(Based on an interview with Emlyn Jones)
When I was 6 years old, as a result of scarlet fever, I developed an enlarged heart and my mother was warned that I should not take part in any taxing physical activities. When I returned home from hospital, my grandfather, Thomas John Jones, who had been a ganger on the railway, presented me with a toy train, which he had bought in Siop Loyn (now the New Celtic). It had a locomotive (which I still have), two coal trucks, two cattle trucks, two goods vans and a guard’s van which ran in a circle. Trevor James, a bus driver and our nextdoor neighbour in Regent Street, made a base for the rails. This was the beginning of a lifelong interest in railways and transport.
Because my grandfather had a free pass to travel on the railway, he and my grandmother would often go to Lampeter to shop. My mother, on the other hand, travelled by bus to Aberystwyth to do her shopping, because my father, Dai Jones, was a bus conductor. I always preferred to travel by train with my grandparents. As a small boy, I often travelled to Lampeter with them and was then put in the charge of the guard (and travelled in the van with him) from Lampeter to Aberystwyth, where I was met by my mother. I never wanted to return to Aberaeron by bus and so, after shopping, my mother would take me to Aberystwyth Station, where I was known to the staff and I would be returned safely to my grandparents in Lampeter for the second leg of the journey back to Aberaeron. I remember making longer journeys by rail too – from Aberaeron to Reading and Oxford to visit relatives, and I particularly remember being fascinated by Cocket Tunnel near Swansea and enjoyed travelling through it. Needless to say, I spent much of my childhood playing at Aberayron station. It was not only the trains which took my attention. On Sundays, when all the shops were closed, I would go from Sunday School with a group of children who lived in Pant-teg or Lampeter Road over to the station where we were able to buy 1d bars of Five Boys from the slot machine on the platform.
The signal-man, Bill Bowen, had a black spaniel which he took to work with him. The spaniel spent most of the day in the signal box but, as soon as he heard a train approaching – always before the signal man himself knew – he would rush out to the platform and bark outside the office of Mr Thomas, the station master. Later, as the guard raised the flag for the train to depart again, the dog would notice and would run to the driver and bark, as though to alert him that it was time to go.
The railway brought some unusual benefits to Aberaeron. For instance, the train was often overloaded with coal and so, when it braked as it passed Mrs Poole’s cottage in the Cwmins, it supplied Mrs Poole with extra coal for her fire! During the war years the first train to Lampeter in the morning always arrived late, because the staff on the last train the previous night would have set traps along the way to catch rabbits and the morning staff would check the traps, as they travelled back towards Lampeter. Railway staff never lacked paint to paint their houses – you could tell a railwayman’s house from the colour of the gate: it was usually painted with surplus GWR black paint. In the same way the bus crews painted their doors with Crossville green. At a later date but before the station had been demolished, local boys had the benefit of using the station water tank as a diving pool.
As I have already said, my father was a bus conductor and so my interest was not limited to trains. I was not the only one – Crosville was a major employer in Aberaeron when I was young. I remember a representative of the Church Missionary Society visiting our Sunday school and asking the children what CMS stood for. The quick reply from one little boy was not exactly what was expected – Crosville Motor Service! His father was a bus conductor. During forty years on the buses my father saw some changes. At first he worked from the depot behind the Monachty on the site where Toad Hall now stands. The bus stops were along Market Street, with the Lampeter bus departing from the Crown Bakery (near the Castle Hotel), the Cardigan bus left from Manchester House and the Aberystwyth bus stopped outside the old Celtic (now Naturally Scrumptious). The New Quay bus did not head out immediately towards Cardigan – it travelled via the station for the benefit of train. passengers. The depot became too small and buses were often left parked in Pwll Cam, so a new depot was built at the bottom of Regent Street (where the County Council car park is situated).
My father had some amusing tales to tell of his time as a conductor. For example, during the war when parcels were often delivered by bus, a regular stop was the GI camp south of Aberaeron. When my father delivered a parcel, he invariably came away with another – our family was never short of butter during the war.
By the fifties the bus stops had moved to the lower end of the Square Field, where they are today. When football matches were held in the Square Field, off-duty Crosville staff would take a double-decker up to the stop, mark it ‘out of service’ and then climb to the upper deck to watch the match. Their grandstand view was not free for long: entrance fees to the field were collected by Dai John Davies (Dai John Kate), who was a Crosville bus cleaner. After collecting fees in the field, he would go out to the bus to collect payment from the Crosville staff in the bus!
In the 1950s students were often employed as conductors during the summer vacation. My father was given the unenviable task of training a young student from Aberarth by the name of Hywel Teifi Edwards. He showed him how to operate the ticket machine and then let him collect the fares between Aberaeron and Llanrhystud. A few passengers got on in Aberaeron, three more in Aberarth, four in Llanon and a couple more in Llanrhystud. Just beyond Llanrhystud a bus inspector boarded the bus and discovered that all was not in order – the passengers from Aberarth had no tickets!At one time the local manager, Ianto Edwards, uncle to Hywel Teifi Edwards and a staunch Methodist, received a request from Crosville headquarters in Chester, to introduce a Sunday service. Some of the staff were pleased at the prospect of double time payments but their hopes were soon dashed by Ianto’s reply, ‘My boys don’t work on Sundays’.
Crosville buses were not the only ones which were important to me. Llyseinon buses, run by the Evans family and kept down in Waterloo Street, were the ones which always took us on our Sunday school trips. They also took passengers to the villages around Aberaeron, and James buses of Llangeitho travelled once a week between Aberaeron and Tregaron.
I remember many other forms of transport. Moc Jenkins, Doris Jones’s uncle, had a taxi which he kept in a garage behind the Victoria, and Tom Evans, the undertaker and father of John Elwyn Evans, kept his hearse there at one time too. As a boy, I remember Mr Whitlock Davies at the garage which is now Lloyd Motors, Lyn Davies’s father at Gwrthwynt Garage on Vicarage Hill, now demolished to make way for a house and Llyseinon Garage in Waterloo Street. Not all the transport of my childhood was motorised: George Grimley sold fish from his handcart, Sal from Drenewydd Farm sold milk in the same way. Frankie from Aberarth drove around with his horse and cart to sell paraffin, while Griff Jones, Allt-y-Graig, collected the rubbish on his cart and carried it to the open rubbish tip between the North beach and what is now the Aeron Coast campsite. There were, however, some traders who travelled around by van. Josiah Jones was a familiar sight in his large, battered van with the floor of the van scraping the surface of the road, as he took groceries to the surrounding villages. Trevor James and Jack Evans, Porth House, both delivered Sunday newspapers by van to houses and farms around Aberaeron. Trevor James, a deacon in Peniel, delivered papers between services, quite a bold move at a time when chapel goers frowned on any non-religious activities on a Sunday. Jack Porth House was more adventurous – he carried a crate of beer in his black van and carefully concealed the bottles he sold in newspaper!