We’re on Erdington High Street in Birmingham. It’s a grey day in the West Midlands, and it’s in the middle of October 1972. What we have is a brilliant snapshot of life in the early 1970s – bleak, grey and dank. Or is it? Contrary to popular opinion, times are good. The economy is on the up as we enjoy what are known as the Barber Boom years, with high wage rises to counter rising inflation. In Birmingham 1972, people are spending and, as can be seen from the shops in the background, consumers have plenty of places to save as well as spend.
It’s a stone’s throw from central Birmingham, but is effectively a village in its own right, with its own bustling High Street, manor house and a number of moated properties. It’s interesting that the high street shops are mainly locally owned. Yes, we have the Nationwide and Woolwich Building Societies, and the inevitable branch of Woolworth’s is present and correct, but Decorwall, Bellman’s and Wine Ways are probably only familiar to those who live in and around Birmingham.
In terms of what are listening to right now, the Top 40 is a bit of a mixed bag. Number one at the moment is Lieutenant Pigeon’s jolly Mouldy Old Dough with Donna by 10CC, How Can I Be Sure by David Cassidy and Wig-Wam-Bam by The Sweet crackling from your Pye radio in the corner of your living room. Big news on the box is that the light channel, sorry ITV, has just started a new soap opera called Emmerdale Farm to offer a more rural Yorkshire take on the traditional kitchen sink drama that is Coronation Street. Within months, we’ll all be saying, ‘nayyyyy, Mister Wilks’.
So, tell us about the cars
Considering we’re in Birmingham 1972, a time of fevered domestic car buying, and it’s the home of The ‘Orstin, it’s interesting to see how few BMC and BLMC cars are on show. On this side of the road, from the nearest to the camera, we have a Mini, a Triumph 2500 and a Triumph Vitesse. On the other side of the road there’s a Triumph Herald, Triumph Toledo, Austin Cambridge, Hillman Hunter, a Mini and a Ford Escort Mk1.
Of the cars we can see, most are reasonably new, and a surprising number of them were built in Coventry and not Birmingham. Interesting indeed, and clearly this is a reasonably prosperous area of Birmingham – although it’s a million miles away from the glamorous Brum depicted in the fantabulous video that we exclusively share on AROnline – Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham (do click on that – and then come back!)
By way of contrast, we’ve embedded the Google Streetview version of this photo, showing how things have changed since Birmingham 1972 and Birmingham today. Although the buildings remain very much as they did, the shops are very, very different now, reflecting changing consumer habits over the years. Where once we had Woolworth’s (with its sweet counter, music department and general household supplies), we now have B&M Bargains (with sweet trough, music bins, and odds ‘n’ sods for the home). How times have changed…
Here’s how it looks now
If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below.
Thanks to Mike Humble for the photograph