Growing Up In Aberkenfig

A Memory of Aberkenfig

Growing up and the family - Part 1

My grandfather William Morgan Cockram (son of Lewis Cockram) and grandmother (Mary Cockram) (granny and grandpa Cockram) took over the ironmongers after the death of John Richards. They were living behind the shop when I was growing up. I remember the shop very well. It was not a very busy shop – I remember my grandmother in the living room at the back of the shop and when the bell sounded as somebody opened the shop door, she would go into the shop to serve them. The shop was very dark and I remember little pigeon holes behind the counter full of nails, screws etc. Odd rolls of wallpaper and paint (during the war years the colours were bright green, brown and fawn) and other items were piled up in the rest of the shop. Children used to come into the shop to buy chalk which was sold for about 6d.a lump. (old money) This chalk was kept in a container by the door and the children used the chalk for drawing hop-scotch on the pavements.

The ironmongers, which was situated in Bridgend Road, Aberkenfig at the top of the hill leading from the village, was a rambling building the gardens of which went right down to the river Ogmore. Years previously, apparently there were salmon and other fish to be seen in the river but in the forties and fifties the river was polluted with coal dust coming down the valleys where the coal mines were still in operation. In the garden I remember a monkey puzzle tree and apple trees. To the left of the garden was a dilapidated small bungalow and a greenhouse with vines with grapes, together with red and yellow tomatoes. Granny Cockram had a dog called Butch, but as a child I remember him jumping up on us and barking and scratching our bare legs. When grandpa Cockram was in hospital, Joy and I slept in the bedroom above the shop to keep granny company. The light in the bedroom was from a gas mantle and it had a distinctive smell of gas. We didn’t enjoy sleeping there, it was a bit creepy. I don’t think we slept there very often.

The house in Park Road where Auntie Vin (daughter of Lewis Cockram) and Uncle Evan lived was small and poky – the door was in the middle of the house and a room each side of the front door. The parlour to the left and the living room to the right. In the passageway on the wall was a stuffed ram’s head (or some other animal) with long curly horns which was very frightening to a small child. Uncle Evan used to tell us stories how he had killed it but I don’t know if that was true. The cottage had a stone winding stairs to the two bedrooms upstairs leading from the living room. When Joy my sister was about 3 she fell down these stone stairs and broke her leg and was in the Cardiff Infirmary hospital for quite a time. To the back of the house was a lean-to kitchen. This was very primitive and smelt very damp. The gardens at 34 Park Road were a joy to us children (Dorothy Joy and myself). The bottom part of the gardens were laid out for vegetables and to the right was some rough hilly ground which we called “The Tump". The rest of the garden contained apple, pear and other fruit trees. The top gardens were rented out to people as allotments and this steep part of the garden led up to Mynydd Bach (small mountain in English) which was a forest with a path leading from Aberkenfig to the top of Ty Cribbwr Hill, Cefn Cribbwr. As Children we used to like to walk along this path and stop half way at “The Devil’s Armchair” which was a rock formation in the shape of an armchair and table. I remember having picnics there. In the Autumn we went Winberry and Blackberry picking – my mum would then make delicious tarts for tea. My mother and father moved to the cottages at Park Road 32/34 and converted the cottage (No 34) together with the cottage next (32) door into one house which they called “Box Cottage” . The two cottages had been in the family for many years, it was called Box Cottage because there was a box hedge in front of the windows. The garden to the front was sloping and led down to the road. I remember many old fashioned flowers growing in this garden especially Granny Bonnets which seeded themselves every year. I had seeds from these plants and they still grow in my garden today. Uncle Evan was a great gardener and he used to show us how to prune and tend the young apple trees. Uncle Evan showed his vegetables at the Bridgend Show which was held at Newbridge Fields in Bridgend every year. I remember very clearly in May 1945 when the Germans and Italians surrendered, being in part of the garden (which we called “The tump”) of Uncle Evan and Auntie Vin’s cottage when Auntie Vin came out of the front door waving a tea towel shouting the “The war is over”- she had heard the news on the radio. (I believe mum and dad had gone to Swansea for the day.) We were very excited to think that the war was over and we could have as many sweets as we liked. When eventually sweets came “off ration” the shelves in the sweet shops were cleared within a day or so because people had been rationed for so long they went quite “out of control”. They went back on ration for a while longer. I also remember thinking at that time that there would be no more news on the wireless (radio) or Newsreels at the Lyric Cinema-I associated NEWS with the war. Between the short film at the beginning and the main film was the newsreel-at the end of the war they showed horrific pictures of the victims of the Concentration Camps – this was very upsetting and I remember going to the toilets and staying there until the news had finished. Uncle Evan also had a garden at the end of Pandy Park. The ground was at the junction of the River Ogmore and the Llynfi river. My dad had part of this garden which to me was like “The Secret Garden”. Nobody but the family had the key to open the gate and we spent many hours as children in this garden. There was always a bonfire smouldering in one part of the garden where weeds and dead flower plants etc were discarded and burned. I loved this secret garden, it was ours. As far as I can remember we never went there on our own, it was either with dad or Uncle Evan.

During the war, most items were rationed and each family had a ration book for confectionary, groceries, clothes, shoes and linen (bedclothes, curtains, furniture etc). Mum did most of the shopping at the Co-operative Shop at the top end of Bridgend Road. There were no supermarkets then. Each customer had a Co-op book and when we went shopping at the Co-op there were several counters and departments. At each counter you put the book in the pile and when your book was at the bottomy our name was called and we went and bought things like bacon, butter, margarine (only a little for each member of the family) lard etc. At the next counter we did the same but this counter sold jam, sugar, dried fruit etc. Then onto the fruit and vegetables. Bread was bought at Perkins the bakers and milk was delivered to the door by the milkman called “Lewis the Milk”, so was coal and fish .To the right of the main part of the Co-operative shop was the men’s department. Upstairs was the Ladies Clothes Department. Next door in a separate building they sold furniture etc. Each customer at the Co-op was allocated “dividend shares” and at the end of a period the dividend was paid out. This was like a savings club and when the “divi” was paid out, mum would buy clothes for us. The clothes were quite plain during the war years and I remember mum buying Joy and myself navy blue coats and I hated mine so mum took off the navy buttons and bought a set of bright red buttons and a fluffy red beret - this made all the difference and I now loved the outfit.

During the war years we received parcels from Cape Town, South Africa where relatives of Uncle Bill’s late wife owned and ran a Department Store called Spracklens . Mr W.J.Spracklen who was Uncle Bill’s wife’s ( Elizabeth Anne) brother emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa in 1894 (two years after the Parc Slip Explosion) with little money but eventually started a Department Store. This Department Store is still called Spracklens but I couldn’t find out what happened to the family. Apparently Uncle Bill married his brother George’s widow who was Elizabeth Anne Spracklen after he was killed in the explosion.

After Uncle Bill’s death, the Spracklens continued sending the parcels to mum and dad. Every month or so we would get very excited when a parcel arrived. Each parcel contained items which were unattainable or on ration in this country. The parcels contained dried fruit, tinned peaches, sweets and other South African produce. Every Christmas we would have a special parcel containing enough wool for jumpers and cardigans (in three different colours for my two sisters and myself) or materials for dresses etc. One Christmas they sent dolls with china heads and soft bodies for the three of us. They also sent dresses for mum. These little extras made a big difference to the family during the war years. When the war ended the parcels stopped. After the war when things were still scarce, Dorothy’s pen friend in America sent a parcel to us containing American style dresses and coats – we thought we were very special wearing these American clothes. When we were growing up, we had our chores to do on Saturday mornings. We either had to do the shopping at the Co-op, stay home and prepare the vegetables for dinner or go up to Granny Cockram’s and do her shopping.

A memory shared by Catherine Delahay , on Mar 17th, 2011.

Comments & feedback

Fri Sep 12th 2014, at 2:45 pm

Sherry Stanton commented:

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