In my last post I made a passing reference to Franketti’s chip shop. My long-time friend, Eric Smith, for years my next-door neighbour, phoned me today and we discussed old Pontypool. As a result, I am indebted to him for much of what is included in this post.
For many years Franketti’s chip shop was a much-appreciated institution in our part of Pontypool. It was situated on the corner of the Bell Pitch and Bridge Street, and many people in our neck of the woods declared that you couldn’t get such fine fish and chips anywhere else.
Mr Franketti was assisted in the shop, mainly in the capacity of servers, by two sisters who lived in North Road, Louise and Elsie Grimson. They were all kept busy as there was invariably a long queue waiting to be served, often right around the small shop and out onto the steps. Children in the queue didn’t mind the wait as sometimes they would receive a few free chips on a piece of paper while they were waiting. I well remember being one of such a queue on many occasions and was always fascinated by the square chip chopper with the long handle. They made it look so easy!
Mr Franketti had a secret recipe for his fish batter and he had a habit of holding up the battered fish for customers to view before plunging it into the boiling fat. He was a proud Italian who produced good quality food at a reasonable price. Eric, with his parents and sister, were very regular customers at Franketti’s and he told me that they would often buy fish and chips for all four of them for just one shilling. Sometimes, when they unpacked the parcel they would discover an extra free fish had been included.
When Mr Franketti died the shop passed on to the two sisters who had been his helpers so that the high quality was maintained; but after their day the business passed into other hands and the quality dropped.
The shop is now demolished. I suppose it’s a case of “Goodbye Mr Chips” in another context. Perhaps “Farewell Franketti” would be more appropriate.
In April 2010 I received an email from Rob Shipley of Jersey who lived in Pontypool to the age of nine and is the grandson of Elsie Grimson. I quote below part of his email which visitors might find of interest:
My aunt, Louise Day (known to everyone as Louie) probably did help out in the chip shop. She was my grandmother’s half-sister and her maiden name was Stevens. Her husband was Jack Day, who was in the Royal Navy before the War and later worked as what I believe was an armaments factory known as ‘The Dump’.
It is likely that my grandmother did inherit the chip shop when Mr Franketti died in the mid-1950s, but if she did, she did not run it for very long afterwards. After we moved to Jersey in 1960, she spent long periods with us in the Island, having retired. When in Pontypool she lived with the Days at 77 Bryn Wern.
I can remember my mother telling me that working in the shop was no easy life. My grandmother used to begin the day down in the cellar preparing fish which, at the crack of dawn, used to be delivered from Milford Haven.
***** ***** ***** *****
In a previous post about the “Dig for Victory” campaign during the war, I referred to the fact that part of Pontypool Park was dug up to produce much needed food and stated that it was done by Penygarn School. It now seems that this was not entirely accurate as Eric informed me that he remembers his teacher, Mr Jarvis, at Park Terrace Junior School, asking the class to bring along to school some gardening tools so that they could cultivate a plot in the the park.
Eric remembers helping to harvest some of the crops. He was given a marrow to take home and it was the first time he’d ever tasted one. So, it seems that some credit for this digging for victory must also go to Park Terrace School.