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?
- 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’!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.