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16 October 2014

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A Child of the Thirties

By Bill Whatley
March 2004, Caldicot
A digital story from Capture Wales

Bill as a boy

Bill Whatley shares what growing up in the thirties was like for him.

"No Radio. No Television. No Electricity. No Jobs.

I was born in 1928, with a bit of a bang when a storm sent the chimney pot rattling down the roof. My father, who was a miner, had his first pay in 18 months.

We were poor, but as a child, I was never aware of it, as our lives were so full of love and affection.

My father was a hero. I wish I had told him. I loved looking at his picture.

I played soldiers on the lawn with my father's medals, clanking on my chest. My mother was able to make a meal out of anything and nothing was wasted. She made most of our clothes. We had new clothes at Whitsun.

Aged four, holding my sister's hand, we walked five miles to and from school. My school days were very happy.

In the infant class I fell in love with Megan. I remember kissing her in the playground.

Life centered around family, school and chapel. The annual Sunday school trip to Barry was eagerly anticipated.

We joined other families for picnics and canal bank walks. Cars were few. Mr and Mrs La-de-da had an Austin seven.

We played on the street, whip and top, scotch and team games. It was easy to get dirty.

We ran miles, bowling car tyres and old bicycle wheels on the road.

For the miners' unpaid holiday week, we went to Warminster to stay with Granny Whatley and ride on grandfather's coal cart.

Then the war started...

I went to the grammar school and the world changed.

The happy, carefree days of my childhood, were gone."

Bill Whatley

Please tell us about yourself Bill.
I have been retired for 19 years. I was formerly a schoolmaster. I was born at Crumlin and went to Newbridge Grammar School before National Service. I have been married for fifty years and we have two sons and five grandsons.

What's your story about?
It's about my recollections as a child growing up in the post 1926 strike. Because of the close relationships in our family I wasn't aware of the deprivation in the valley. Most people on reflection were in the same boat. I felt that much of the hardship had been reflected, though perhaps not from my view as a child. The care and affection given to the family and friends needed to be recorded.

How did you find the workshop experience?
A wonderful experience. I would love to have another opportunity.

Your comments

"Yes, Iremember Mr Whatley as a good teacher and very pleasant. It makes you think about the good days." Sharon Newman (née Thorpe), Caldicot.

" If this is the Mr Whatley I knew as a former pupil of Caldicot Comp., He was a good & friendly teacher.It made me remember what a good place Caldicot was to grow up in with its open fields and plenty more to discover leaving home early morning ready and hungry to return home for tea and no-one worrying where I was - oh happy days." Ken Hooper Caldicot

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