Our Midlands Branch used to meet regularly from 7 – 9 pm at Cofton Hackett Village Hall, Barnt Green Road, Birmingham, B45 8BN. We hope to meet there again in the near future, once restrictions have lifted. It is an excellent venue with easy access to many motorways.
However the story of cigarette card collectors clubs and branches in this area begins many years ago with ...
The Cameric Cigarette Card Club - Birmingham
In August 1935, in The London Cigarette Card Company magazine "Cigarette Card News” (Vol.2, No.23), in a section called "CLUBS" it says that The Cameric Club has been asked by the organisers of proposed clubs in the Birmingham and Westbourne Park districts to place them in touch with prospective members.
Unfortunately that is the last copy of the “Cigarette Card News” that I have for some years, so I next pick up the Birmingham story in March 1939 ("Cigarette Card News” : Vol.6, No.66). By then the section was called "Around the Clubs” and states that Cameric Branch meetings were being held throughout the country, giving names and addresses of the secretaries. Birmingham, through alphabetical order, was listed first. (The others were Bournemouth and Hastings).
The Cameric Cigarette Card Club - New Birmingham Branch (Midlands)
In the July /August 1956 edition of “Cigarette Card News” (Vol.21, No.247), there was an announcement about a “Cameric Club – New Birmingham Branch”. The inaugural meeting was on Thursday 14th June, at the Cambridge Inn, Cambridge Street, Birmingham, the co-founders being Dr. J.H. Millen and Mr. J.J. Powell, and the intention was to form a “Midlands Branch” of the club. 17 members were present, including two from London, one from Blackpool, one from Sale and one from Stoke on Trent. I believed the Blackpool member was Cyril Marsden, but it was not as the piece goes on to say: “Apologies for absence and good wishes to the new Branch were received from Mr. Gore, Mrs. Button and Mr. Stevenson, and Cyril Marsden the Honorary Secretary of the Lancashire Branch, and Miss Dorothy Bagnall of the London Cigarette Card Company also write and expressed their best wishes for the future prosperity of the Branch”. Mr Powell was elected Chairman, Dr Millen as Secretary and Treasurer and Mr. A. Willis as Auction Secretary, because the immediate intention was to hold a monthly auction, and in fact at the end of that inaugural meeting a small auction of cards took place, selling cards donated by members. This was in order to raise funds for promoting the Branch by way of an intensive recruiting campaign, plus advertising in the local press and at information centres like libraries throughout the City, The next meeting was also announced to take place at the same address on Thursday the 12th July at 7.30 pm.
The Cartophilic Society - Midlands Branch
In 1964 the Cartophilic Society and the Cameric Cigarette Card Club merged. Dr. Millen retired as Secretary in July 1964 due to the increasing pressure of his medical work. The new secretary was Mr. L. Higgs and monthly meetings were taking place at Arden Hotel, Birmingham. Mr. Alan Willis, the Branch auctioneer, died on the 22nd of April 1965; his wife had also died recently. By May 1966 the meetings were the third Thursday in every month at Crown Hotel, Corporation Street, Birmingham, starting at 6.30 pm. In July 1966, at the AGM, all officers were re-elected Mr N.J. Allcock as Chairman, Mr Leslie Higgs as Secretary, Mr F G Baker as Treasurer and Mr J.J. Powell as Auctioneer. Mr. W.A. Wilson also dealt with new issues. Average monthly attendance was fifteen per meeting, they had two new members and two in the pipeline, also they had moved venues in January to cheaper premises, making the balance very healthy. In 1967 the 129th meeting took place. Sixteen members attended plus Mr. Walton from Aldershot who happened to be in Birmingham and Master Laker, their junior member, who had brought along a school friend who hoped to join the Society. The former must be our current president, and perhaps the latter is Ian Laker who would later become part of the LCCC. There was an auction, with material contributed by the chairman Mr. Allcock, who also gave one or two items to the junior members.
The first Midlands Branch Rally was in 1968. The Crown Hotel remained the venue for 1970, and the Birmingham Rally, on Saturday 11 April 1970 was at the Oliver Bird Hall, Church Hill Road, Solihull, about 4-5 miles from the Birmingham City Centre, with lunch being arranged at a local hostelry. There would be an exhibition of silks and fabric issues. Sadly this was poorly attended. They had also had to change the date because of changes to the FA Cup Final (so had North West Branch); it was now 2 May. They were going to try a buffet at the Rally, 15/- a person and it would be arranged by a firm of caterers. I have the menu! As a postcript to this the date of 2nd May was then the same as chosen by the North West Branch, so the North West agreed to switch to the 9th.
Dr. J.H. Millen died in 1970. Strangely, Cyril Marsden had attended that meeting and the two had become good friends; his passing was reported in the same section. The AGM was held on 16 July 1970, seventeen members attended including two visitors, E.C. Prior and T.F. Halford. The Chairman hoped the rally in Solihull would be repeated in 1971. The treasurer F.G. Baker said the Branch was in a healthy state, though the Rally had eaten into its finances. A decision had been made, perhaps because of this, to introduce the club book round and W.Preece again agreed to organise it. The meeting concluded with a small auction of material contributed by Ted Prior. Our 1972 Rally took place at the Oliver Bird Hall in Solihull, on 20 May. Advertising of the time stresses that there is to be no buffet; this was entirely owing to the difficulty of estimating the correct number of prospective visitors, the two preceding luncheons having made a loss for this reason. Between 1973 and 1976 the Branch was meeting on the third Friday of every month, from 6.30 pm, at Crown Hotel in Corporation Street, Birmingham; the secretary was listed as Mr Follard of West Bromwich. In 1980, the Rally was held at Womborne Youth and Community Centre, near Wolverhampton, and the branch AGM was also held there on 28 June.
At some stage they moved to Selly Oak Methodist Church Hall, and meetings lessened to the third Friday of alternate months, though kept to the 6.30 pm start time. They then moved a short distance away to our current venue, Cofton Hackett Village Hall.
Midlands Branch Minutiae
You might like to know that this is one of the Branches that have issued their own cards. One of these sets is standard sized, and follows the familiar theme of showing “Branch Personalities”. There are twelve in the set and it was issued at the Branch Rally on the 29th of March 1987. Some sets can be found with a hand stamp to that effect but other sets were presumably left in stock and were not stamped.
The other is the large sized 1991 issue “Silhouettes of Veteran and Vintage Cars” a set of 24. We are not sure why this subject was chosen, we thought it might perhaps mark the opening of the Birmingham Motor Museum, but that was not until 1993.