SUNNYBANKS HOUSES by Harry Davies
Mine was an idyllic childhood, I was born in one of the Sunnybanks houses in 1915. I was the youngest of four children - all boy's except my lovely sister Elsie. My father father was a furnace man in the Melingriffth Tin works. He worked shifts, and it was hard, hot work; he drank a flagon of Amber Ale as soon as he got home. His shirt stuck to his back with sweat, I used to pull it off for him. My mother was Mary Ann Thomas from Tongwynlais, well known, and loved by all who knew her. Our parents were happy with each other, and with all of us. Our neighbours in the other six houses in the terrace were like an extended family. We were all equal, and everyone rallied round to help each other. The houses had six rooms, two at ground level, two upstairs and two below. The pantry and only tap was across the 'Bailey', built into the Hospital boundary wall. The toilets were built there too, one toilet for every two houses. Water was carried in buckets into the house for washing, bathing, cooking etc.
Friday night was bath night; water was heated on the coal fire, the tin bath was half filled and I, being the youngest, had my bath first. Then I was sent to bed, and the rest of the family had their baths. About a dozen of the children in Sunnybanks trooped to school together, there was no parents escorting us in those days. We had no fear of attack, and we were always quite safe on our journeys, and when we played in the longwoods and in the canal. We all learned to swim in the canal; when we were good enough, we swam into the Feeder and the river. One morning, some of us boys went picking mushrooms early. on our way back there was 'Steam' oozing from the Feeder, oh great we thought, lovely warm water! We stripped off and jumped in. But it wasn't steam; it was morning mist, and the water was nearly freezing. When we went swimming we had no towels; we just put our clothes back on our wet bodies, and we never caught a cold. This was just as well because, if we were playing ball on the bottom 'bailey', and the ball fell over into the canal, we would climb down a chain into the water to retreive it. Our mother was nearly always at home. She would walk to Llandaff North to shop in Doddingtons. A Mr. Evans would come around weekly with his horse and cart, and sell vegetables. Mr. Atkins would come weekly from Splott with vinegar and salt. Our medical care was covered by my father's weekly contributions at the works. We weren't ill very often; life was too busy and happy. Some children in the new houses had diptheria and were taken to the isolation hospital . None of us caught it. We attended the Methodist church, mums and us children on Sundays. Sunday school was a 'must' for the children. Mam went to the sisterhood meeting on Thursday. Dad was too tired on Sunday to do ought but rest. We always had plenty to eat, plenty of home cooking, pies and cakes cooked by Mam. Our clothes were bought from a 'Packi' (not a Pakistani), who called for weekly payments. We all had new outfits for Whitsun, and we all went to the church 'Whitsun Treat' in a field near Radyr. It meant a ride on a lorry, a treat in itself! There was also a camp holiday organised by the Tin works for the children of thoses employed. Our fathers paid weekly toward the holiday, which was in Cornwall, if I remember correctly. It was a great holiday.
Our reading matter was mainly 'Chips' and 'Funny Wonder' comics, and reading the adventures of 'Tarzan of the Apes'. The Rialto cinema had Saturday matinees at two pence a time; we were regularly left in suspense with the 'Pearl White Serial' films. Talkies didnt reach us until 1927 or so. The Charlie Chaplin films were silent, and the resident pianist supplied the background music. When I was fourteen I was grown up, I went to work at Bell & Nicholson Warehouse in North Edward Street, close to Queen Street station. At first I used to cycle to work.
So, as children our playgrounds were the Longwoods, the Canal Feeder, and the sports ground near Forest Farm. What more could a child want? The days were full; we ate 'like trogans', and we slept like 'little logs'. We had no worries, no rows or quarrels at home; a happy home we accepted as normal. We enjoyed our lives, and we never realised that we were a truly blessed community living in 'God's Acre' SUNNYBANKS.