turned their attention to the shooting gallery and here Jimmy made his move. Eager to show them how to use a 177 rifle he paid for 3 shots. ‘Prick teasers’, said Billy Smith ‘I know them from last week at Tipton baths dance, not worth wasting time on them’ and half the gang moved on exuding a disdainful air.

Jimmy thought he had a chance and beckoned Tezza to stay the course and after half an hour they were both alone with their quarry. ‘Come on you two’ said Mildred ‘we’re going home, but we’ll take a short cut across the Weddel park’. None of them could run because of the icy conditions, but a quickening of their steps made them all feel warmer. ‘We both live in Andrew Street’, said Mildred ‘and have got to be in by 10 so lets hurry’. Tezza by now holding hands with Janice, felt a warm glow penetrate his body, would he lose his cherry tonight and get his oats at last? He was counting on her to show him how, but at the same time couldn’t let on that he was a virgin and hadn’t the first clue what to do.

At the next tree he made his move and grabbed Janice and held her firmly against the trunk, whispering in her ear he said ‘let them go’, and Jimmy and Mildred completely oblivious walked on. Now Tezza had her in his clutches and the first sensation was how she smelt, a tangy kind of aroma adorned with sweet scent, and then how soft were her hands. Soon they were embracing and Janice was forcibly kissing him as she at least knew what to do, they both closed their eyes and when she thrust her legs between his Tezza knew he was close to heaven.

Neither really knew what to do with their hands so they just held each other tight, but Tezza felt he had to make a move soon, as he couldn’t meet his mates the next day and say he hadn’t got anywhere. Suddenly their peace was shattered and a group of maybe ten Teddy Boys surrounded them all in leather jackets and hair greased back with long sideburns.

‘Janice get home’, shouted the tallest ‘moms waiting outside for you and you, you bastard are going to get a good hiding for mauling my 12 year old sister’. ‘Twelve year old?’ Tezza protested ‘I had no idea I thought she was at least 16’. ‘Tell them Janice we didn’t do anything’, but she was long gone.

And then the blows rained down. One or two of them he could handle but not ten. A blow from a fist brandishing a copper looking knuckleduster shattered his front teeth and he was soon on the floor and kicks came in from every angle, even a massive blow to his testicles couldn’t have hurt more, except the vicious slash of a flick knife as it cut his cheek to the bone. ‘I’ll teach you’, said the brother and his face was contorted with rage. ‘You Ocka Bonk gang had better not come back here again’.

Tezza’s eyes were now closing and his ribs hurt like hell, but still more and more hits, punches and kicks struck his defenceless body. ‘That’s enough’ someone shouted ‘he’s had it, leave him alone’ and off they trouped resembling a pack of wolf hounds looking for another prey.

Tezza lay there initially wondering how he could have not noticed that Janice was only 12, she seemed so sexy, so soft, so experienced and yet in reality she was barely out of junior school. ‘Cradle snatching’ his mates would say. His body had been pummelled into submission and he lay in ruins, he couldn’t speak and had not enough strength to stand up. He was shivering with cold and blood poured from his wounds .

As the temperature dropped lower and lower and the snow fell heavily, had it been worth it?

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