CYRIL AND MILLIE POWELL
In 1960 Cyril Powell of Quarry Bank was awarded the MBE for work in education, the culmination of his career as headmaster.
The beginning of the story, however, goes back to 2nd August 1907 when he was born in Abertillery, a village in Wales. A very bright boy academically, he also excelled in sports and played rugby for the Three Counties.
Meanwhile Millie Lavinia Case was growing up in Colley Gate. Her grandparents lived in Cradley Forge and Grandpa Deeley gave land for the chapel there. Millie remembers her mother being quite stern. Grandma Case, however, was especially kind; she had two big pockets in her frock where she kept a supply of pink cashew sweets. The little girl would stand on a stool at the sink playing washing up -- without the benefit of fairy liquid. Each night her hair was put in rags to give her ringlets. She recollects her father threatening to shave off his moustache and vowed never to kiss him again---but relented! Millie’s father was a tailor’s cutter and to make ends meet during the depression, with his wife's help, made butcher's aprons which he took round shops to sell. One day, Millie, at home by herself fancied a go on the treadle machine. Unfortunately she pierced her finger with the needle and it bled profusely and hurt a great deal. When Millie’s parents arrived home and knocked the gate in the garden to be let in, she took ages to go and they remonstrated at the length of time they had to wait. Until of course she produced her bleeding finger! Another vivid memory was of when her Uncle George was terminally ill with T.B. One day, she was left sitting downstairs on a leather settee whilst her elders were ministering to him. He was very poorly and in desperate need of oxygen. They had an oxygen container but were unable to open it. Eventually Millie's Mum managed to turn it on and an orange 'balloon of light' burst out. Meanwhile, little Millie, was still sitting on the settee wondering what was going on, when suddenly a little mouse appeared right next to her through a hole where a spring was pushing through. She screamed and flew upstairs where she saw the orange balloon of light. Quite a traumatic experience. Poor Uncle George, despite their best efforts was not much longer for this world.
And so, in the fullness of time Cyril and Millie grew up and both trained as teachers and came to work at Orchard Lane Elementary Boys School where they met, in 1930. They married in 1932 and lived for a while in Red Hill, Stourbridge before moving to Quarry Bank. It was Easter 1939 when they settled into 'Gailder's bungalow' at the lower end of Thorns Road. Anthony was born the following July and Vivienne in 1945.
Meanwhile, Mr. Powell took a post at Blue Coat School in Dudley teaching science and maths. The war started and after a stint in the ARP he was transferred from the R.A.F. to the Education Corps in the Army because of his knowledge of radar. Just prior to the war he applied for the position of headmaster at Stambermill but was unsuccessful. However, six years later, returning from the forces, he once more applied for the job and this time was accepted. He was just 36 years old.
Millie continued in her career as art teacher at Valley Road School and then at Shenstone Emergency College as lecturer in the Art Department.
The Powells remember Thorns Road as being almost a country road, single carriageway with no proper footpath, a ditch dividing it from the road, and 'rowley rag' placed at intervals across it. Their house (previously owned by grocers in the High Street, opposite Sheffield Street) had a large garden, stretching the length of what is now Brandon Way. After the war 2 prisoners of war who lived in the house in Woods Lane came to help cultivate it.
Ernie Steven's (nephew of John Stevens) bungalow was below. In the garden were large sheds housing the ‘seconds’ and ‘thirds’ from the factory--the Jury-¬over the road. Although the road was generally quiet when the shifts changed all was hustle and bustle.
An air raid shelter was built underground between the 2 houses and years later this was used in the rockeries of the new houses!
The park was well used, with tennis courts, a good bowling green and a paddling pool to keep the children amused.
After spending 9 years at Stambermill, Mr. Powell was offered the position of headmaster at Gigmill School. This was a new school with forward-thinking progressive ideas. Music was on the curriculum and an orchestra was formed, quite a radical measure back then and, despite scepticism, went on to do very well. Gigmill became well-known throughout the country for it's excellence, and subsequently Cyril Powell was awarded the MBE.
Mrs Powell moved to a new teacher training college near Kidderminster as Senior Lecturer in Art. Mrs. Pritchard who lived nearby, stayed with the Powells for 32 years as housekeeper and nanny (while the children were young) and was "an absolute treasure".
Besides being qualified to teach science and maths Cyril has many other strings to his bow. Over the years he has attained Fellowship of the Royal Horticultural Society and Licentiate of the London College of Music.
After retiring from school he was persuaded to teach piano (as he had many years before), and still, in his 92nd year, has pupils. Many children and adults have happy memories of lessons and lasting friendships formed. Mr. and Mrs. Powell are still living in Thorns Road, both very active, outgoing and in touch with life although it is so different today. Mr. Powell, when asked what he felt about his long. life; thought a bit, smiled and said" It isn't over yet!"
Cyril and Millie Powell are a credit and asset to Quarry Bank.
M.B.E. presentation at Buckingham Palace in 1960.
Millie, Cyril, Vivienne and Anthony Powell.
© M.P.L.H.G. 2012