A walk down memory lane with Stuart Gregory.
Come with me on a tour of Abertaf as I remember it 55years ago.
Don’t forget this is how I remember it as a lad of about ten growing up in Fife Street after the Second World War. You may have seen other things that I didn’t so, remember these are my own personal memories of shops and businesses and life in Abertaf in the 1950s?
Let’s start out by walking under the bridge with the Navigation behind us.
On the left was the Fire Station (recently demolished) that had also seen life as a warehouse for the old GlamorganCanal.
On the corner of Gwendolyn Terrace (outside Tollgate House) was the bus stop and on the other corner was the Imperial Stores that was basically Abercynon’s Off Licence and was run by the Davies family who owned and ran the bakery and pop factory (where the new Imperial Court houses are now)
Opposite Tollgate House was a large advertising hoarding that obscured the builder’s yard that was behind. As kids we were told that they made coffins in there, but I think they just said that in order to keep us kids away.
Behind that was Calfaria Chapel which I understand was one of the last to hold Welsh only services.
In front of that was a gent’s urinal and bus stop and across the way next to the railway wall was a red painted shed made of zinc sheets and that was where Mr Gabriel stored the hay that he sold in his shop in Margaret’s Street.
In later years the chapel area was cleared and replaced by the present flats.
On the other corner was Carpaninis Café and at that time it was quite small with just one or two tables, but that was later extended and Andrew added many modern tables and chairs along with a juke box that made “Caps” the place to go in the nights as it stayed open until 10pm. I’m sure that there must be many people like me in Abercynon who did their courting there. “Caps”, was always a happy place to go to. Mrs Carpanini always greeted you with a huge smile and with Maurice and Pino and their sisters all still living there, it was always vibrant and loud in an Italian sort of way, full of Italian fun and steamed pies and home made award winning ice cream and Italian coffee, lets not forget the coffee?
Across the road ( now Glancynon Stores) was the Co-op with the grocery on the right and the butchers on the left. Mr Des Allen was the Butcher in there for many years. I can also remember the late Glyn Jones (North Street) working in the grocers.
It’s worth pointing out that you can see where these shops were because in the main they have different fronts to the traditional stone face that the houses have.
After leaving the Co-Op, there were one or two other shops on that side of the road and one of them was a greengrocers run by the Burrage Family. Half way up on the same side was Mrs Bradley’s wool shop and of course the Post Office.
Across the road on the other end of Carpainis row was Winston Williams’ Butcher Shop. (then it became Mike Lee’s and now where his daughter is building a house)
Further up the street after the gap next to the butchers were about four shops. The one on the corner saw life as anything from an Antique Shop to a chip shop. Also in that row was Margaret’s hairdressers and Graham Williams’ DIY shop.
At the end of that row lived the Lewis family and then next door up was the ElimPentecostalChurch, (Two new houses are now there built by Marc Moses)
Next door to Elim was the news agent that Ron Taverner ran for many years.
Opposite was another shop premises that had many and varied uses over the years, before being turned into flats.
Next up again was Dr Batram’s (NCB Doctor) house which is now the family home of Robin and Jennifer Aldridge.
It was all houses then until you came to the little Chapel on the end or the row that now is the home of the Osprey’s Fishing Club.
Opposite (now the home of Belle Daley) was a grocer’s shop and as far as I can remember it was a bit posh, as I don’t remember going in there much as a child.
John and Pat Mathews live next door but if you look, there is a triangular piece of land adjoining their house and when I was little it was a sweet/novelty shop run by Mrs Thomas who’s son Clive lives a few doors down the street.
Across the road at the bottom of Argyle Street was a quite large parcel of green land that we played on until South Wales Police Service bought it and built the present houses on it. I can remember we had tables and chairs on it for the party to celebrate the queen’s coronation.
Incidentally, to my recollection, there has always been a phone box and seat around their present site
OK lets keep going?
If you carry on up the hill in the direction of Mountain Ash you will come across Abertaf Farm Flats. They got their name from the farm that occupied the site previously. It was a traditional whitewashed Welsh Farmhouse and if someone wanted to demolish it in these times there would be all sorts of protests from conservationists but in those days demolishing it was considered progress.
Next door to the flats was Tom Berryman’s Shop. Mr Berryman sold paraffin for heaters and repaired radios. Mr Berryman was one of the first businessmen to branch out into the new world of televisions and he not only sold them, he also repaired them. One of my first recollections of television was when he lined his workshop with benches and invited his neighbours to come along and watch the Queen’s Coronation. As hardly anyone had a TV set, I can recall it being a full house, but good advertising for his business.
I can remember three more shops in Greenfield Terrace, one on the other end of the block from Berryman and one almost opposite run by Mrs Williamson, yet another “front room” shop as was Mrs Dash’s sweetshop further up the street.
There were other small shops in the area but perhaps we can visit them on another day.
As you can tell in my youth Abertaf was full of small traders all making a living from selling things that we now get from Supermarkets in one hit.
Also its worth pointing out that most people had most of their groceries “on tick” and paid their bill (or as much as they could afford) at the end of the week on pay day.
Abertaf may have changed, some may say for the better, some say for the worse, but all in all it’s still a nice place to live.