Ron Davies: Transport (2007)
We didn’t know we were poor until things got better, and the better they got, you realised how poor we were in respect of, stuff like, you couldn’t afford a bike, for instance. There were only about two kids in the town – and they were sons of captains – who had bikes in those days, so, if we wanted a spin on the bike, we had to coax our friend to lend the bike for a 5 minutes or 10. You wouldn’t get it for very long, mind you!
At the age of 8, I went to work for the local chemist as an errand boy. I’d put advertising boards and signs out in the morning and the mat in the front and would go to school and on the way back from school in the evening then, go back to Mr Thomas’ Chemist and take the post and deliver some of the medicines to the crach as they’re called, because the hoi-polloi used to get their medicines delivered, whereas the common herd like ourselves used to have to collect the stuff from there! Transport? Horse and cart, Shank’s pony (walking) – did a lot of that!
I remember going on a Sunday school trip, and it was one of these charabancs that was convertible, because the canvas tops came off. I don’t exactly know where we were going, Llandrindod Wells I think it was, but we were travelling over the Plynlimon and it was raining, and it was my misfortune to be sitting in the seat where the hole was in the top of the canvas. By the time we got to Llandrindod, I was soaking – it was really like a snake going like a bat out of hell in the Sahara desert. The rain kept coming in so, that was one of my first recollections of transport as it was.
I suppose we didn’t go very far. Come to think of it, I hadn’t been very far before the beginning of the war. The furthest I’d ever been was Towyn in one direction, and Swansea in the other direction – Towyn, by coach and train, that was a big event! We went by train from Aberaeron to Swansea, and that was in the very early30s,or the end of the 20’s. Otherwise, the only time you ever went anywhere was on the big Sunday School trips. You never went very far, apart from Aberaeron unless you could walk or cycle.
The train station in Aberaeron was where Jewson and the Council offices are now, by the bridge. It took you an hour and a bit to get to Lampeter from here, and you’d stop quite often. You’d see someone running across a field, waving a piece of paper, so they’d stop the train, and the guard would get off, saying, ‘OK Mrs Jones’. ‘It would be an errand she wanted from Lampeter and the guard would go and buy it for her and then they’d deliver it on the way back. There were frequent stops as well as the official stops – every little village had a stop to it.
There were not many privately owned cars. Mr Thomas the Chemist had a car; the doctors had a car, and the insurance man had a car, an Austin 7. I remember once he stopped at the bottom of Vicarage Hill, then got back in and my mates and I were there watching him. He started off, so we ran behind him, cwtched down (stooped) and all four of us grabbed the back of his car, while he was going through the gears and we sort of lifted it off the ground, and then he put his foot hard down and we dropped the car down – it suddenly shot up the hill, and must have given him the fright of his life.. The car took off without him realising it was going!
The roads were rough. There were more potholes, compared with today. If you go round some of the backstreets here today, they are a bit rough, aren’t they?.Well, they were slightly rougher than some of them. They were tarmaced – the main ones anyway, though some of them didn’t have much tar! Out in the country they were more or less cart tracks. It was a big occasion in the summer when certain parts of the town had fresh tarmac, and I will say that the council in the town in those days ran things very very well. They knew exactly what they had to do: they would go round, inspect the harbour wall, the groynes and the roads and then certain sections of the roads would be done once a year with a horse drawing a big container full of tar with the coal burning underneath it to soften it up and then they’d squirt it all over, and, prior to that, they would have dropped a pile of chippings every couple of yards and then the council boys would come with shovels and spread it over and then there was a steamroller to flatten it down. The chippings would come in via boats into the harbour and they’d dump all of the chippings onto the harbour wall.
(BASED ON AN EXTRACT FROM A TRANSCRIPT OF A RECORDED INTERVIEW WITH RON DAVIES, 2007)