My memories of growing up in Cardiff are clearest from the age of around four to five years. We lived on North Road in the Maindy area of Cardiff with extended family, which consisted of my grandparents, an aunt and an uncle. We had a front room, used for special events and which also housed the old piano which I would learn to play from the age of seven. The middle room was where our family of four lived and it contained our table and chairs, easy chairs, the very large old radio, coal fireplace and gas cooker. In an age where we want our space, I can only be amazed that we all fitted in there and never seemed to be aware of how small it must have been. The back room was where my grandparents lived. Upstairs, there were several bedrooms and this always seemed very big to me as a child. I used to love climbing the extra little set of stairs up to the attic room and from there we could see right into the Maindy stadium when sporting events took place. Our little family had the front, very large bedroom for us all to sleep in and I do remember how cold it was in the winter, especially getting up in the morning. It never took long to get dressed.
One of the first personal events that I can clearly recall is the birth of my sister who, less than a year later, burned her arm and was taken to hospital. Her physical scars remain to this day but while they have faded somewhat my recollection of that day has not. I also clearly remember my first day at school, at the age of five. As I had had to wait until the actual day of my birthday to be able to attend, I was very keen to start in Allensbank Primary School. The faces of some staff and children who were at the school with me still remain in my memory. By the age of seven I was allowed to walk to school on my own, a freedom that children would rarely be given now. From there I went to Cathays High School, which was just literally just across the road. One day, as I sat at my desk in school, I watched a small plane as it circled outside my window and then crashed down into the road just next to my family home. The thing I remember most was how concerned I was about my mother’s safety and I asked to go home. The plane had tried to avoid the Maindy Stadium where a sports day was being held, with many children there. It did manage to do this thankfully but unfortunately the occupants of the plane did not survive. As I lived so close to where the plane came down, I was interviewed by a reporter from the South Wales Echo and remember how strange it was to see my name and account in the paper not long afterwards.
As our family home was located on the main road, my parents refused my request to have a dog. My mum was afraid it would get run over by the closely passing traffic but compared to the traffic today it must have been fairly light as I was allowed to walk on my own to the library further up North Road on a Saturday morning. I was also allowed to walk up to the Plaza cinema, now a block of flats, without adult supervision. We only had a small back yard in which to play outdoors but there was a large covered area that served as a utility room, complete with mangle. I well remember being allowed to turn the handle and watched as the water was pressed out of the clothes on washday, which was always Monday, come rain or shine. However, growing up in post-war Britain, the side-roads became an extended yard in which to play. They were not busy with vehicles, except for the occasional horse and cart selling fruit and vegetables. We skipped and played marbles and hopscotch for hours on end. Even though we did not live in an affluent area, I remember it as a happy and carefree time. Front door keys were never needed as all I had to do was put my hand inside the letterbox to pull the string and gain entry. In those times it was easy to close off a street for a street party and I clearly remember the one held for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I still have photos of that event, with myself and my sister dressed in costumes made by my mother for the occasion. The Diamond Jubilee has been a good excuse to get them out and show them to younger members of the family, creating amusement. As I looked at the photos, Cardiff seemed a much different and far away place as, indeed, our modern life-style does, compared to the one I knew as a child growing up in post-war conditions. I still have the ration book that enabled me to buy sweets in the conveniently located shop next door to our house.
We often used to walk from North Road to Roath Park and I recollect walking there while holding onto the pram that held my baby sister. We would walk up to Whitchurch Road, through to Allensbank Road and down Wedal Road. I remember getting so excited as I realised we were almost there and our first stop was always to feed the ducks. The highlight of the visit was to sit in the little boats and pedal them around the small area reserved for children. It is great to see so many people of all ages still enjoying the simple pleasures that Roath Park has to offer.
Cardiff City Football Club was another place I remember well, being taken there regularly by my father, who was also a keen football and baseball player. He proudly told us how he had had trials for Cardiff City Football Club but this was curtailed when he was called up into the armed forces during the Second World War. My elderly mother still has an old suitcase full of medals and cups that he won playing locally in his youth. Indeed when I began to knit, my father suggested that my first project should be to make a blue and white scarf. I remember this taking me some time but I proudly wore it to watch Cardiff City when it was finished. I particularly thought of this when recent proposals to change their colour to red were announced.
We moved to the Whitchurch area when I was a young teenager and, while I remained at Cathays High School, my sister went to a Whitchurch school. We now had a small garden and, it seemed to me at the time, a more affluent life style than before but I now realise that conditions were generally improving in the country as a whole as people settled back into civilian life.
My own working life was mainly spent in Cardiff too and, as an adult, I became a lecturer after studying in local colleges. This chapter of my working life was the most interesting and even led me into Cardiff prison. In case you are wondering, I was not an inmate but a teacher in the Education Department for five years. Now, in retirement, we can enjoy Cardiff even more. The Bay, where once we used to go through the dock gates, at the end of Bute Terrace, to see the banana boats come in, has become a vibrant and interesting place to go and walk across the barrage, or sit and people watch. The recent 2012 Olympic Torch relay was probably my earliest ever visit to the Bay, however, arriving in time to get a good viewing point, when Dr Who (Matt Smith) started the 6.30am run from the Norweigan Church.
My life in Cardiff has been a very enjoyable one with many fond memories and it has been good to see it develop over the years into the lively city that it now is. There is even more to look forward to with the planned additions to the sports village, including the building of a Snow Dome, which has been promised for 2013 and we look forward to that. I feel sure that Cardiff will remain a place where families can happily work and play, just as we have always done.
Jenny Criddle is a retired lecturer/ trainer and is actively involved in supporting voluntary work with young people. In April 2012, she went to South Africa with a large group to help build a Child Development Centre. Jenny and her husband also help with Spree Wales, an annual large youth camp as well as their local church events. Details can be found at www.bethesdacardiff.org / www.SpreeWales.com / www.rycsouthafrica.org
Jenny was photographed at Roath Park lake by Ffion Matthews. Next to that image is a photograph of Jenny taken at the same spot when she was four years old.
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