Arriving in Pontypool

One of my favourite comic characters, Popeye the Sailorman, made his entry into the world the same year as I did – 1929; but there was a difference: he became famous and I didn’t. Other famous people born the same year were Audrey Hepburn, James Last, Martin Luther King and Anne Frank. It was the year that television was first demonstrated by Bell Laboratories in New York, but a practical system was said to be a long way off. In London the first 22 public telephone boxes came into use, and, importantly, the England cricket team retained the Ashes.

I was born at 7 Wern Terrace, High Street and was to live there for my first seven years. About 18 months later another baby boy was born next door at number 8. He was Eric Smith and became my best friend throughout our school days. He too was the youngest member of his family, having an older sister, Mary. Both being regarded as “too young” to play with our older siblings, we always played together and with other same-age friends either in one of the houses or gardens of numbers 7 and 8. Soon we were allowed to play in the lane at the back of Wern Terrace and it was there that we played cricket, football, rode our three-wheeler bikes and spent many happy hours slaughtering hoardes of red indians with our cap guns.

My eldest brother, John, was born six years earlier and went to the nearest school, Pontypool Town School, where my other brother, Garyth, soon followed. The new Park Terrace School had not been built at that time. Naturally, I also went to Town School.

It was a very old Church of England School and I clearly remember the centenary celebrations in 1938 when I attended the junior section of the school. I started in the infants section rather earlier than I should have because an aunt of mine did some pupil teaching there and I think she was able to pull a few strings. Pupil teaching was an allowed arrangement for the benefit of young people who wanted to become teachers and were thinking of going to a teacher training college; they did a bit of practice in a school before doing so.

The infants section had two rooms. The first class (usually known as “reception” these days) was a room on its own. It was in this class that I remember we used “slates”. Actually they were not like the original slates which were pieces of slate used for writing on. These were made of thin wood painted black and with a frame around them. We practised writing on these with chalk and used small pieces of wet cloth for erasing.

Photograph of the staff at the Infants’ School
From left to right: Miss Hughes (my aunt), Miss Williams, Miss Long and Miss Rees

In the corner of the classroom was a rocking horse which we were allowed to ride on from time to time. It always struck me as huge but, having seen photographs of it since, it wasn’t all that large.

David on rocking horsePhotograph of me on the rocking horse. I can’t remember the
name of the other boy.  Any ideas?

3 on rocking horseTwo classmate have joined me in this photograph. I’d love
to know who they are. They’ll be well over 80 now!

There were various theories and experiments carried out in schools even in those days (we seem to delight in using children as guinea pigs) and I remember that it was considered a good idea for all children in the first class of infants schools to have a nap in the afternoon. As a result of this we were all supplied with camp beds and had to lie on them for about half an hour. We were told that we had to go to sleep but I can never remember doing so.

Classes two and three were in the next room. It was very large and was divided down the middle by a large heavy green curtain. Things became rather more exciting in there and I remember having to copy the drawings of objects from a large flip-chart, each object related to a letter of the alphabet – “A for apple” etc. I really loved doing that and we had to repeat it time and time again.

In the third class we had a percussion band with bells, triangles, tambourines and drums. Wow! Fortunately I was chosen to be a drummer and I loved it. You could make such a glorious noise with a drum. Unfortunately, when I was absent for a short while due to illness, someone else was chosen as drummer in my place and I was reduced to a triangle player. I was devastated!

Infants' percussion band

Our percussion band resplendent in hats.
I think I remember some names from left to right.
Back row: yours truly, Ronnie ?,  Glyn “Mickey” Morgan,
Kenny Rice, John Evans?, Ray Hurcombe.
Girls, L to R: Myra ?, Enid ?, Beryl ?,
5th from left I think is Jane Grey.
I’d love to hear from any of these who recognise themselves.

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9 Responses to “Arriving in Pontypool”

  1. jacky bird Says:

    does anyone remember or know of harry sinclair jeffreys of pontypool his sister was ateather brother worked at british nylon spinners.any relations alive? jacky bird nee jeffreys

  2. jacky bird Says:

    thankyou would love to hear of nrelations in wales, lost contact when my dad died.

  3. Cathy Mackenzie Says:

    The rocking horse is a fabulous horse! If he was to be up for auction, he would sell for around £3,000. He looks to be a mid-19th century horse, he has a forward-facing, ‘racing’ head, as opposed to an arched, looking down head of later horses.
    Nowadays, due to ”health and safety” regulations, a bow rocker horse would never be allowed in a school for general play, as the rish of squashed toes would be too great…and what if a child should fall off?! [these wonderful bow rocker horses have a very steep action, and it is easy to pitch over the head if you are not careful, and hold on! [Rocking horses like this were made to teach rich children the rudiments of riding a real horse]

    Our school had a rocking horse [1964] but he was a 1900’s one on a safety stand. He seemed huge to us, though, and he disappeared one day, to be replaced with a much smaller, modern horse.
    I do wonder if someone asked if they could ‘swap’ the ”tatty old” [antique] horse with a ‘nice shiny’ new one!

    I wonder where the horse is now.
    I hope he remains in Wales, and wasn’t shipped abroad to America or Australia, which is the fate of many old rocking horses, sadly.
    Do you remember riding him?
    The ride would have been very ‘pitching’ and with three of you up top, it would have been risky for the one at the back!
    Best wishes, Cathy

  4. Audrey Ross Says:

    Did Ray Hurcombe live in trevethin and was his mother a member of the salvation army? If so his aunt lived near us in Bryn Terrace Pontnewynydd.

  5. Alan Says:

    Was the first name of Miss Hughes, Alice?.

  6. amos2008 Says:

    No, her first name was Phyllis.

  7. Alan Black Says:

    OK Thanks. I saw a picture here somewhere of Cwmffrwdoer School circa 1920 with four of the teachers standing at a doorway. I now know the name of one of them and would like to post it. I cannot find the photo.

  8. Anthony Nicholas Says:

    Ray Hurcombe lived at Folly View, Penygarn. Sadly passed away several years ago.

  9. Nicola Owen Says:

    hi did anyone know edward reed he drove for british nylon spinners in 1953

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