Posts Tagged ‘dig for victory’

Franketti’s Fish and Chip Shop

December 15, 2008

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.

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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.

The good people of Pontypool help the war effort

August 10, 2008

There were all sorts of ways we were urged by the government to help the war effort. As a young boy, after all the things Hitler had done to upset me, I was ever ready to join in.

When I was in the top class in Town School, the government, in an effort to keep all us kids happy and healthy, introduced free milk for all children – well, all those who wanted to drink it. I loved drinking milk so I decided to help the war effort in this direction. We all had a one third of a pint bottle every day, plus a straw. There was an extra spin-off for those of us in top class: Mr Petty had to appoint two “milk crate boys” each day to carry between us, in a metal milk crate, the number of bottles required around to each class. This was a job, if carefully handled, which could be stretched out to half an hour or more which meant missing most of a lesson. Later, we returned to collect the empty bottles. Also, someone was appointed as “straw monitor” to give out the straws for that day. The girls were also allowed to do this job, but, as it was done in a matter of minutes inside the classroom, it wasn’t such a popular job. I noticed that, as the eleven-plus exam drew nearer, Mr Petty was reluctant to appoint those of us “trying for West Mon” to be milk crate boys, which I thought was grossly unfair. In the winter months, when the milk was very cold, we were allowed to place the milk bottles near the stove to warm them. There was a keen sense of rivalry to try to get our bottle as near the fire as possible.

milkHere you can see one of the milk crates we used to carry
around when giving out the milk. One little lad is busy
drinking his milk through a straw.

Mr Petty urged us all to fill every corner of our exercise books and the covers before asking for another. He stressed the fact that our sailors were risking their lives in merchant ships to bring the paper for the books. His pep talks touched our sense of patriotism so we really did fill our books to the limit. Mr Petty was also the teacher in charge of National Savings, so every Monday we took along some of our savings to buy sixpenny saving stamps. When we had saved up fifteen shillings’ worth of stamps on a card, this could be exchanged for a savings certificate. For those of us a bit short of the “ready”, it was possible to buy a red penny stamp to put on a smaller card. When we had six stamps we could exchange them for a sixpenny stamp. Thus we loaned money to the government. We didn’t buy battle-ships exactly but we all did our bit with the little we had. Announcements were made from time to time about how well we were doing with our savings and towns were asked to sponsor a naval vessel. I remember Pontypool sponsored HMS Kittiwake which I think was a small frigate or something like that.

From time to time a salvage drive would be organised by the government. All our unwanted pots and pans, buckets etc were taken to a large shop almost opposite the top entrance to the market in Crane Street. Volunteers sorted it all into piles of aluminium and iron etc. ready to be recycled and made into aircraft and other weapons of war. Some churches, householders and other owners of buildings sacrificed their railings for the salvage drives; many have never been replaced.

We were also urged to “Dig for Victory” by planting every inch of our gardens to produce vegetables and other food which meant importing less. Some people dug up their lawns, and Penygarn School even dug up sections of Pontypool Park which was near them. I remember wandering up to inspect their handiwork at one time when I happened to be playing in the park.

In the darker days when we thought there was a possibility of Hitler invading our shores, we were all warned not to spread rumours or speak out loud any war secrets we might know such as where our brothers were serving in the forces. The posters warned that “Walls have ears”, though, at the time I was unaware of any important secrets I might have known which would have been any use to Hitler. We were further asked to surrender all the maps we owned of the local area just in case Hitler’s soldiers found them and would be helped to find their way about the country. In retrospect, I hardly think the maps of the Welsh valleys would have been much use to him. On several occasions, when driving in the upper reaches of some of our valleys, suitably armed with an up-to-date map, I still get lost; and I live here and speak the language. I think we could have posted those maps to Hitler; he still wouldn’t have found his way around the Welsh valleys.