When I was a child, I used to tell people my ambition was to open a Clark’s Pie shop at the top of Snowdon! I always knew I wanted to join the family business that had been established by my grandmother, Mary Clark, in 1913. It was a thriving company by the time I was born in 1930, and before leaving school at the age of 14, I was already working at my parents’ shop at 454 Cowbridge Road East, just around the corner from our family home at Victoria Park.
This was in 1945, and the end of the Second World War. Canton and Grangetown in particular had seen much damage and significant loss of life, especially during the Cardiff Blitz of January 1941. I clearly remember nights spent in the air raid shelter in our garden, and the bomb that dropped on Lansdowne Road, shattering windows in our shop. It was business as usual soon afterwards, but with food on ration, the number of pies we could produce on a daily basis was limited.
We had no fridge at our premises, so a local butcher used to store our meat for us. One of my jobs was to collect the meat at 7am before production began. Because of the rationing, customers would queue for hours before the shop was due to open. On Saturdays, families would often send their children along to buy pies, and they would begin queuing from as early as 6.30 in the morning. On days like these we would sell out of pies within 45 minutes.
But it wasn’t all about work. Canton was a wonderful place to grow up and I had plenty of friends in the area. I spent many hours playing tennis in Victoria Park, opposite my family home, and played football for the Victoria Vikings. Always a keen gardener, I had an allotment near Llandaff Cathedral from the age of 14, and I was a member of Wesleyan Methodist Church and an Officer in 9th Cardiff Boys Brigade.
Everything changed in 1948 when I was called up for National Service at the age of 18. I was stationed at RAF South Cerney near Cirencester. I was lucky enough to secure a much sought after job as a driver, but, despite this, I wasn’t happy about being away from family and friends in my beloved Cardiff. I came home every weekend and, because I was in church every Sunday, some of the congregation didn’t even know I’d been called up!
The Boys Brigade was an important part of my early life and one of my proudest memories is when 9th Cardiff Company reached the finals of the Cardiff Competition. The finalists were to parade in the Assembly Room at City Hall and I was at the front swinging the mace. We were all nervous and knew we would need to put on an outstanding performance to win. I took a last minute decision to throw the mace up in the air at the end, knowing there was a risk of hitting one of the chandeliers that hung from the ceiling. The risk paid off. I managed to catch the mace without dropping it, the chandeliers remained intact and we won the competition!
In May 1955 I opened my own Clark’s Pie shop and bakery at 23 Bromsgrove Street, Grangetown. As well as a small number of staff that I’d employed, my mother also helped out during the first week. Things were up and running in no time and the shop soon became established. We have seen some tough times over the years with the BSE crisis and economic recession, but in 2005 we celebrated the shop’s 50th anniversary with a surprise visit from Frank Hennessy who sang some of his songs for staff and well-wishers.
I celebrated my 80th birthday in 2010 and, as a surprise, my family arranged for us all to see Cardiff City play. We had a meal beforehand in the corporate suite, met Craig Bellamy and I got to choose and award Man of the Match to Jay Bothroyd. Cardiff City won 4-0. The whole day was perfect and felt like a dream.
A year before I turned 80, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I had been worried about my memory for some time and was referred to the Memory Clinic at Llandough Hospital. It was upsetting to receive the diagnosis but I am determined to be positive and live a full life. Two of my three daughters now run my Grangetown shop, but I am still actively involved in the business. My family give me a lot of support and I go out for social trips with two Care Workers from Crossroads Care (both called Janet!) during the week.
This means I can still do my own shopping, enjoy meals out and visit the garden centre. I have a good laugh with Janet and Janet and we often talk about our memories of Cardiff. Mine go back much further than theirs though!
Dennis Dutch was born in August 1930 to Arthur and Winifred Dutch, the third
of five children. The family lived at 23 Victoria Park Road West and Dennis
attended Lansdowne Road Primary then Cardiff High School. Dennis left
school at the age of 14 to work at the Victoria Park shop with his parents
before opening his own Clark’s Pies shop and bakery at 23 Bromsgrove
Street, Grangetown, in 1955.
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