Dates for your Diary
Saturday 24th August – Coffee Morning – Toys
Throughout the school holidays a children’s treasure hunt will be running, 50p per child.
July 100 Club
No. 84 Corrine Taylor £20
No. 29 Val Rosser £10
If you would like to join our 100 club and be in with a chance of winning, it costs just £1 a month. Ask at the museum for further details.
The coffee morning in June was a bit different to the norm and was made all the more varied with a very interesting slide show. Many thanks to John Duggan and Ian Fewints, pictured below, from the Aberystruth History & Archaeology Society for a very entertaining and instructive morning.
Judith Williams, a retired local school teacher, has been a very good friend and supporter of the museum over the past 14 years. Her husband, Alan has also lent his support and now they are moving to Swansea to be near their new grandchild. They will be sorely missed but we wish them well in their new life.
Last month I asked if any of you still had your copy of There’s Rosemary – my sister still as hers and, unlike mine, it still has its original paper sleeve. There is a copy at the museum for anyone who would like a look.
Sally’s article on Wildings of Newport in June’s edition set me thinking about the shops in Abertillery when I was a child in the 1950s (Newport was where you went for a special shopping day). Bon Marche and Pontlottyn were important shops for Abertillery and for some reason I preferred Bon Marche (but not the rolls of carpet and lino on the lower floor). I remember the whoosh as the cylinders with money and your bill was sucked up to a cashier somewhere in the building and the thump as the cylinder returned with your change and a receipt. Of course, in Pontlottyn you could see the cylinders whizzing around the store on overhead wires.
Home & Colonial and Libbys were general grocery stores and I particularly remember the rows of glass-lidded biscuit tins and I seem to remember that you picked your own and put them in a paper bag; I hope I’m wrong as it doesn’t seem very hygienic for everyone to have been dipping their fingers in the tins. Eggs were also carried in a paper bag (somehow); I wonder how many got broken en-route! Egg cartons had been invented in 1911 but were not widely used for many years.
A lot of things were delivered – milk, bread, pop and meat. Once you’d selected and paid for your joint of meat at Goodwin’s the Butcher, the butcher boy would deliver it on his bike, often with blood starting to seep through the white paper wrapping while inside, the greaseproof paper would be stuck to the meat! Some of our groceries were delivered from the Co-op at Penybont; one of my weekly errands was to take the shopping order and blue divi book to the Co-op.
When I was a teenager I worked for Rees Bakery several times in the school holidays. One year I was assigned to their general store in Six Bells. As well as serving at the counter I had to write out customers’ bills by hand and tot up the bills in pounds, shillings and pence; I don’t remember having the use of an adding machine but I am sure the customers would have been quick to point out any mistakes! Another summer I worked in their bakery shop in Somerset Street. That was quite stressful as it was a busy shop and I very quickly had to learn not just the prices but also the names of the many different sorts of loaves and cakes sold, and do the arithmetic in my head. All the same, that was much better than the month I spent working in a Marks & Spencer store one summer – four weeks of doing nothing but sort and tidy knickers! It was mind-blowingly boring. I longed to be back at Rees’s!
As a child I lived in Penybont. On the corner of Tillery Road and Gelli Crug Road was a small general store – a typical corner store that sold most of the basic stuff you might need. I remember when it was run by the Bayliss family but they later moved to Newport and I believe a Mr Coles then took it over. Moving on up Tillery Road, by the bridge near the junction with Victor Road, was a cobbler’s. I don’t remember the name but I remember the cobbler with his leather apron, always busy, always stacks of shoes waiting to be repaired. Just up from him was another corner shop, Jessie’s, while Fairclough’s garage stood opposite on one of the few bits of flat road in Abertillery so it was always a popular place to ride your bike. Moving further up the road, and just beyond the path which led down to Greenmeadow Terrace where my maternal grandparents lived, was a lane onto which was a fish and chip shop. As was the case with many chip shops in those days, on one or two days a week they also sold wet fish. Further up the main road I think there was another shop though I can’t remember what it sold, and at the end of the road was the large Co-op store.
Down the lane past the chip shop was a sweet shop which had been set up in the front room of a house. You walked through the front door into the passage and turned left into the shop. Opposite the sweet shop, where the lane met Penybont Road, was a dairy. The dairy was owned by Mr and Mrs Wayne, the grandparents of Sally Murphy who is our Newsletter Editor. I remember the dairy as cold and a bit dark and, to a child, a bit creepy. One day in our house we must have run out of milk (which was delivered daily) because my mother sent me to the dairy to buy a pint and gave me an empty milk bottle to hand over in exchange. I used the bottle as a sort of musical instrument, blowing over the top of it, the result being that when I reached the dairy the inside of the bottle had clouded up. Mrs Wayne brought the full bottle of milk and told me to “tell your mother to send you with a clean bottle in future!” I stayed quiet and never did confess that it was I and not my mother who had dirtied the bottle!
Where Were You?
Fifty years ago two men landed on the moon! What an achievement! It was a memorable occasion and I certainly remember where I was at the time. I was in Toronto. A friend and I had gone to the USA and Canada for three months, mainly for a holiday but including a few weeks working at a golf club in Toronto to help fund the trip. The golf club was some way outside the city and so we lived in, as did most of the young staff there. The waitressing was easy, the food was good, and with so many young people working there we had a really good social life.
The moon landing was being broadcast late at night into the early morning. The golf club was too far out of Toronto for us to go into the city for the ‘Green Cheese Moon Party’ in the city centre, complete with a giant TV screen in the central square, so we live-in staff gathered around the TV in the staff sitting room with food and illicit drinks – although we could drink alcohol legally in Britain at age 18, in Canada (and much of the USA) it was 21! I remember that as we watched the TV there was a feeling of intense excitement and trepidation – would it go as planned? Would there be some terrible disaster? In the event it all went to plan and what a fantastic sight it was. I remember being briefly disappointed that the broadcast was in black and white rather than colour but that was soon replaced by the sheer wonder of what we were seeing. Youngsters today would take it in their stride but this was before personal computers, before the internet, before emails and mobile phones. Before the (albeit unmanned) deep space exploration we take for granted today. It was a remarkable achievement and one I shall always remember.
Did you know…?
Our Union flag (it is only called the Union Jack when flown on a ship) is made up of three separate flags, the red cross of England’s St George on a white background, the white diagonal cross of St Andrew of Scotland on a blue background and the red diagonal cross of St Patrick of Ireland on a white background.
Superimpose all three and you have the union flag. The only section of the UK not represented on the flag is Wales
Do you remember this?
A dozen or more of these children’s ride-on dragons were scattered all over the 1992 Ebbw Vale Garden Festival. Coin operated, they rocked back and forth while blasting out the tune, Puff the Magic Dragon. My daughter, who was two at the time, loved the ‘Puffs’ as she called them and insisted on riding every single one and several times each, over the course of the six months of the Festival.
After the Festival ended they must have been sold on as, later in the 1990s, I came across a few of these in other parts of the UK. This particular one though, I spotted in July this year at the fairground at Stourport-on-Severn. Nice to see that, 27 years on, they are still to be found!
Regent Palace Hotel, London
By Sally Murphy
Recently, my sister and I donated a telegram to the museum that we had come across when sorting out our late father’s estate. It was dated 29th March 1955 and had been delivered to our parents, Tom and Betty Wayne at the Regent Palace Hotel, London. The message was simple and clear ‘Hearts one, united two, further score to follow’ and the occasion was our parents wedding.
Until finding this I had had no idea where, or even if, my parents had had a honeymoon. With my interest spiked I decided to investigate further and see what I could find out about this hotel.
Volunteer staff needed! – the museum needs YOU! We are desperately in need of volunteers to help at the museum, indeed I think it a fair assessment to say that the museum is as likely to close over lack of staff as lack of cash! So if you can spare a few hours a week on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday morning we are eager to hear from you. Contact details can be found on page 1 of this newsletter or just pop in for a chat.
The Regent Palace Hotel, close to Piccadilly Circus, opened on 26th May 1915 and, at the time, was the largest hotel in Europe. Owned by J. Lyons & Company, it was a triangular shape with a central courtyard and had 1028 bedrooms spread over nine floors, some of which were small singles. The interior design of the hotel was largely the work of English architect Oliver Percy Bernard.
Even in its latter years, none of the bedrooms had en-suites. Instead there were bathrooms and toilets in each passageway. Each bedroom had a bell to call a maid who would run a bath, supply fresh towels and escort the guest to the bathroom. At its height the Regent Palace employed over one thousand staff.
During the bombing of London during World War two, a couple of bombs fell on the hotel but little damage was done. Following the war the hotel deteriorated despite attempts to restore it and in time it became one of London’s cheaper hotels. In 2004 it was granted Grade II listed status. Sadly the hotel closed in 2006 and in the period 2010-2012 it was largely demolished though the entrance to the hotel was bought by the Victoria and Albert Museum as a piece of significant historical design.
The photo below, found on Wikipedia, shows the hotel in 2005.
Volunteer staff needed! – the museum needs YOU!
We are desperately in need of volunteers to help at the museum, indeed I think it a fair assessment to say that the museum is as likely to close over lack of staff as lack of cash! So if you can spare a few hours a week on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday morning we are eager to hear from you. Contact details can be found on page 1 of this newsletter or just pop in for a chat.
Top Of Page