June Stories

 

Sent in by Roger Haigh-Jones

 

Summary of my memories of living in the area between about 1950 to 1963 but with the focus on Caernarfon.

My parents met during the war at RAF Llandwrog .My mother was a member of the WAAFs and my father was a Sergeant radio fitter (at one stage, I believe, he was involved in investigating why RAF aircraft kept crashing into the mountains nearby, I think he had to prove it wasn't the instruments he was servicing!) My parents got married and had a son, Quentin. Sadly, he died in tragic circumstances at about 18 months and is buried in Llandwrog cemetery in an unmarked grave. Money was short in those days. I came along a few months later in 1946, but was born in Yorkshire ( Ilkley) close to my grandparents village.

At about the age of 3 and a half, I returned to Caernarfonshire with my mother, and stayed for a short time with friends in Saron, Llanwnda. I went to Ysgol Felinwnda for a matter of weeks at this stage (I can still smell the leather of my new case which I had to carry to school, heaven knows if there was anything in it!)----We then moved to the first of 4 homes in Dinas Dinlle. My favourite was a tin shack called Hothe. It had no hot water, and no electricity. Light came principally from wall mantles fed by a calor gas bottle and the heat came from an open fire. We used to collect driftwood in a kit bag from the beach to help keep the fire going. Once, my mother put a piece of tar on the fire to see if that would put out any heat. She spent quite a few hours, subsequently, cleaning out the molten tar underneath the fire and in the hearth! Weekly, we went to our landlady, a lovely old woman called Miss Thomas , in Pool Street, to pay our 23 shillings rent. (My mother earned 3 a week working at the Marine Hotel in Dinas Dinlle, so there wasn't much left after the rent had been paid) And every week, I left her house clutching a bag of digestive biscuits and Penguins. On one occasion she gave me a copy of the unabridged Tales of the Arabian Nights which I read avidly from cover to cover by the light of a paraffin lamp. I have lost the book since during countless moves. If anyone has an original to sell me, please, do get in touch! Most of our entertainment came from an old Sky Queen Radio. My favourite programme was Dan Dare, pilot of the future! I think my mother preferred Dick Tracy, Special Agent, though.

Although we had no pets at this stage, we were visited by the occasional feral cat. If we left the front door open and sat quietly, they would come in a sit by the fire. One movement from us, however, and they bolted out of the door. One day, as my mother sat there knitting, a cat shot through the door chased by a local dog. It took a flying leap and landed on her head. It turned around to face the dog, dug its claws into my mother's head and squatted there hissing at its pursuer. I don't recall us leaving the door open much after that. We were sometimes visited by an independent Labrador called Rough, who strolled down from Llandwrog to say hello. Old Rough who died in the 50s is the reason why I now have two 2 year old Labradors boys.

I was attending the primary school then, at Llandwrog. The teachers were Mr Davies and Mrs Banfield. Although they taught us well, drilling the math's tables and the Catechism into us each morning, the methods of discipline used would have had them in court today. I remember being dragged around the classroom by my hair, made to stand in a corner on one leg with my hands on my head and, once, having my legs thrashed with a stick for something another child had done. (Dafydd Penrhos shared the punishment with me; where are you now, Dafydd?!). Occasionally a fist in the back would send one of us to the floor. Things have improved in our schools somewhat, thank heavens!

My parents divorced in the mid fifties and my mother married a schoolteacher from Penygroes; David John Jones. We moved into a rented semi called Cuillins in Twthill. My bedroom was in the attic. What bliss to be so far up away from everyone else! Our back garden had a door which opened out onto the hill and I spent many a happy time climbing up to the top to get a fine view of the castle and the town. I remember once attaching a piece of string to an arrow and firing it into the apple tree of the end house, owned by the Bryants (who were very posh and had a cleaning lady). I never managed to hit an apple because the son of the house appeared almost immediately and confiscated my only arrow. The only other people I recall in the street were Alan Rothwell and his parents who lived almost opposite. At the end of the street there was a Catholic School and I do remember with some shame, that we used to throw stones at their pupils and they weren't slow to retaliate. I 'm not sure why we did that. They didn't seem any different from the rest of us.

It was just a short stroll down the street to the Fish and Chip shop in Twthill and to the Boys Primary, which I attended from the age of 10. I met some nice lads there, David Smith (now a local Police Inspector) Norman Muir, Michael Henthorne and many others. Several joined me in attending the Grammar School, Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen, later on in 1958. It was at this time that I fell in love with Mary Elizabeth Clark. Barely had our love began to blossom at the age of ten and a half when her parents whisked her off to live in New Zealand. I still have her address burned into my memory. Haven't the foggiest idea of what she looked like though.

Further down from the Fish and Chip shop was the local playground. This was the daily haunt for most of us. Had our parents seen the dare devil antics we got up to on the high speed merry go round or witnessed the acrobatics performed at the top of the swing, we should probably have been banned. I remember once emptying the contents of at least 5 bangers onto the bottom of the slide with the intention of sending down a lighted match from the top to see if I could set it all off from a safe distance. Trevor, brother of Marcia and son of our local chimney sweep, dropped a match into it right under my nose at the last critical moment and I was blinded for at least 10 minutes. Where are you now Trevor? I want a return match for all those marbles you constantly and ruthlessly won from me. Marble champion of Twthill was Trevor in 1957/8. I managed to beat Marcia though.

In those days, my hair was cut by Mr Rees in his shop not far from the present day Stermat. My hair used to be slicked down with so much Brylcreem that it didn't even ruffle in the strongest of Caernarfon winds. Brylcreem, beloved of mothers and hated by sons. Mr Rees was married to the singer Sassie Rees and had a daughter, Olwen Rees who went on to become an actress. My claim to fame is that I was Olwen's boyfriend for a day, once. It was for political reasons though and I never even got a kiss. I think she was trying to make someone else jealous. You blew it, Olwen. You could have had me but I'm no longer available. (But tell me, what were those ONA things your dad used to sell for the weekend?)

Along from Twthill and running towards the top of Gypsy Hill (what have they done to you, Gypsy Hill, the Everest of cyclists, you have all but disappeared in the "improvements") there was a bakers shop which sold that most exquisite of delicacies; Teisen pwddin. My friend, Tony Mills, and I would often stop on our way from school to the buses in the Maes and buy one. They were a penny each then. I expect they are at least two pence now.

Descending from the end of our road was Eleanor Street. Living there, as I recall, was a vision of loveliness called Nerys. In later years she appeared in our School play. Her title was something like "Queen of the Western Region". Whilst my memories of her title are vague, I do recall that Mr Davies, our Grammar School headmaster had to temporarily stop the play to tell us boys to stop groaning loudly everytime Nerys appeared on stage. If we did not, he would halt the play. The last I saw of Nerys was by the Lee Ho Floating Restaurant, in 1963, eating an ice cream prior to leaving School to join the London School of Economics She counselled me against joining the RAF without A levels as I would not rise above Sergeant otherwise. Where are you now, Nerys? I want to buy you an ice cream and tell you how I did.

My French teacher at the Grammar School was Mr Cemlyn Williams, who later became Town Mayor. He was a font of stories and it didn't take much to distract him from a lesson and get him onto some allied topic. I'm not sure how many of us passed our French O Levels (I didn't) but I know how good the wine cellars are in the White House in Washington and that if you pronounce y and en together rapidly, you end up sounding like the ass you are.

Others have referred to the Turkey trot around the Caernarfon streets popular on a Saturday night. I recall it being known as the Monkey Run too. All I know is that it seemed to start and stop in front of Bertorelli's, the ice cream and tobacconist shop in the Square. It was a sad day when he went across to the mass manufactured ice cream. I think it was even better than the Cadwalladers of today. The Crosville bus office was next door at the time, I think. .

I also remember that one of the best Fish and Chip shops in town was Wedgwood at the bottom of Penrallt. I used to leave my weekly meeting of the ATC Cadets (managed by that Caernarfon character, Mr Ron Kirk) and pop down into Wedgwood for my supper. Chips were 3 pence but if you were rich, you could move up to the bigger bag at 4 pence. In those days, all 3 of the town's cinemas were active. Does anyone remember cheering on Hopalong Cassidy in the Guildhall at the Saturday Matinee? I think the Majestic went down hill when it stopped showing films and moved more into wrestling etc. I remember most of my school being walked down there one afternoon to see The Ten Commandments. What a treat! It didn't do much for our education but we enjoyed the escape.

Anyway, cutting a long story short, I left Caernarfon to live in Saron, Llanwnda where I learned the gentle country pursuits of crossbow making, spear fishing flatfish in Foryd estuary, stealing apples and learning about Doctors and Nurses. I left the area to join the RAF in 1963 qualifying first as a Radar Fitter in 1966 and then in 1971 as a Flying Officer in Air Traffic Control. Old friends of ours, Mair (another Caernarfon town mayor) and Jack Williams of Vanwil Oil came to wish me well at the Graduation Ceremony - a belated thank you both. After leaving the RAF as a Squadron Leader in 1985 I practised Chinese acupuncture for a few years in Trefriw, LLandudno and finally, in Shropshire. For the last 10 years, I have worked in the University of Wolverhampton as a Senior Administrative Officer. I have now come back home in an attempt to retire at the ancient age of 54 but............who knows what may follow? I may just buy a lottery ticket next week.............On the other hand, are there any flatfish left in Foryd?....

If you want to get in touch with Roger go to "Say Hello to an Old Friend"