© Robyn Mackenzie | Dreamstime.com
In Amlwch during the Second World War, there was little by way
of entertainment for us children - except of course that which we
created for ourselves.
Saturday nights, when great numbers of the rural population came
to Amlwch, was the night that saw us visiting the local amusement
arcade - if a miscellany of tacky stalls gathered together in an
old gutted garage could be rightly called such. Nevertheless
it suited us and the many who wound their way there along the
There were the usual Victorian slot machines, a coconut shy
(where did they get coconuts in wartime, I wonder?), a shooting
gallery run by a Mr Parker, and the cigarette stall, where the
punter was required to throw a penny cleanly onto one of a number
of widely spaced packets of cigarettes (without it touching the
board) in order to win the packet it landed on.
We boys, all inveterate smokers by then, became good at this, so
much so that when Alice Newsome, who ran the stall, saw us coming,
she used to give us a free packet of five Woodbine cigarettes
before telling us to go away and not come back. The site is
now occupied by Cliff Davies's garage.
Cliff, one of my oldest friends despite the difference in our
ages, was an inveterate poacher in his younger days who used to
regularly take me with him on his numerous forays in to the local
fields and woods. I have often wondered since then if his altruism
had anything to do with the fact that I was the local Police
Sergeant's son. Perish the thought.
There were three fish-and-chip shops in Amlwch during the war -
a misnomer no doubt, for I cannot ever remember one of them having
fish on the menu. There was Figoni's, run by an elderly Italian and
his family in Parys Lodge Square, and a second run by the Thomas
family in Salem Street.
No matter what else we did as boys on Saturday nights, we
invariably visited one or other of the establishments to spend
whatever was left of our pocket money, having first attended to our
smoking needs of course.
Thomas's were renowned for their "penny mixes," which were small
conical paper bags containing both chips and mushy peas, onto which
in my case were added copious amounts of vinegar. The trick
was to time the eating of the mix in order to savour every morsel
before the pointed end of the bag leaked, denying one the chance to
suck out its flavoursome contents beforehand.
The third chip shop was down in Porth Amlwch, where one night we
boys gathered up greasy old chip wrappers and with the aid of a
stick pushed them as far as we could up the shop's downcomer rain
pipe before setting light to them.
The loud roar of the flames as they swept up the chimney brought
out the furious owner, and as we ran away as fast as we could into
the blackout, we heard a loud bang coming from the direction of the
shop. We were being shot at!
The gunshot was the talk of the school the following day and our
"street cred" skyrocketed - before it was discovered that the noise
had been the sound of the cast iron pipe cracking along the whole
of its length due to the heat.
So much for being in the firing line. Our 'street
cred' very quickly turned to cruel derision - children can be so