Back To The 50's


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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 amusement.
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.
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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 going downhill.
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 made our
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 cargo.
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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 from somewhere.
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 steering..
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 morning
we had to leave by the doors that led into the waste ground and stand in rows.
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 bonfire sites.
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.

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