Reminiscence and Resource Centre
My husband Cliffors (Cliff) Pritchard left Abercynon, South Wales in 1934 aged 14yrs to work in the leather factory at British Bata, at that time the boys hostel was in the Avenue near the Nook Café. ( Bata Avenue ). They were then moved into Community House a five storey building, he enjoyed sport, Tommy Bata himself coached him in table tennis, he was also very good at football and did some boxing. In 1938 he was offered a chance to go for management training in Czechoslovakia but unfortunately Hitler decided to invade and he was called up for active service instead with the Essex Regiment, later he joined the 9th Battalion Parachute Regiment where he took part in the Normandy landings.
I left Pontypridd in South Wales in 1936 aged 14yrs and lived in the Girls Hostel in Bata Avenue until 1 was 18 yrs old. I worked in the Rubber Factory and coming straight from school found the noise and bustle very confusing but I was lucky enough to meet a school friend on the station as I waited for the train to Paddington and we shared a room at the hostel. I enjoyed the social activities, dancing and keep fit, the small cinema at Bata and the books from the Nook Café. I was 16 when I first met Cliff and we drank milk and ate cream buns in the Nook. He took great care of me as the Fort had the Marines and the hostel a lot of boys! We became engaged when I was 18 and married at Grays Registry Office at 19yrs old. We celebrated our Diamond Wedding in 2001.
I learnt a lot at the hostel about budgeting and careful shopping and we both agree that although we were young leaving home it was a good training for life.
What we liked about the life we had was that we knew the rules and we knew where we were which is what young people appreciate even if they kick against it at times.
CLIFF AND MILLIE PRITCHARD