Monthly Archives: May 2012

When I Was A Lad!!!

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Dried Eggs

During the war, we would sometimes have a real treat – Dried Eggs!

It was a powder, in a dark brown box, the outside of which was coated in something reminiscent of candle-wax. The box prominently displayed the Stars and Stripes clearly showing the origin of them – the lifeline from The States, paid for by a dreadful loss of life on the high seas.

I have clear memories of my eldest sister, Jeanne, mixing the powder, and pouring it into the frying pan, over a slice of bread. This, of course, was to ‘make it go further’!!! It was much like an egg omelette. When cooked, Jeanne would cut the thing into 4 portions, and we would have one each. A real treat indeed!

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Brother Bilbow and Morriston Orpheus at Mumbles

At the first appearance of the choir, Bill is the top row, right hand man!

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I remember Him ‘Cos……………..

The Chef at Brynfield Hotel

One of my newspaper rounds was; down Brynfield Road and then up Marytwill Lane. In those days – late ’40s and early ’50s, the last house in Brynfield Road on the right was Brynfield Hotel.

The former Brynfield Hotel

After delivering their paper, I then had a long trek up a rough road to a house situated on the very top. It was called ‘White Horses’ after the choppy sea which could be seen from the house. Mr. and Mrs. Burgess lived there. He owned the Swansea based Burgess Shipping Line.

In winter, it was a dreadful place to have to visit. Thoroughly exposed to the wild elements which seemed to come in off Langland Bay. All the time, in the distance, I could hear the haunting toll of the Mixen Ball, warning ships of the sandbanks at the entrance to Swansea Straits. Sometimes, after delivering the paper, I would creep around the rear of the house so that I could climb through the hedge into the grounds of the Glyn Vivian Home of Rest for The Blind. O.K., The Blind Home!! I would then have to find my way across their vast gardens, to where I delivered their paper. This was quite perilous as they had a mad goat tethered somewhere in the garden! Thank God it was tethered. I swear that it spent it’s entire day, just waiting for me! It would charge – as far as it’s chain would allow it. I would run for hell! Anyway, I digress!

As in most cases of it’s type, the Brynfield Hotel expected me to deliver the papers not to the front door, but to the servants’ entrance at the rear, and the kitchen must have been near to that door! Because sometimes the elderly chef would meet me at the door. He was a big man – at least, he towered over me!!! – and was always immaculately dressed in his chef’s hat and full uniform. And, invariably, he would be holding a slice of tart, which he would offer me. You must remember that we were bloody hungry in those days and it was like manna from heaven. He would say, “Do you know what this is?” “Apple Tart.” “No, no, no. Apple Charlotte!”

And so, some 65-odd years later, I know what Apple Charlotte is, and – I remember the Chef at Brynfield Hotel, for his kindness to a scruffy little erk!

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I Remember Him ‘Cos……………

John PICKARD

Most of the good folk whom I knew as a boy have long since departed – in one way or another! Some, of course, are still ‘around’! All are remembered for something specific. Like, a mannerism, something that they wear, say or do. In this little series, I want to mention a few people from the ’40s and early ’50s, and what I particularly remember about them.

John lived in the next street to me in Newton. About 6 houses up from my Gran’s family home. He was 4 years older than me and, as such, was what we called ‘a big boy’!!! We went to the same secondary grammar school – Dynevor – the same school as Harry Secombe. John joined the local police force and rose to the rank of Superintendent. He was a traffic specialist and head of the South Wales Constabulary Traffic Division. He retired and became Secretary of Mumbles Community Council, before properly ‘hanging-up his spurs’!

So, what do I remember about John from the early days?

  1. One Friday evening, at choir practice at St. Peter’s Church, we were given a hymn to sing which I had never encountered before. I well remember that the word ‘manifest’ occurred a couple of times. It had a right catchy tune and some of us never quite mastered it at that time. Came the Sunday Evensong, and John was probably the only boy singing! I just stood in awe of his enforced solo. He was brill! To this day I remember him singing the last line – ‘God in man made manifest’!
  2. One afternoon, in the bright sunlight of mid-summer, our ‘gang’ gathered on the flat-rocks at Caswell Bay, for a dip. I was about 8 at the time. When I arrived, there were several of the lads already there, and clearly something was ‘in the air’ as there was a sort of ‘hush’ between them. They were in the process of stripping to change into their swimming trunks and I duly found a spot where I could change. I quietly asked Wiss Hixson, “What’s up?” His reply startled me, and explained why everybody was speechless! He said, “Ask Betsy (John P) what a prostitute is!” So, of course, I did. I’ll never forget my indoctrination into manhood! Out of the corner of his mouth, John whispered, “A woman who offers her body for acts of sexual intercourse for money.” I pondered over that for days. God only knows what my mind conjured up!
  3. In John’s early teens, somebody nick-named him ‘Betsy’. I can only assume that it was after Alf Owen’s grey pony, Betsy, as that’s the only Betsy that I knew. Betsy was a very small, bomb-proof, dopey, idle, pretty much useless pony, and quite clearly John did NOT like his nick-name. So, what did he do? Well, he joined the newly-formed Mumbles Youth Club and took up boxing. The nick-name disappeared very quickly and thereafter John was a person of some stature.
  4. All of us lads had a newspaper delivery round, and at one time, worked for Dai Rudd, in the bookshop in Southward Lane. John had a brand new bicycle, a blue Phillips Vox Populi, and would deliver his papers on it, riding along the pavement and dropping the papers through the letter-boxes. He gave up his paper round and joined the police force. Dai Rudd had to deliver the papers himself until he could find another boy. A short time later, Dai was riding along the pavement on his bike, delivering papers, when John, in his brand new police uniform stopped him. You can probably guess the rest! He warned Dai that if he EVER caught him riding on the pavement again, he would ‘book him’!!!

John is still around the village. His Dad was very well-known locally, as he was the top mechanic for the Mumbles Railway – the oldest passenger train service in the U.K., and would always be seen on the telly in later years, whenever the train broke down. An all-round nice family.

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