Arboretum Illuminations' 1955 depiction of Gulliver in Lilliput.
In the year that commerical television first hit the small screen
- and in those days they were very small - an attempt to pilot a
live transmission from Wolverhampton turned into a comically heroic
The programme called "Town Forum" was a version with pictures
of a popular radio panel show which toured various venues in the
provinces a little like "Any Questions" today.
What were described as "four prominent Europeans" from Germany,
France, Italy and Denmark assembled at the Wulfrun Hall to air their
views on the issues of the day - when they fell victim to the British
It interfered with the microwave transmitter on the top of Wolverhampton
and Staffordshire Technical College and despite the best efforts
of engineers viewers saw only half the scheduled 30-minute programme
but were able - and perhaps this was a mixed blessing - to hear
The fault that developed was restored temporarily but failed again
during the course of the programme.
In the hall itself an audience of the great and the good from
Wolverhamtpton had assembled ready to ask questions but members
of the panel spouted on for so long that only four were actually
asked from the floor.
Viewers saw only one of the questioners, the president of Wolverhampton
Trades Council T R Thomson, who asked for the panel's views on the
introduction of a common European language and unrestricted travel
across the continent by Europeans.
Other questions - seen but not heard by the viewers - dealt with
providing living space for the population of some European countries,
the hydrogen bomb and the religious campaigning of Dr Billy Graham.
To complete the fiasco one of the speakers - Per Torben Federspiel
from Denmark - was rudeley interruped by cries of "rubbish" by some
members of the audience.
The region's early excursions into live TV did not prove too much
of a handicap as within a year the first provincial commercial TV
station went on the air in Birmingham.
Labour loses out in Staffs election: On the day that Churchill
quit as Prime Minister and was replaced by Sir Anthony Eden there
were some major political comings and goings closer to home with a
big upset in the Staffordshire County Council elections.
Labour lost control of the county for the first time since the
end of the war although it was a narrow squeak with the Tories and
Independents having an overall majority of just one.
Reg Underhill, West Midlands organiser for the Labour party, tried
to put a brave face on it.
"It would be foolish to say the results are not disappointing
for, despite the magnificent achivements of the Labour majority
on the county council, the party will undoubtedly lose control.
"A careful review of the results does not, however, give rise
for any concern in a possible general election."
He was to be proved wrong on this one with the Tories roaring
home under Macmillan just four years later.
Taxis seek protection: Walsall taxi proprietor Ted Tomkins
demanded police protection for his cabbies after a series of violent
late night attacks on the drivers.
He called for his fellow proprietors to back him up with his demands
and told his men:
"Take care of yourselves if you get a fare to Aston in Birmingham.
That's where mopst of the attacks take place."
He said bilking had always been a problem but that it was now
being accompanied by violence.
Sporting a black eye but back on duty in Walsall town centre Johnny
Botomer explained how he had been struck with a metal bar and punched
in the face by a fare who escaped after being dropped off in Aston.
Schools in shop row: Unofficial tuckshops selling sweets and
biscuits outside schools in Stafford were causing concern to both
traders and councillors in the county town.
The issue was higlighted at a meeting early in the year of the
Stafford Chamber of Trade by L H Kinson who was a councillor - and
also, it was significantly revealed, "a grocer and provision dealer".
Councillor Kitson said head teachers of certain schools in Stafford
had been buying sweets and biscuits at wholesale prices and selling
them to pupils, the profits then going to school funds.
Waiting for the borough status that never came . . . Stan
Hill, of Brierley Hill, was the youngest civic leader in the country
when he was elected chairman of Brierley Hill Urban District Council
. . .
"There was a bit of a catch.
"Everyone expected that Brierley Hill was going to become a borough,
as Solihull did. So all the older, more senior members were hanging
back and making excuses. They all had a good reason for not being
chairman. I think they were hoping to hang on so that they could
throw their hats in the ring to become the charter mayor.
"However, the Government had other ideas. Brierley Hill never
became a borough and in 1966 was made part of Dudley.
"Anyway at 26 I was an ex-officio magistrate, too. I remember
going to the magistrates' room for the first time and knocking on
"No reply. I knocked again. Nothing. Finally, after knocking three
times I walked in. This older man looked up and said, 'What the
hell d'you think you're doing in the magistrates room?'
"I was terrified. I said: 'I'm a m-m-magistrate." Apparently he
thought I was a defendant!
"I was a teacher and then warden for 20 years of Dudley Teacher
Centre until I retired in 1988.
"I became editor of the Blackcountryman magazine and published
my first proper book, Brierley Hill in Old Photographs, in 1994.
I heard last year that it was the best-selling book in that series.
"My latest book is Stan Hill's Brierley Hill and Life, a chance
to bring together all these old anecdotes. Since I retired in 1988
I've never been so busy."
"When you're working you have acolytes who can do the donkey work
for you. When you're on your tod, you have to do all the donkey