It is 60 years this year (2022) since the official opening of the Kingshurst Playing Fields, Fordbridge Road, Kingshurst. The day was marked by the first ever Carnival, a parade of floats staged by various groups and organisations. Star attraction was the crowning of the first Gala Queen, and that was me – Brenda Price (now Jephcott) – but oh, what a storm it all caused!
My mom, Rosetta Price, was a committee member on The Playing Fields Development Association. Members came up with the idea of a carnival to celebrate the culmination of all their hard work to raise funds for a children’s playground and sports field, to be officially opened by Alderman A. H. Schmiegelow, Vice-Chairman of Warwickshire County Council. Highlight of the day would be the crowning of a Gala Queen, but first, one lucky young lady had to be selected. Posters were designed and displayed and the committee sat back and waited for the entrants to come and put themselves forward. No one applied!
To get the ball rolling my mom suggested that I filled in an application form and so it was that I was called to the offices of the Castle Bromwich Advertiser to have my picture taken and printed in the next edition of the News.
It must have worked as other young girls put themselves forward so, by the time the selection was due to take place there were 20 or more girls at the evening dance held at St Barnabas Church Hall where judging of contestants took place.
Very much to my surprise, I was given the highest number of votes and duly elected to be Kingshurst’s first Gala Queen! Adorned with a silk sash with “KINGSHURST CARNIVAL QUEEN” on it.
Then all hell broke out when the grandmother of one of the other contestants complained that as I was 24 days too short of the official entry age, then I should be disqualified. Also, she thought that being the daughter of a committee member I should not have entered in the first place.
A public meeting was called to put it up for debate and a vote was held. Votes cast were 18 for and 11 against. I was, after all, to be the Gala Queen. All of this fuss generated quite a lot of publicity and I had newspaper reporters knocking on my door from local news – Castle Bromwich Advertiser, Coleshill Chronicle, Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post, Sunday Mercury, The Coventry Standard, and from the national newspaper, The Herald. I was quite the star, all this before the days of the internet and social media!
When the day of the carnival came, everyone was just so excited and happy. All the arguing had been forgotten and I, along with my attendants, maids of honour Gloria Smith and Patricia Stanley, wearing our made-to-measure dresses and carrying bouquets of fresh flowers, smiled and waved at the cheering crowds from the seats of a wonderful old vintage Ford motor car sponsored by “Hangers” of Birmingham, the car dealership.
The parade of floats drove through the Roads, Avenues and Drives of the estate, arriving at the newly-completed Playing Fields where I was crowned Queen. It was a glorious day, the sun was shining, everyone happy. What more could you want.
Bonus for me was that a few days later I had a day off from school, and I had made arrangements with a friend to go shopping in Birmingham. We met at the bus stop on Chester Road by what was then Castle Bromwich Police Station. My friend was already there waiting for me and chatting with a friend of hers. Some days later, when I saw her again, the friend she had been chatting to, a young police cadet, apparently noticed that I was the Carnival Queen and expressed a request to be introduced to me!
That chance meeting resulted in a first date, 13th July 1962. We got engaged in May 1965, married in March 1966. This year I celebrated my 56th wedding anniversary married to that same young police cadet! I can’t help but wonder that if I had never been crowned Gala Queen, would I have ever met my future husband?
© Brenda Jephcott, 2022.