Old Coventrians’ Association
A community for life
Norman Teers Obituary
My father Norman, who died in June 2011, 18 months after a debilitating stroke, was one of the last of the ‘Old Guard’ who carried the flame for the school his whole life. Along with Jeff Vent and Stan Gough he was a constant figure on the committee of the ‘Old Boys’, helping to run the school reunion dinners for over 50 years. Within 12 months, all three had passed on.

Norman was a Coventry kid through and through. His parents settled here from Manchester in the 1920s and he was born in Earlsdon in 1931.

He hadn’t been at school long when the war started. He was evacuated to Mickleton on the edge of the Cotswolds but somehow never made it to school there and spent most of his time chasing rabbits. So he was sent back to Coventry where he finished his schooling at King Henry VIII. Jeff Vent joined the teaching staff when dad was in the sixth form. It was to be a friendship and camaraderie that lasted the rest of their lives.

When he left school, Norman went to study metallurgy at the Armstrong Siddley so was able to defer his National Service. Before long, though, he began to look for something more interesting and when someone suggested optics as an alternative, he leapt at the chance. Unfortunately it meant he had to do National Service after all. Just before he joined up, he noticed a young assistant librarian, June, at Earlsdon Library. He would go in regularly, asking her for Thor Heyerdahl’s ‘Kontiki Expedition’ knowing full well that his cousin had it out already, just as an excuse to make the her acquaintance.

The following summer he was posted first to Egypt then Benghazi, Libya. June and Norman wrote to each other regularly. In February, 1952, the King, George VI, died and all of England was in mourning in the depths of a cold winter. The only thing on the radio was sad music - and June had mumps. Far away from all this, Norman was having a whale of a time swimming in the Mediterranean.

Norman came back to England just in time for the coronation of the new young queen – a perfect time to propose to his sweetheart. But still June had to wait, as Norman’s optical course was about to start and off he went to Northampton Polytechnic in the City of London. There he became Vice President of the Student Union and made many friends for life. June visited as often as she could and they spent many happy evenings in the Prospect of Whitby, a pub by the Thames. After three years he qualified as both FSMC and FBOA and returned to his parents in Coventry to plan his wedding and start looking for a home.

June’s dad had the great good fortune to meet an old friend in a pub in Coventry who just happened to have a house for sale on Tile Hill Lane. There and then, Eddie gave the man a £10 deposit. Unfortunately the man dropped down dead the following day so there was some delay before June and Norman could finally move in.

They were married on the 1st of September 1956 and honeymooned at Ambleside in the Lake District. His first job was with A Salmon Opticians in Market Way right in the centre of Coventry. And there he stayed for nearly 30 years. Along came two sons, a dog and a cat. Tile Hill Lane soon became too small for the growing family and they moved to Asthill Grove, where June and Norman went on to establish a splendid garden on two levels, of conifers, flowering shrubs and vegetables to fill the freezer. It was the swinging sixties and one of my earliest memories was watching Top of the Pops with dad - The Archies' Sugar Sugar. He was tone deaf but he loved music, especially when Pan's People were dancing to it...

Norman loved working at Salmon’s, and they loved him. After a period spent at their branch in Rugby, he returned to Coventry to be made partner and then director of the company as they expanded to branches all over Coventry. I remember a big fuss when the Market Way branch of Salmon’s was squeezed out by an expanding British Home Stores and for years we refused to shop there! He was working full time, 6 days a week, only taking one week's holiday in the year, so he sacrificed much of his time to provide for his growing family.

When my brother Nigel and I decided it was high time to become teenage rebels, we formed our own band, the Human Cabbages, thinking it would shock our parents. Not a bit. They loved it. They became roadies. We were driven to gigs in dad’s Rover and mum and dad stood at the back cheering us on. Norman even financed the printing of our EP that went on to be played on the John Peel Show on Radio 1.

He had many sporting interests – Friday night basket ball or 5-a-side soccer with the lads, snooker at the Quadrant Club and later, crown green bowls. He loved steam trains and he loved flying the flag. When he was given a flagpole for his 50th birthday, the Coventry Evening Telegraph was there – and he was invited to join the Royal Society of St George where he soon became treasurer.

In the nineteen-eighties, Salmon’s was sold to Dolland & Aitchson and Norman bought a practice in Stoney Stanton Road from Les Standell, setting up ‘Standell and Teers’ Opticians. He became immensely popular with the locals and would often visit care homes and the housebound with his portable testing kit at lunchtimes or in the evening after hours. He ran the shop until he sold up and retired, and the name continues to this day as ‘Standell, Teers & Davies’.

But retirement bought little rest for Norman. He still loved tinkering with spectacle frames and he worked as a locum for his brother Geoff. He took up wood carving, bought a country cottage with a big garden to tidy up in Wales and went on ever more frequent holidays in Portugal or Greece with June, learning the local language and drinking in the local ‘grot’ bars, far from the tourist haunts.

Norman was a shrewd man. Not for him the Rolls Royce and fat cigar. His favourite food was beans on toast. If ever he went for a curry, he would take his own banana. And for years he brewed his own beer. I still think we could be a brand leader. 'Anyone for a pint of Teers?'

His shrewdness increased with age and he became a connoisseur of the skip. So much so that often whilst out walking with June she would be chatting away to him before realizing she was talking to thin air… he had his head deep in a skip, foraging for some prime piece of oak, plasterboard, or a child’s swing. He loved finding things in the road and filled his pockets with screws and washers. Once he was passing a house in Ealing and saw a pair of shoes on the wall. He picked them up and was looking at them when a man opened the front door. ‘What size are these?’ asked dad. ‘Size 8 and they’re mine.’ Said the man.

At this point we should spare a thought for Mr Clarke and Mr Loquain. I don’t know if they’re still running their furniture auctions somewhere near New Union Street but if they are, the side passage where the dump the pieces that fail to sell must be pretty clogged up by now. So often I would visit Coventry, see an unfamiliar chair, table or chest of drawers and ask where it came from. Mum would say ‘Clark & Loquain’. It became a kind of family mantra.

He greatly enjoyed good company and loved discussing business as a member of first the Junior Chamber of Commerce and later the Associates Club. He helped out at charity events such as the Donkey Derby as a keen Rotarian and was chairman of the King Henry VIII Old Coventrians for many years, working alongside his dear friend, Jeff Vent. It was Jeff who often sat and talked to Norman after he suffered his first stroke and as he became increasingly housebound. Norman was deeply saddened at Jeff’s sudden death but proud to have been able to attend Jeff’s funeral service at the school, in what turned out to be one of his last outings.

Just one month before Norman died, he was able to celebrate his 8oth birthday with a half of Pedigree in the Biggin Hall pub, in the company of a few close friends and family, his sons, grandchildren and of course, June.
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