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.
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!
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.
He Gave Me Thruppence!
I attended Dynevor Grammar School in Swansea from 1949 – 1954.
Most days I would travel to and fro on the Mumbles Railway – the oldest passenger-carrying train in the U.K.
I would leave school at 4pm, run down through the old bombed-out Swansea Market to Rutland Street, which was the terminus for the trains, and catch the 4.15pm train to Mumbles. Then transfer to the Caswell Bay bus for the onward journey to Newton. Nearly all the Mumbles and Newton kids would catch the same train which would be quite full of us kids!
One day, I must have committed some unpardonable sin in school, as I was ‘sentenced’ to an hour’s detention!
After serving my sentence, I ran to Rutland Street and caught the next train. Alas! It was turned 5 o’clock and there were no kids on it at all! It was just full of ‘workmen’ (as we used to call workers!!). Most of them were somewhat dirty as they did manual jobs.
So, instead of going ‘upstairs’ where ALL decent and normal kids go, I sat at the bench style seat next to the folding doors of the train. And there I sat for the entire journey – satchel on my lap, looking very sorry for myself. Because I knew that I was going to be very, very late for my paper-round! The people of St.Peter’s Road and Caswell Avenue would never forgive me. My mother would know that something had gone wrong, so I was probably in for a right rollicking there too! And I would then be too late to go and ‘play’ with the boys as they would have already gone off in search of
treasure today’s playground!
So, I just sat there! All the way until the train stopped at West Cross. West Cross was a council-house area, built of steel-houses after the war. Riff-raff lived there, of course!! Or, were they?
One of the workmen got off the train. I shall never forget him. He would have been about 40-ish, slim build, dirty, once-white but now grimy grey mac, the seemingly mandatory features of flat-cap and ex-army haversack which would have carried his lunch, and the solemn, dirty face of a tired man! He had been sat opposite me and must have seen my woeful face because, after he got off the train, he reached back inside, and stuffed a thruppeny bit into my hand! He quickly turned away and hurried up the slipway to the Mumbles Road leading onto the council estate. And I never saw him again.
Which is a great pity because, I have often wondered whether he ever knew just what that gesture meant to me – and still does!