Cardboard Prefabs, Coventry

Paul Baker was born in the “terrible winter of 1947 on February the seventh in a cardboard prefab in Whoberely”, Coventry. In the extract below he describes the neighbourhood and his father’s disappointment when he returned from war service in Greece in 1946 to find out his name had been struck off the council house waiting list:

length of audio: 2 min 57 secs.

Paul: Harewood Road had these prefabs on both sides of the road. On my side of the road there were about probably from where I lived there’d be ten going down to Brookside Avenue, there were two across, Mrs, Auntie Ethel was next to the road, we were one in and then there was the big green. On the other side of the green there was a mirror image of our side leading out to Dunchurch Highway. At the top of Harewood Road there were the rich people with brick houses and they were probably the terraced houses that are still there now that were constructed, normal build in about nineteen thirty-eight, pre-war but it wasn’t an area that was bombed […] We used to go scrumping in their gardens an nick crab apples and get shouted at climbing… I suppose we were the, we were the rough council estate people I suppose in those days in the prefabs [laughs]. On the other side of Harewood Road then again there were more prefabs almost, as far as I can remember going right over to where I went to school cause I could walk through the prefabs to get over to Whoberley Hall. At the bottom of Brookside Avenue again we were surrounded by brick built privately owned houses, I suppose the difference was we thought they were rich because they were privately owned where as we were council tenants paying rent. And I can remember my Dad, he was due to come home from Italy in nineteen forty-five but at the last minute his troops ship was diverted left on the Med instead of going right through Gibraltar to Greece to fight the Eoka terrorists in Athens. So in fact he didn’t come back until nineteen forty-six, so when he came back into Coventry, he’d actually been crossed off the Council house waiting list and he felt very bitter about that because he was coming back and saying, ‘Well I’ve just come back from the War’, and the joke was, ‘Well what War it’s finished, you know, it finished in nineteen forty-five.’ But he spent a year in Greece fighting Eoka Terrorists […] so he found that quite stressful, but that’s another story for another time perhaps. But I remember now, he having to find somewhere to live with Mum. So the estate was a very tidy, very neat cause all the prefabs were equidistant apart and we had green space which was where the parties were we used to have marques when they… you know, put up with the kids parties and all the families go together, the kids played together, the Mums and Dads were together. I don’t think I can recall any fall outs amongst neighbours, we had no nasty neighbours or no problems in our days, I think people had survived the War, they were there those early years and it was a pleasure to be alive I suppose and just relishing the new beginning of nineteen forty-five onwards.

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