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ISSUE 1!

WINTER 2012

Welcome, Croeso!

Meetings & Events Meetings at “Lets” Building, Pontycymer at 2pm.

Held on the first Thursday of each month. 3rd January 2013 Monthly Meeting 7th February Monthly Meeting

We welcome new members! Can you provide any information on this photo?

WHO ARE WE? The Garw Valley Heritage Society are a group of Additionally, it is intended to gather together in one local people who are enthusiastic about creating an place a vast collection of materials and personal archive of our valley’s industrial and social history. memorabilia, as well as recording where other items We are keen to record the progress and events in can be located and viewed. It is also proposed to the valley in pictures and notes from the 1800ʹ′s to create geographical displays to show where points ensure that this valuable and rich source of and places of interest are situated. information does not disappear forever.

The scope of the project is to cover the area We aim to develop exhibits and educational between Bettws and Blaengarw; taking in the two material to enable the future generations to see parishes within the current parish boundaries. what was once a thriving industrial community, and In conjunction with other groups it is hoped to be to compare present day sights with historical views able to make these records available to the public in a “Now and Then” theme. and eventually to supply copies of particular pictures and written records if there is sufficient demand.

We are keen to borrow historical material so it can be indexed and maybe copied with the consent of the owner. We would be very grateful for anyone who has old photos, family reco!ections, funny stories, tales of excitement or adventures within the va!ey to join us and share the memories. Find us on Facebook!

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@garwheritage

Email us enquiry@garwheritage.co.uk

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ISSUE 1!

WINTER 2012

STATION CAFE AND THE ASSIRATI ERA IN PONTYCYMER Station Cafe has been a well known landmark in Pontycymer for many years and has featured in films such as “ Very Annie Mary” and television programmes such as “Fallen Hero” and “Framed” as it was a typical Italian Cafe which had not altered much over the 75 years it had been run by members of the Assirati family. Giuseppe Assirati and his wife Teresa were from Bardi which is about 50 km southwest of Parma in Italy. Giuseppe had worked in West Wales before World War 1 but had returned to Italy and enlisted in the Italian Army when war broke out. After the war ended he borrowed enough money to return to Wales and he rented a sweet shop that was near where the Vetz Club is today. The shop was later owned by the Greenslade Family but is now a residential property. Giuseppe's wife Teresa and his son Giacomo joined him in Wales in 1927 while his daughter Gina arrived in Pontycymer later, having stayed to help on her grandparents’ farm in Italy. A second daughter Maria was born later.

about serving a gentleman with a pie and chips dinner who had asked him for tomato sauce. Jack told him it would cost an extra penny. The man said that was fine so he was given the sauce bottle from which he squeezed every last drop on to his plate so that it was completely covered in the sauce. Jack did not say anything and charged him the penny, but put the sauce on customers’ plates In 1932 Giuseppe decided to buy the cafe on for them in future until he had sachets. Pontycymer Square from the Cavacutti family who The Second World War was a particularly hard had previously owned the cafe. The cafe was time for the family because Mussolini the Italian bigger then than it is now as the family had made a leader entered the war on the side of Hitler. This side entrance so that they could get to the living resulted in Italian families being classed as enemy quarters without walking through the shop. The aliens. Giuseppe, like other Italian males in the Assirati family had to work hard, opening area, were taken by the police and sent to the Isle sometimes before 6am and closing at around of Man where they were interred. The Italian midnight to cater for the miners working their women left behind were not allowed to go within shifts in the local pits. They would scrub the cafe 25 miles of the coast in case they would try to clean every day because of the coal dust left by the signal enemy boats or try to smuggle enemy spies miners as there were no pithead baths in those into Britain, so Teresa went to live and work with a days. They would sells twists of tobacco to the family who lived in Aberdare. Gina went to work in miners for them to chew in work. They would also a miners’ canteen in the Pontypridd area leaving sell Domino cigarettes in packets of 4 or even sell Jack and his youngest sister in Pontycymer. Jack them singly. Cold drinks were popular in the cafe was in the sixth form in the Garw Grammar School over the years, with teas, Oxo, cordials, and in later where Mr. Dan Harry was the headmaster but he years coffee became much more popular. Giacomo, was made to leave to do war work, which he did on who was known as Jack in the valley bought a Braichycymer Farm, working for William Tudor Gaggia cappuccino machine when this happened. and his family which he remembered with great Palethorpes Pork Pies with jelly were popular fondness. This made Jack's love of the countryside there, along with Dan Hanson Steak and Kidney stronger and he was a keen supporter of the hunt Pies. The family also made their own ice cream for the remainder of his life; at one time he had from milk that they bought from local farmers in ridden in a hunt point to point race. Jack Morris, their early days in the café, but later bought their who had the shop next door as well as running a ice cream ready-made. Jack was a keen gardener local taxi service, was very helpful to Jack and and he used to sell eggs laid by his own hens, and in Maria at this time. Both of Jack's parents returned the summer tomatoes, kidney beans and home before the end of the war and continued to sometimes other vegetables that he grew in his run the cafe. Jack always said the people of the garden behind the cafe. Jack recollected a story Garw were always kind to his family and there was no hostility towards them at all. Continued page 3

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ISSUE 1!

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STATION CAFE AND THE ASSIRATI ERA IN PONTYCYMER, CONTINUED. Station Cafe often opened on a Sunday as the Italians had a broader outlook on life than the British but they were fined for opening for doing this. Jack remembered fines of seven shillings and sixpence being imposed but reckoned they made more than that by opening on a Sunday. Many of the miners would go to the cafe where they would discuss the work and politics of the coal industry and Jack became very knowledgeable about the local mines. Giuseppe died in 1956 and Maria died in the 1960s. Teresa, who many people still remember sitting on a box with a cushion on top of it behind the counter in the cafe died in 1987. The family had also bought the Savoy in Porthcawl on the front near the Pier Hotel. Gina often worked regularly in the Savoy and later married and settled with her family in Porthcawl. Jack worked very hard, as he would go to Porthcawl after

closing the Station Cafe and helped in the Savoy. The cafe in Pontycymer also required plenty of work, as a tributary of the River Gar w, the Nant Gelli Wern, flows underneath Station Cafe and the walls had to be treated and painted regularly to stop the damp rising from the stream. During the late fifties Jack bought a jukebox which was the first one in the Garw Valley. It was very expensive but it soon paid for itself as crowds of teenagers came there to play the latest rock and roll hits by Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Chubby Checker and many more artists although Jack and his staff would not always appreciate the music and would be glad of an excuse to have a short break from the noise. It cost three old pence to play a record or five for a shilling which would be 5 pence today. In the sixties it rose to sixpence old pence for one or a shilling for three records, to some people’s dismay! Jack also had a pinball

machine where you forced a spring-loaded plunger to send a ball bearing around the machine and you had to use flippers to keep the ball in play to hit the bumpers on the machine to get the highest score you could. This was very popular with the boys. At the end of 2007 Jack was 83 and suffering from arthritis so he decided to retire and the last Italian Cafe in the Garw Valley closed, though Jack carried on living in Station Cafe until he sadly passed away. Hopefully this is not the end of t h e s to r y a s Cr e a t i o n h a v e bought Station Cafe and they hope to renovate the building and reopen it as an Italian Cafe again so those red tables and wooden chairs that many of us in the Gar w remember with fondness may well be used again. by Ian Black Do YOU have an anecdote about Jack's cafe? See front page for contacts.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: A MORE RECENT MEMORY…… Demolished during the 1990’s on the demise of the railway line and the diversion of the river, this bridge over the railway and the Garw river was opened on the 7th of June in 1901 and became a prominent feature in the Garw Valley. The ironwork for the bridge was made at Swindon and transported to Pontycymer for installation, but the stone for the abutment walls and the capstones was quarried locally, and Mr Joseph Isaacs of Bryn Hyfryd in Pontycymer was the stone mason employed. by David J Dimmick.

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ISSUE 1! FROM THE ARCHIVES:

PARSNIP WINE

WINTER 2012 mixture cool. Put 1oz of yeast on a piece of toast and float it on the liquid, letting it work for 12 hours. Skim, and pour the liquid into a stone jar with ½ lb of raisins and allow it to work over before corking up. Let it stand for 3 months and then put into glass bottles. This makes a splendid wine (we are assured), at little cost.

And to eat with this, a recipe for fig A recipe "om the 1930’s for those who pudding, also "om the 1930’s : like a tipple! Ingredients: Wash 3 and 1/2 lbs of parsnips (no ¼ suet, 5oz breadcrumbs, 1oz metric then) but do not peel flour, 3oz caster sugar, a little salt, them. Put them into a large pan 1 egg, 1/4lb figs, a little milk, with 5 quarts of water. Bruise 2oz 1teaspoon baking powder. of ginger and add to the pan, together with 2 lemons, sliced. Method: Let it stand for 24 hours then Mix dry ingredients together. b o i l t h e m i x t u r e u n t i l t h e Add egg and enough milk to parsnips are soft but not pulped. make the mixture fairly wet, and Stir in 2lbs of sugar and let the lastly add the baking powder.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! We are in the process of Building an impressive archive of the history of the Garw Valley but we would like more material to make the archive as comprehensive as possible.

d. Photographs of all types of employment that has taken place in the valley. Written Material: Ne wspaper Ar ticles, Ma gazines, Books, Posters or Programmes

What We Need: Photographs a.

Videos or Audio Recordings: relative Past Views of the valley or to the Garw Valley events in the valley

b. Photographs of buildings that We would also like to video or have changed their use or do record older residents talking not exist now. about their lives and memories of c. Photographs of cla sses in Life in the Garw Valley. schools, Sports Teams, Society or Groups and Church or Please contact us via the contact chapel groups . form on our website or through any member of the society.

HAVE YOU VISITED OUR WEBSITE? Fu l l o f p h o t o s f r o m o u r archive and local stories and memories, the Garw Valley Society website is building up a collection of local stories of past events and personalities. It has a growing gallery of photos from our archive, and even a forum where you can c h a t a b o u t t h e G a r w ’s heritage. www.garwheritage.co.uk

Meet The Members ROGER STOKES Chairman. Lived and taught in the Garw since 1999 although born and raised in Essex. Roger is a keen member of the Gar w Val ley Railway Society. JEAN FOWLDS Secretary. Jean was born and brought up in the Rhondda but left to work for an airline in London in the sixties. Interested in the medieval period, she has an MA from L o n d o n Un i v e r s i t y i n medieval European studies, and an MA from the University of Wales in Celtic Christianity. DAVID DIMMICK Bricklayer by profession and helped in the construction of Bridgend Railway station. A keen amateur archaeologist of the Stone Age period, and is a mine of information on local history.

IN THE NEXT ISSUE.... The Garw Valley before coal mines, a soldier's story from WW1, the journey of St Cein, and more.

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Issue 1  

Winter 2012

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