Chidzoy Fruiterer

Introduction by Lyn John

In November 2012, Llanelli Community Heritage displayed a series of old photographs of Llanelli that were submitted by LCH Member Christine Andrews for identification. It appears that the photograph was taken from Waunlanyrafon, on the South side of Llanelli Town Hall. The main subject of the scene is the Chidzoy fruit lorry with a carefully loaded display of apples, oranges and bananas, probably decked out for a carnival or other similar event. The roof and clock tower of the Town Hall are obscured by the Chidzoy banner at the top of the vehicle. Although the photograph was probably taken in the 1920s, the wholesale and retail fruiterer was operating in Llanelli much earlier, as can be seen by the 1910 newspaper advert offering Strawberries at Lowest Market Prices. Interestingly, the lorry in the photograph bears the message Eat More Fruit – Nature's Way to Health. A message ahead of its time?

The discovery of this photograph has attracted the interest of Susan Leech, a descendant of the Chidzoy family. Susan relates her memories of the family business that operated in Llanelli for over fifty years and has included a some photographs.

Alfred Chidzoy was my Great Grandfather who started the business in Swansea and then rolled it out to Llanelli Market and the railway level crossing at Port Talbot. My Grandfather Fred, took over the reins at Llanelli whilst one of his other brothers, looked after the Port Talbot store. His eldest brother Henry, must have had something to do with the Swansea shop until it was bombed out of existence. When my Grandfather first commenced business in Llanelly there was a stores in Broadway. I believe it was near where the old Johnsons the Cleaners used to be. Just before the entrance to the Arcade. A family story goes that a snake once came in with the bananas and disappeared down the River Lliedi. Myself, I think it was killed but kept for posterity in a preserving jar. Some items of this kind were kept and were reputed to have been loaned to some academic, but never returned. I do still have a whole Brazil nut shell complete with its contents, now somewhat dehydrated.

My Father, Doug, became more and more involved with the business after being demobbed from the Welsh Guards where he had served as a mechanic, obtaining the rank of Sgt. On one occasion, I remember the Welsh Guards giving a performance in the Old Butter Market/Theatre building inside the Market gates, in the evening.
My friend Joyce loved art and painted posters of the Welsh Guards emblem and hat badge which my Father displayed in the window. Both ended up in the possession of the Welsh Guards and the person in charge at the time was very impressed with her work. My Dad was a very proud Guardsman all his life. He was a member of the Association and represented the local Guards at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party.

The photo of the male staff of Chidzoy's was apparently taken when 3 of them were going off to join their regiments, or for training, at the outbreak of WWII. It used to hang on the wall of the little office behind and between the shop and the two stalls. Ivor Evans was a prisoner of war (I think with the Japanese) but lived to return and rejoin the staff, where he stayed until it's closure in August 1964. Bill Price, Dai Jones and Ron where also with Chidzoy's for many years, helping on the stall and out on deliveries to schools and shops, until they either passed away or at closure. Other members of staff that I recall from the 1950/60's were: Howard, Cynthia, Bethan, Pauline, Lillian, Tegwyn, Margaret, and lastly Mair and her sister.

As well as bringing up the family my Mother worked in the shop with Cynthia during the 50s and 60s and my best friend Joyce and I also spent most of our Saturdays and holidays as teenagers helping out, and earning 10/- per Saturday (a bit more for the week though). I used to love it and was proud to have the little triangular section between the shop and the long stall for my own, selling mostly bananas not only from boxes but also from stems hanging from the ceiling which had to be cut away. On one occasion they concealed a lovely big, hairy, spider. I especially liked Christmas with chestnuts and the more exotic fruits, but not up to my elbows in cold water washing the dirt from celery in the depths of cold winters. Grapes used to arrive in barrels and protected by cork granules. Bananas were ripened in rooms heated by open-flame jets turned down low. Nothing was pre-packed, usually veg was covered in earth which we cleaned away as much as possible so that it wasn't passed on to the customer. It was also an art to make attractive displays to entice the housewife. The atmosphere was added to by the male members of staff shouting out the produce that were on special offer that day or, perhaps, something that had just come into season. Whatever happened to that I wonder!

I remember the phone number which became 3712. There was a switch-board under the stairs at home that connected the shop and my Grandparents' house. You picked up the receiver, held down the appropriate lever and turned the handle on the side. During the day it was switched through to the shop but, at night, it was switched through to my parents' home.

People living around Pembrey Road may remember the lorries turning into the lane behind New Road and turning left, then straight into the jaws of the yard and stores at the 'v' junction of two lanes. There was a garage for my Grandfather's car, the banana house and, I think, three bays for the lorries and produce. It was a surprisingly big area. I used to stand on the potato scale to be weighed. "My memories of the yard at Pembrey Road are of a garage, for one car, my Grandfather's big Austin, on the left with the banana rooms behind. The three bays for the lorries and merchandise went the length of the back wall from the side of the banana house. Inside the banana house were a number of small, closed rooms containing an open gas jet. They did have a basic guard around them for safety and the floors were kept clean of all litter, especially straw. The branches of bananas hung from the ceiling in plastic jackets that they had been shipped over in by Fyffes. They were always green on arrival but left our ripening rooms turning yellow. There were also boxes of loose bananas stacked up in there as well. Many people used to buy a large paper-bag full of loose, brown coloured bananas for just a few shillings. These were the ripest and so the first to become inedible.

Some people might also remember our Blue Rhone Spaniel "Chum". He used to go for a walk on his own and end up sitting on the doorstep of the shop, and not letting anyone go near the premises. We had many a call from the Police asking my Father to collect him. He was a wonderful guard-dog.

LCH0239


Notes and Citations
Chidzoy A & Sons Ltd., Fruitier, The Market Tel 112 Kelly's Directory 1920 p514
Chidzoy's Add LM 25 Dec 1930
Chidzoy A & Sons Ltd., Fruitier, 2 The Market Town & County Directories 1936/1937
Chidzoy F., The Market 1958-1959 Wales (North &South) Trade's Directory