Monthly Archives: February 2012

Nottage Road (Even Numbers)

Well, I was born and bred at 19 Nottage Road which was, at that time, part of a very small village of Newton. Things were different in those days. Everybody knew each other and spoke to each other. We had no cars, of course, so people had to meet when using the bus.

Just about every boy in the village sang in St. Peter’s Church choir, except those who were members of Paraclete Chapel in Newton Road. The only local Primary School was in Nottage Road.

There were two shops in Nottage Road; Mrs Beynon’s grocery store, which was pretty much opposite our house, and Mrs Skilbeck/Fred Powell’s newspaper shop.

The opposite side of the road had the ‘even’ numbers and those whom I remember from those days – starting at No.2, were;

  • The Smiths and their son Malcolm – nickname Gruber!
  • Mrs Baglow.
  • A group of terraced houses including the Hoppes, Mrs Davies and my mate’s Lindon Lewis’s, where I was introduced to Cottage Pie. Lovely. They actually lived in an empty shop. The outstanding features of which were a telephone (one of only two in the street!) and a refrigerator, which always seemed to contain some of the old Wall’s ice-creams. Do you remember them? They were small, round ices, and were frozen bloody solid!
  • The Butchers. Mr Butcher was one of many Gardeners who seemed to thrive in those days, and his son Tommy. Tommy was an extremely shy, quiet young man, who spent his working-life serving in Cash Hardware Store in Mumbles. We would have to go there with our 6 pence to get slugs for our airguns!
  • Another row of terraced houses including Mrs Luckham and son Charlie. Charlie was very useful as he worked ‘on the land’ so could be utilised to do the milking on the very, very rare occasion that Dick Woollacott was ill or otherwise missing from his farm. Then there was Charlie Arnott, and Mr and Mrs Howell and son Peter. Mr Howell – Bryn – was the person who used to go crabbing between Langland and Caswell Bays and would invariably drop a crab into us for my father. Peter emigrated to Oz and recently we were in touch, following on from contacts from my main blog. A gap of a mere 58 years since contacts!

Peter is on the right with his wife and t’other good-looking Gent is another old pal, Burnie from Norton.

  • Next came Mrs Smith and daughters Barbara and Diny. Diny was a close friend of my Mother and is still going strong today.
  • I think the next house was a Mr Grey and Mrs Brown. He stood out as he always wore a polka-dot dickiebow!
  • Then Beynon’s shop. Mr and Mrs Beynon were helped by Sid Beynon from Mumbles. Sid had a crippled leg but still stood as Umpire at local cricket matches. He would count out our 2 ozs of sweets in the shop, and would always try and ensure that there were eleven – enough ‘for a football team’!!

Nottage Road NOW!

  • Then – directly opposite our house, was an elevated garden belonging to the Harris’s. It was their pride and joy. Always extremely well cared for, growing only vegetables. Prize-winning veg at that! We often gorged on sprouts that we scrumped (alright, stole!) from there. Anytime that I had to go to their house with a message or whatever, Mrs Harris would always get a sweet from a drawer for me! Hanging on hooks, suspended from the ceiling in her front room, were the two shotguns of Mr Harris and son Billy. Daughters Molly and Dorothy. Molly married Jim – an American GI who was stationed nearby, and went orft to America to live. Dorothy used to join me for a swim in 1959 when we went swimming all-year round at Langland. She joined me because I had access to the Lifeguards hut!
  • Next to Harris’s was the paper shop.
  • Then another row of terraced houses the families of which seemed to swop houses from time to time! There was Mrs Taylor with sons Cliff and John. John, I’m afraid, had both legs in irons for the full-length and could only walk by literally dragging his legs along, using crutches. Then the Woods. I liked Percy. Probably because he could play the trumpet. Two sons, John and Paul – another mate of mine. Living in the end house was an incredible character – Artie Stevens!
  • Then, around the bend at the top of the road to Charlie Hixson’s. He was my father’s best mate. Daughter Margaret was one of my sister Pat’s best friends. Next door was fred and Katie Wilcox. Claims to fame were that they had the first television in Nottage Road, and Kate made laverbread for the village. Lovely grub! Next came the Jeffries -= a large, well-known local family with other relatives in Nottage Road. Claims to fame were that one of the (adult) sons was a Japanese PoW, and also that he had a motor-cycle and sidecar!! Next were the Davis’s, then old man Llewellyn, who, together with Charlie Hixson, had an allotment in the Church field, after the Yanks moved out.
  • Charlie Hixson’s and onwards, now.

    And that, was one side of the street. The better side, will have to wait!

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Wartime Shelters and Outside Toilets!

As said previously, this shed behind me was the Andersen Shelter that was issued to all homes during the war. This was ours after the end of the war, when most people – like us – re-located their shelter to a more convenient positioning in their garden. Also, the shelters were half above-ground and half below ground during the war. Most people grew either vegetables or flowers on the roof of their shelter. We had marigolds on ours.

File picture

This was our Gran’s shelter in it’s wartime positioning, with Gran and Grand-dad posing!

We also had ‘outside’ toilets’ – meaning that they were halfway down the ruddy garden. We kids didn’t much like going to the toilet at night-time, I can tell you! Especially when Richard Woollacott would hurl clods of grass at the toilet door from his garden. Frightened the life out of us. And…..wasn’t much fun when the two old biddies next-door to us were in their adjoining toilet!!! The noises and mutterings were quite unbelievable. ‘Twas all we could do not to burst out laughing!

This pic is of my Aunt Frances outside their toilet, which was opposite their shelter.

The house in the background was George Owen’s farm in Whitestone Lane. Further along was Tom Brace’s stables.

The wooden shed on the left of the pic, was Gran’s neighbours’ pigeon loft. That was Granny Rosser’s and the Thrush family.

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First Step Into Manhood!

An appalling pic of me when I was 16 and had just started my first job as a Junior Pay Clerk at Bennet Bros Construction, Swansea. Note my wonderful woollen waistcoat!!! So sorry about the awful picture quality – or, rather, lack thereof!

This was taken in our garden and you can see the re-located Andersen Shelter behind me.

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Horses! – I Loved ‘Em!

Being born in a small village where our cottage – and nearly every house in the street – was owned by the farmer, Dick Woollacott, was always going to bring me into contact with horses. Of every description. And I loved ’em!

From an early age, something like 5 years old, I ‘engaged’ with horses. My first encounter was actually riding on Dick’s cart, which was something like this;

We would ride on it to deliver the spuds and other veg, but, most importantly, during haymaking. What an absolutely glorious time that was. Most of the men of the village would turn out to help Dick with the haymaking, and these would notably include Jack Evans, Percy Wood, Percy Coombes, my old man, Reg Woollacott, etc.

The day very quickly came when Richard – Dick’s barrel-chested son – allowed me to ride bare-backed on the huge cart-horses, with only a flimsy halter to hang on to! They were magnificent animals, though it sure looked a mighty long way down to the ground from astride one of the beasts;

The next progression was to Alf Owen’s riding school on Picket’s Mead.

File Photo

Alf was a cantankerous old sod – but immensely likable, despite! He was one of the ‘drinking pals’ at the Rock and Fountain pub, together with Dick, the old man, Cyril Thrush, Tom Brace, Jack Evans, etc. He was a grizzled old sod who always wore grey trousers which were ‘turned-up’ two or three times, as he always wore boots which would not fit under his trousers! His black boots were invariably tied-up with brown leather laces which looked daft! A hacking-jacket and somewhat-matching cap completed his garb!

His stables were at the bottom of his garden and he would ‘appear’ at the stables, look around to see who was there, before sitting down in his rocking-chair in the middle stable! From there, he would run his empire tell all us kids what jobs we had to do! He couldn’t do any work himself because he was “All strapped up” as he would say. Referring to his allegedly bandaged stomach from some long-ago operation!!! Didn’t seem to affect his drinking though!

Anyway! He would let us ride the ponies back and fore to the fields; to the forge down Murton Lanes; and sometimes accompanying youngsters who had actually paid for a ride!!

The next ‘graduation’ was, methinks, inevitable! Tom Brace!

Now Tom was, as you now know, one of the drinking pals, so was clearly a ne’er-do-well! He was a short, weather-beaten man, who always, but always wore a white shirt which required, but NEVER had, a collar! The mandatory flat-cap, with baggy trousers and a hacking-jacket. I swear he was always drunk! His stables were, again, at the bottom of his garden, and he lived in Whitestone Lane – at the rear of my Gran’s! His wife didn’t like kids. In fact, she didn’t like Tom either! Never mind!

Anyway, Tom had the middle cafe of three which were on the beach at Caswell Bay, and he had the licence to give pony rides on Caswell and Langland beaches. His wife ran the cafe, and we did the pony rides. Tom would appear every so often to collect the money from us, and would then resume his position at the bar of the Langland Bay Hotel! (The Rock and Fountain being reserved for bad weather!)

Our perk was that we could ride the ponies at the end of the day. Poor things!

I should also mention Twomey’s riding school. Martin was a mate of mine and his mother, Mrs Twomey, had a riding school at Langland Court. Her customers were rather well-off people and hers was a well-run establishment. She deserves a mention for one major reason; she always had an Annual Gymkhana, which was held in Reg Woollacot’s field at the botton of Slade Road. They were great events and very popular. I loved to go and watch the ‘upper set’ competing on their horses. They were a nice crowd, too.

My final love-affair with horses was probably the best. Charlie Henwood’s.

He had a racing stables at Murton Lanes and I spent my hols working there. Mrs Henwood would serve me up dinners that I had never seen before. Big roasts! Well, I suppose that we did have some ‘roasts’ at home but, not like these! They were a man’s meal! Great.

Mr Henwood had about half a dozen thoroughbreds and one stallion. Only the boss could handle the stallion. He was a bloody monster! There was one full-time stable-girl, Mary O’Nion, who was great. Mary would exercise the horses in their field opposite the stables, daily. Sometimes the boss would enter one of the horses in a race at Swansea, which was a great day out. He did have one horse which came third in The Lincoln – I think it was called Newton Heath (or Newton Gold.)

Tragically, when the boss died, in his will he stipulated that the beautiful house and stables should be demolished! How very sad. This is what the site looks like now;

My dream of Heaven? A big ranch, full of palominos! That’s where you will find me, folks!

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What Is A Sister For?

It was 1942 and, as usual, I went out into the street at about 8am to see whether the Jerries had managed to land a bomb on our neighbourhood. Negative!

The gang slowly appeared onto the street and wended their half-asleep frames towards Mrs Skilbeck‘s. Mrs Skilbeck was a very short, dumpy, elderly lady with glasses (OK! Spectacles now!) that were so thick that, had the sun ever shone, she would surely have had her eyes burnt out! Even with them, she couldn’t see a thing unless she held it directly under her, slightly Roman, nose. She always seemed to wear the same old blue overcoat, reaching down nearly to the ground. Mrs Skilbeck lived in the tiny cottage on Dick Woollacott’s farm at the top of the road, with her 2 sons. One of them was Billy. He was a hero of mine as he was huge and wore a blue denim jacket and jeans, even in those days. I don’t know how he managed to live in the cottage as the wooden ceilings were soooo low that even Mrs Skilbeck was permanently hunched up! Anyway, I digress!

Mrs Skilbeck had the paper-shop, opposite Frank’s house. Overnight, it had two huge wooden doors which were closed and padlocked. She must have known, even then, that the Yanks were a’comin’ and would be based in the church field at the top of the road. Just precautions, I guess!!

Anyway, the gang had paper-rounds – all in the near vicinity – and afterwards would drift into the school playgrounds. There, of course, I would join them. Being not yet 4 years old, I would always have to be ‘last man in’ at whatever games were played, which did rankle somewhat. Naturally I couldn’t complain, or Frank would set Keith upon me!

Well, the bell would be rung by Miss Evans, and everybody would line up and be marched into school. I got pretty fed-up continually being left on my own so, one day, I marched in with them. Boy! It was a whole new world! And a great big coal-fire burning warmly. Great!

I saw that everybody sat down at a desk, so I sat at an empty one and watched. Didn’t take Miss Evans long! She was a real schoolmarm, if you know what I mean! Very short, skinny, tweedy clothes, grey hair, loud voice, penetrating eyes, (that, I swear, could see what you had for breakfast!) and was a spinster!!! She also lived at 11 St. Peter’s Road, which was a house hidden by trees in her garden, so that we couldn’t see what she got up to!

“And what is your name?” So I told her!

“And I suppose that you want to join school?” Not arf!

“Well, your sister (Doreen, 2 years older than moi!) had better go and tell your mother.” Which she did.

Doodee

Now, unfortunately, my Mum had 6 of us to keep, so had to go out to work daily, and was quite surprised when she did see me later that day! I was sitting on the ground in our scullery, hiding behind a sack of Dick’s spuds which we had purchased, feeling very sorry for myself, and quite scared! I knew that justice was about to be meted out!

Well! What had happened was this; All the wonderful excitement of the school life, warm classroom; with all my mates; great books; playtime; bottle of milk, etc. all took it’s toll of a 4 year old! How was I to know that they had toilets? Nobody ever told me!

And so it was that during playtime in the yard, …………I shit myself!

What made it infinitely worse, I had the runs!

ALL DOWN MY LEG IT RAN! Wearing short trousers made it look bad!

The bell rang at the end of playtime and we all lined up.

She saw it!

She called Doreen out and told her to take me home. Poor Doodee! (Family nickname). She took my hand and walked away from the lined-up kids. Me with all the, ……..well,…….. ‘stuff’ down my leg! I turned around and saw Frank at the head of the line. He was laughing uncontrollably, and pointing at my leg!

Poor, poor Doodee. But then, what are sisters for?

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Our Comics

Although we had very little money, my Mum would buy Film Fun for us every week! The Dandy and Beano were the most popular and the Adventure and Rover were story comics – as opposed to picture comics. The ‘Annuals’ at Christmas were an absolute must for every kid.

 

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Happy Days

Copper Ward

Copper Ward

I bumped into my old boyhood mate this week. He was Frank. Our gang leader. We used to play, in the street, all day and every day, when we were not at school. This was during the ’40s, both during and after, the war. Frank would decide what we would play each day, and there were 5 of us urchins. I liked most of our ‘activities’, and well remember them;
Dens.
This was a great favourite. We had all sorts of dens, ranging from ones built out of unused Anderson Bomb Shelters,

Marigolds grew on ours!

to ones built in amongst the gorse bushes. Very prickly to get into, so nobody ever found them. Some would be in our neighbourhood, whereas others might be a couple of miles away – down the valley, as we would say. Nothing like hiding in the den listening to the wind and rain outside. A great place for ‘learning’ the way of the adult world outside. Nobody would dare to enter our dens!

Guns.
Yea, another great favourite. We would play Cowboys and Injuns, having two sides, and each having his own gun. We would all assume the identity of our favourite cowboy – mine was invariably Gene Autry as the other boys were bigger than me,

Gene Autry

so they were Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, etc. We usually played guns in the church grounds. Well, we were all choirboys, so felt that we were, well, like, the guardians of the church. Choir practice on Friday evenings; Sundays we had Holy Communion at 8a.m. (we were Altar Boys as well!), Morning Service at 11a.m., Sunday School at 2p.m., and Evensong at 6.30p.m. Almost owned the church!

The Park.

Underhill Park

Often we would go to the local park and play football or cricket. Trouble was, Frank was so much better than us that it would get a bit boring. He would ‘bat’ for about an hour, as we couldn’t get him out. Then, when we did, he would get us out in 5 minutes, so that he would be back ‘in’ again. Not fair. And anyway, if we had enough for 2 teams, he would pick the best players for his team. Lousy creep. That’s forgiven now, though.
Games.
Mainly played at night, in the street.
Sometimes football. (Weren’t any cars on the roads then!)
Hide and Seek. Yea, you’ve guessed. We could never find Frank, so had to ask him to ‘give up’. (We reckoned that he used to go home and hide!!!)
Bet you can’t remember the game we played; “L-O-N-D-O-N London.” Any ideas?
And a game called ‘knock me down’, where 2 of us would bend down forming a ‘back’, up against a wall. All of the others had to leapfrog onto our backs and, when all were aboard, would jump up & down like mad, trying to collapse us, to the count of 10.
Anyway, I digress from my main point. As I say, Frank was our leader, and it was generally accepted that any and everything that happened in the neighbourhood was our fault. You know what things I mean?
Apples scrumped. (also brussel sprouts, swedes from the farmer’s field, gooseberries, etc.) Well, be fair. This was during the war and we were bloody starving.
Street lamps being shot out by airguns.
Kids jumping onto the rear platform of the bus as it slowed down for a steep hill.

Our local buses

Nearly setting the church-hall on fire. Well, it wasn’t like it sounds. It was a freezing cold day and 3 of us entered the trapdoor which led under the church-hall stage, trying to keep warm. There was some dried grass there and Wiss Hixson had some matches, so we set fire to the grass to get warm. Unfortunately, in the confined space, we were nearly choked, and had to beat a hasty retreat, coughing and spluttering. And it was there that the Vicar happened upon us!
So, what did Frank say after not seeing each other for about 53 years? Well, he said that he can never forget the look on the face of our local Police Officer – affectionately known as Copper Ward – each time he knocked on his front door, or saw us in the street. Apparently Frank’s mother – a lovely God-fearing woman with 7 kids, living next-door but one to me – always started her conversation with Copper Ward with the words; “Well, was he the only one?”
I, also, will never forget that face, or the look on it. So, imagine my utter astonishment when I entered the Swansea Borough Police website and saw that face, and that look, staring at me. After all this time.
Anyway. You can see that face, and the look, above. Just as we did all those years ago.
Police Constable Ward. Good on yer mate. You never did us any harm.
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