Second Hand Was The Name Of The Game

The Joy of Reading

The way by which little words on pages stir your imagination and resurrect yesterday pass to your brain.

In the process, they endow themselves with rich, warm life, and all that has been is again, you hear poets sing.

The love of storytelling came to me early in life at Red Cross Street Infants School where I was encouraged to read by being fed on stories by Enid Blyton, Charles Kingsley, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Discovering Enchanted woods, Treasure Islands, see Tom, a young chimney sweep, who falls into a river where he appears to drown but instead is transformed into a “Water-Baby“.

Later in my life when attending St Josephs School in Steelhouse Lane we had regular visits from a learned gentleman who unfolded the wonderful tales of the life and stories of Charles Dickens that would enlighten and enrich my life.

The Miracle of Books

So today its no surprise I still have a passion for books. Especially books written for young folk, and the joy of childrens books came to me close to home in North Street.

Vint's Builders Yard and George Lathe's second hand book store, late 1950s - Lost Wolverhampton

Anyone in the 1950s who made the trip to the Molineux grounds, or may have taken a trolley bus ride to and from Fordhouses, or the petrol bus to Brewood, or even perhaps may have once lived in one of the many Victorian terraced streets that were well-provided off North Street at that time would recognise with a little sadness this small block of shops that stood once between Tin shop Yard and the Chequer Ball Public House, just a few hundred yards from my home in Nursery Street.

Amongst them a Post office Grocer, Fruiterer, Printer, Hairdresser; and two Second-hand shops that sold books.

Second hand was the name of the game!

The second-hand shops were Lathe’s and Preece’s. It was with books and comics bought from these two shops that helped me discover the joys of reading.

Christmas Joys for Girls and Boys

Was your first book a gift from your local Sunday School? Or perhaps an Annual, for a Christmas or Birthday present?

My first books as I recall were from George Lathes. I was just recovering from a nasty illness. I would have been about seven years old at the time. To cheer me up, Mom called in at Lathes after seeing the cover on a book in the window she thought I would like, I certainly did, and from that moment on I was hooked on these children’s books for the rest of my life.

The book as I recall was one of a selection of annuals published by the newspapers of the time, and it was made up of wonderful pictures and stories from their children’s comic strips featured in their daily papers.

Pip and Squeak Annual - Lost Wolverhampton

I am sure many of you may remember favourite characters from childhood. This was the first annual that I ever had. I think my mother paid 1/6d for it, as I said before, second hand from Lathes in North Street – “Pip & Squeak and Wilfred.”

I wouldn’t like to guess how much its worth today. It contains amusing stories of the daily life of a mongrel dog, a fully grown penguin and a baby rabbit, Pip Squeak and Wilfred, as they were respectively named.

These two characters appeared in the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Pictorial.

The Real Mother Goose and Humpty Dumpty Excerpt - Lost Wolverhampton

What I love about these old childrens books besides the stories is the original artwork. So full of colour and charactor.

I am an Octogenarian now, and sadly I don’t have the collection I once had, though I still have a select few I look at on occasion for nostalgia’s sake.

Amongst these are about half a dozen Rupert Annuals I have read to my grandchildren over the years.

Which brings me to the fact that today it is the famous bears birthday.

It may be hard to believe but Nutwood’s most famous bear resident, Rupert Bear, is celebrating his 100th birthday today.

Happy 100th Birthday, Rupert!

Rupert The Bear - 100 years old - Lost Wolverhampton

Rupert the bear, one of Britains most famous bears is actually six years older than Winnie the pooh and eight years older than Mickey Mouse.

Rupert the bear is 100 today! - Lost Wolverhampton

This centenarian began life in the Daily Express on November 8, 1920, after the newspaper’s owner Lord Beaverbrook, decided to launch a comic strip character to rival those in competing publications, principally Teddy Tail of the Daily Mail.

The Rupert cartoon illustrated by Mary Tourtel was a hit with readers and remains a fixture in the paper, to the delight of his thousands of fans (of which I am one.)

It has been said he began life as a rival to Teddy Tail but he has outlived him – as well as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred who were in the Mirror.

It is generally agreed that the Rupert we know and love today was established by the accomplished and Punch-illustrator Alfred Bestall, who succeeded Tourtel when her eyesight worsened in 1935.

Bill Badger, Algy, and Rupert the Bear on a Flying Carpet - Lost Wolverhampton
Bill Badger, Algy and Rupert take a ride on the flying carpet.

The quiet and unassuming Bestall wrote and drew the daily adventures of Rupert, Algy Pug, Tiger Lily, and friends in the Express for 31 years and continued to paint the annual cover until 1973.

Rupert The Bear Annuals - Lost Wolverhampton
Copies from my archives

Today Rupert is a white bear, but he was originally brown it was in 1973 after a publishing executive decided he wanted a white face depicted against the annual cover picture of a white sky.

Rupert The Bear Daily Express Annual - Lost Wolverhampton
A 1973 Annual

Alfred Bestall was so upset with the change that he never drew another cover. He died in 1986.

I hope this little story and happy birthday wishes for Rupert the bear conjures up some fantastical and wonderous memories from your own childhood.

Please let me know in the comments what books and characters were special you, in your life.

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