Childhood memories of a Nonarian

by Olive Gluyas nee Whale

Ed. Note: 'The Olives', an old bungalow on the seaward side of Mumbles Road, between Blackpill and West Cross, which had fallen into a dilapidated state, has now been demolished. So, it is perhaps an opportune moment to re-feature the memories, written in 1999, of Olive Whale, who was born in 1911 and whose family moved there after her father had built it in 1922, thus affording us a glimpse of village life during the Great War and its aftermath, the centenary of the start, which falls this year, 2014.

Today's Promenade

I was born in Pontypridd on 9 July 1911 and moved with my parents and two older brothers, Ron and Rex to Tydfil House (opposite the Congregational Church) in Mumbles, three months later. My Aunt and Uncle also lived with us. About twelve months later, we all moved to 10, Victoria Avenue, where we lived until I was eleven, when we moved to Blackpill, where my father had built a bungalow near the old railway, called ‘The Olives.'

One of my first recollections was when I was two and a half and my brother saying, ‘there’s going to be a War’ During the War, the Great War that is, I can recall the soup kitchens at Southend, soldiers around and one day, when the family went to Langland Bay, some soldiers cutting up loaves of ‘black’ bread and offering some to us.

All food was rationed and I can remember my mother adding a little cocoa and sugar to margarine to make it taste better. My father, William Whale, who worked at the Phoenix Docks at Swansea, had an allotment, so he grew most of our vegetables and some fruit, which was needed to feed the extended family: my parents having had eight children in total before we left Victoria Avenue.

I attended the Infants school at the rear of Oystermouth Council School, when I was five and I can remember the first day being put to sit with my brother, Rex, in a higher class to settle me in, which was customary in those days. I didn’t appreciate being taken away from him. My teachers in the second class after the infants’ class were Miss Sanders and Mrs. Rosser. Miss Morris, who became Mrs. Skinner, taught me in the first class. Standard One teacher was Miss Richards and the Headmistress was Mrs. Sanders (no relation to Miss Sanders, I understand) In those days, even in the infants’ school, talking in morning prayers was not tolerated and the Headmistress used her cane on occasions.

Oystermouth Council School, c1900

While I was still in the Infants School at about the age of seven, I used to scrub the kitchen floor at home to help my mother and also ran errands for her. The grocer’s was Taylor’s down by The Dunns and the shop assistants gave me biscuits and prunes to eat while I was in the shop. I often had to fetch bread from Jones, the Baker, at Castleton. At Christmas time, some women made their Christmas cakes at home and I can remember accompanying my friends to Allen’s, the Baker at the bottom of Queen’s Road, for the cakes to be baked.

The Dunns

I have some very happy memories of walking to Little Langland Bay (Rotherslade) with my sister, Gladys, my brother, Emlyn and my cousin, Nancy Poole and of playing on the beach. However one day, we put our shoes on a rock while we paddled in the sea and when we came back to fetch them to go home, as the tide was coming in, the shoes were missing presumed stolen. You can imagine my shame, being the eldest in charge of the little ones, walking home bare foot and facing my mother, Mabel Whale, who was very annoyed and gave me a good scolding. When my father returned from work, he took me to Mr. Rosser, the shoemaker, in Park Street to buy some new shoes for all of us, which was an expensive visit.

Rotherslade Bay, c1900

I received a penny or sometimes tuppence a week pocket money and had great fun spending it on different sweets. Mrs George had a little sweet shop next to George’s the Grocer on Newton Road and she made some wonderful homemade toffee. If I wanted some extra money, I ran errands for a Miss Evans and a Miss Philamore. On Bank Holidays, my mother and auntie would take my brothers, sisters and me down to the park. We would have a penny for a chocolate bar from the machine, a penny for an ice cream and, on the way home, we would have another penny for a bag of chips. Those were very special days.

I had many friends in Victoria Avenue: Muriel Durk, Lily Jenkins, Kathleen Hawken, Enid, Violet, Reggie and Aubrey Greenslade, Gladys Miles, and Phyllis and Brynley Lewis. We played lots of games together. The Greenslades were the first in the avenue to have a car and, because I was friend of Enid, her father sometimes gave us a ride to the garage. Other exciting rides, I am sure, would not have been approved of by our parents, were when we jumped on the back of horse-drawn cabs!

I can remember a Mr. Williams, who was manager of Taylor’s grocer’s shop before the war and, on his return he opened his own grocer’s shop. He used to allow me to serve myself with vinegar from a barrel and I can recall Mrs. Williams giving me a bag of sweets.

The old Mumbles train brings back lots of memories. My brother, Emlyn and my sister, Gladys and I sometimes ran in front of the train (a long way ahead, of course) and, as the train became nearer, we jumped off the lines onto the side. The fireman would throw a lump of coal at us to frighten us! I can also remember putting crossed pins on the line, which would lock like a scissors after the train had driven over them! When I lived at Blackpill, Mr. Dunkin, the engine driver, after taking trucks down to Mumbles, would sometimes pick up my father and me on the engine, if we were walking beside the railway line and give us a lift back to ‘The Olives’.

Train at Southend

One last memory I have is of the ‘Rag and Bone’ man giving my mother half a penny for a one-pound jam pot and one penny for a two-pound jar.

When I was thirteen, the family moved to Cornwall, where I have lived ever since, but I still return to Wales and to The Mumbles on occasions to reminisce

Mumbles Railway-the route from Blackpill to Oystermouth

More photos of the new routes

Mumbles Railway-the route from Oystermouth to Mumbles Head

A further passing line was added and the train is pictured at Blackpill

The same place today, now used by the Land train