Survivor of the 1950s this card has been around the world a couple of times or maybe more. It’s a picture of The Square, Caerau in South Wales taken somewhere in the 50s.
Now, South Wales to me growing up was always “where nan came from”. I didn’t know her, she died a year before I was born. But i’d heard snippets of stories from those who had dared to cross the border into England. Questions were usually answered with vague “…a long line of miners, from villages that now resemble ghost towns, and a big family…” My nan was the eldest of six children but crossed the border shortly after the war and began a decade or so of following my grandpa and the British Army across Europe.
On my last trip to the northern hemisphere I took a few days to visit the town that house my family. Not sure if it was due to the rain, but all I remember is empty streets and middle-aged men leaning over dusty pub bars. A melancholy story of villages that died when the mines closed and the people left. Saying that, there was an amazing Indian restaurant just outside Caerau that did the best korma I’d ever had in Wales.
I’d like to say the picture in the photograph had changed almost sixty years later but alas it hadn’t. The only difference is the subtle weathering of time.
On this same trip back to yesteryear I acquired a photo album that had been put together by my grandpa shortly after my nan died. The pictures telling a story of the young welsh girl that married a chelsea boy and travelled together with their little soldiers in tow.
The above postcard is the only postcard in the album, and I always assumed it was grandpa showing where nan was born. I turned the page many times before today, when I decided to peel over the plastic and have a peek at what could be on the other side.
It was a treasure, a written time capsule, and further clues to wet the appetite of this amateur-family-historian…
There are three awesome things about this postcard:
1. It was written by my great nan Edith to my nan Iris.
2. It places my grandpa, nan, dad and uncles in Hemlyn, Germany in 1956.
3. The handsome man crossing the street is identified as my grand uncle Arthur Edwards.
In one postcard, 50 words or so, and blue ink scribble I got an insight into another world. I had questions. Lots of questions.
Filled with the inner joy of seeing something written by my great grandmother who had always been a name and a face in a photo album, Edith came to life as a concerned and caring mother scribbling a note to her eldest daughter.
The picture of my grandpa’s military career came to life as I read about the reasons for British occupation in Germany during the 50s, and the accomplishments made by his regiment. I got a glimpse into what dads life would have been like as a six year old english boy living in Germany, and my beautiful nan raising three small boys while her husband was stationed at the barracks. It made a great Sunday conversation with the old man.
I also put an image to my nan’s uncle Arthur whom i’d only known as a councillor and possibly a communist, from soundbite stories overheard.
Postcards capture moments of a particular time and place. It is incredible when we can dig into the story behind the pictures and words… I wonder who the other people are? I wonder what there story is?… Knowing Careau possibly another distant relative?