So what did we do as young people to amuse
ourselves we had no money to buy anything accept for Saturday when we
were given our pocket money, on this day we could visit the Odeon cinema
for Saturday morning matinee, and sing to the words on screen during intermission
highlighted by the white bouncing ball.
We could call into Chidzoy’s fruit and vegetable store and buy apples
that had spoiled but had the bad sections cut away we called these cut
apples and they were much cheaper than the unspoilt fruit. Then in the
lane behind the chemist shop was the sweet factory here we could buy pieces
of treacle toffee these pieces were what was left after the sweets had
been removed from the setting tray. From youngsters of today that’s
all I hear is that they are bored
In the 1950,s and having nothing provided for us we had to find our own
We had the beach which we had to walk to for we had no money for any buses
not that there were many of those vehicles about. the beach with its huge
sand dunes the highest in Europe there we climbed to the tops of the dunes
and sledged down to the bottom we played in the abandoned wartime buildings
which were slowly sinking into the sand, we swam in the sea, almost every
time we would be brushed against by Tope as they hunted the fish in the
braking waves, these large harmless fish of the shark family have long
gone from our shores in the numbers they once were, along the old wharf
amongst the rocks of slag we hunted for winkles which we ate, trapped
fish we carried home, we found crab those that were of an edible size
we sold to the fishmonger sometimes a real prize came along in the form
of a lobster for these treasures we had a few coppers but when I realize
what the fishmongers like Dia the fish and the old woman near Ynys street
sold these for we were truly robbed.
Back to the Top
We made Boneshakers bikes made from scrap Bicycles wheels had no tyres
no brakes no chain to pedel no seats almost all of the boneshakers had
a basket carrier in front as most were old delivery bikes in this carrier
would be one of our mates propulsion was made by your feet running on
the road surface a very uncomfortable ride but very thrilling if you were
We had the mountain with it’s old war relics in the form of anti
air gun spotters and radar stations, there were the long abandoned tunnels
of forgotten coal mines and the tunnel in Cwmafan road reputed to go all
the way through the mountain to Baglan, the mountain was a very productive
place for whimberies the whole family would be busy picking these small
blue berries when they were in season almost every family in the borough
would be seen on the mountain at this time, picking the berries to make
tart and also for making Jam, on the flat area at the top of the Causeway
we could find Mushrooms they were in abundance if you knew the spots that
they grew what we could not use ourselves were exchanged for vegetables
at the market stalls.
A few of us spent a great deal of time in the fields that lay between
the beach sand dunes and the mountains, if knew your way around you could
avoid the deepest mud made more so by the cattle that roamed the fields,
we looked for water cress that was always found close to the railway line
in ditches that area is now the lake we see at Baglan as we drive on the
M4, any eels we caught were put in a sack and taken home and mushrooms
again were in abundance.
In the area now occupied by the BP chemical plant was a fresh water lake
just deep enough to swim in there someone had dragged a rotting rowing
boat we all used this boat swimming in the sun warmed water, the lake
had its hazards some were drowned when caught up in the underwater weeds
but these weeds were only at the far western side of the lake and we avoided
that erea of water, but the main most common hazard were the leaches that
clung to the swimmers skin we became quite expert at removing these creatures
that feasted on our blood
In the street we played strong horse in teams we played against each -other
one lad would stand against the wall his partner would be bent over his
head firmly against the midriff of the boy standing against the wall then
the rest of the lads would jump on the back of the boy who was bent over
he had to support the weight of them all the longest time before the horse
collapsed was the winner.
A variation of the strong horse we called Roman Chariot racing the way
we played this game was two boys would stand side by side the third boy
would but his head between them bent over his arms around each of the
standing boys, then a boy would be up on his back teams would race against
other, the boy who was the horses back would be supported by the two boys
in front as best as they were able as they all ran as fast as possible.
Another game we played by using a stick with a cord about two feet long
tied to its end We whipped tops we carved out of wood to spin as fast
as we could keeping them going, the longest time the top was spinning
was the winner. .
We raced using an Iron hoop with a metal rod we had bent one end to form
a hook we would hit the iron hoop with the rod driving it along and steer
it by placing the hooked end of the rod over the rim of the hoop.
Sometimes the girls managed to get us to play hopscotch with numbered
squares chalked on the floor we had to hop on one leg from square to square,
skipping with lengths of rope was another girls game that we sometimes
were bullied by them into playing.
We played jack stones there were various ways we played this, first we
had to find our stones, these were small stones and the most unusual was
jack stone, one way we played was that we would each place a stone in
the centre of a circle the lad who’s turn it was to play would place
his jack stone on the back of his hand that was positioned palm down over
the ring of stones, he had to toss this stone into the air and pick up
as many stones from the ring and also to catch his jack stone again on
the back of his hand that now was grasping the stones he had picked up
if he dropped his Jack stone that was then placed in the ring with the
others and all that he had managed to pick up were also replaced to lose
one’s jack stone was a catastrophe that put you out of the game
the boy with the most stones at the end of the game was the winner.
Games like marbles and toss the bottle top against the foot of a wall
were everyday games racing up the street was also pretty common, train
spotting we did every day with notebooks filled with the steam engines
name and class details like how many wagons was it pulling what was its
Back to the Top
Sometimes we played Jackie knocker or devil up a drainpipe we would hide
and watch our poor victims as they walked around looking for the culprits,
we would play football, cricket, rounder’s catch.
We made what we called Gambo's this was a blank of wood two old pram wheels
fixed to the rear then a cross piece with two other pram wheels fastened
to it a hole was in the centre of the crosspiece matching a hole in the
front end of the plank through this hole which normally was made by heating
the end of an iron bar and placing this bar on the spot we wanted a hole
in the wood it did not take us long to burn a hole through the timber
by repeated heating of the iron rod we placed a bolt we had scrounged
This crosspiece acted as our steering we tied string to either side of
the steering bar and when we sat on our Gambo we could pull on either
side string and with the help of out feet also placed on the steering
bar we could turn left or right these we raced against each other in daring
races one steering and another pushing and running as fast as possible
there were many spills depending on the degree of expertise of the boy
Most of us also had home made hand carts these were simply wooden fruit
crates with two pram wheels fixed to an axle and two hand shafts nailed
to either side of the crate these carts were used for all our gathering
of spoils whatever it was.
We would always be found swinging from a rope from the old tree that was
up a slope opposite our houses I came off one day and lost control running
down the slope trying to remain on my feet I ran into the house wall putting
my arms up to protect myself my left arm connected first and bore the
whole weight of my running body it buckeled the end result of that was
my forearm broken in three places looking at it was like looking at a
snake a neighbour reset the bone and I was sent to hospital to get it
set in plaster..
I remember some of the girls putting on show’s all of us sitting
watching the girls acting out plays none of the lads ever dared to take
part or he would have been condemned for ever as a cissy.
We made flutes and whistles by taking a length of branch from four to
six inches long from the Elderberry tree about the thickness of one finger
then we would hollow out the centre, the pith at the center of our branch
was very soft and by picking away at both ends we were soon able to force
the remainder from the centre of branch timber.
Sometimes we had a fire drill on leaving the Odeon cinema on a Saturday
we had to leave by the doors that led into the waste ground and stand
The top field as we called the area of grass beyond the last house in
the street was another place well used by all of us it was also here that
we held our bonfire night, this bonfire once built was guarded night and
day against raids by other lads from neighbouring streets, we were not
always successful, and we did our fair share of raiding other streets
The river was another draw we swam at the foot of the waterfall by Coralnnau
swimming underwater we could go under the concrete at the foot of the
falls this space eaten away by countless tons of water eroding the ground
from under this concrete apron; the cavity formed an under water cavern
we jumped off the footbridge supports into the deep water impossible now
as they altered the rivers depth from various works carried out on the
river but back then in the 1950’s it was fun.
We had no time to be bored there was nothing provided for us accept the
old swimming pool at Forge road but why spend money we had not got when
all this free entertainment was at hand.
The flat area on the mountain reached by walking up the Causeway and Mountain
road was well used, a number of schools would take the pupils up to this
area up for sports such as cricket and football.
Breeding and racing Pidgeons was another pastime although our racing was
pretty much guess work depending in my case on one of my sisters being
able to see if my birds arrived and marking the time they did arrive that
was if they felt generous with thier time mostly they just told me not
to bother them.
My pidgeon cot was built by my father I had nagged him for some time at
last he gave in he set me to getting orange crates these crates were made
up of slats of wood about three inches wide each slat had a gap between
itself and its nieghbouring slat fastened to two end pieces and a centre
piece oranges were shipped into this country using these crates I would
call to Chidzoy and the outher fruit and vegitable merchants begging for
these crates, when I got them home I would carfully take them apart, timber
that had been abandoned I would salvage and take home when I had enough
wood my father built the pidgeon cot it was weather proof and looked a
very professional job men had to be a jack of all trades in those days
for we had no money to spend on things like sheds they were all hand built
from scrap materials painstakingly salvaged.
As we got older there was the new hall sometimes I was lucky and sneaked
in whilst the man at the stairs was away from his post there I was dancing
with the girls until I got spotted by my elder sisters who would pounce
on me and ask the girl I had begged for a dance Do you know how old he
is I got ejected by my sisters.
New years eve under the market clock was a magical time everyone managed
to squeeze into the square where we danced and sang and at the stroke
of midnight we just about kissed every girl within reach.
Between Days fair and the beach hotel was the arcade this was just a shed
with a floor that had never seen a spirit level when we went into the
side door you had to be careful or you would stagger like a drunk as the
slope caught you unawares at this top end was the snack bar along both
sides were the slot machines and a juke box we tried to dance on the open
area of the floor but the pronounced sloping floor made it difficult but
this was where we met the girls.
How could we ever get bored with all that we had going for us we were
healthy actively fit youngsters how I wonder would today’s youngsters
transported back in time cope without their electronic games, computers
and all the other must have gadgets that they seem to need.