Wales, Charles Victor Stoyles Benson, The Harley Davidson guy. My Paternal Grandfather
Charles Victor Stoyles Benson
Hard work, a Harley Davidson and a long life
My Granddad, Charles Victor Benson was called Pop Newport after the town in South Wales where he lived with his wife of 75 years, Nan Newport. His life started in Cardiff the Capital of Wales.
Pop became the breadwinner early in life. Always a very hard worker, he cared for his Mother and Brother with diligence. At the age of ten he became the boot boy at the large hotel, “The Angel” in Cardiff.
He was a very good looking young man, always immaculately dressed. He had light hair and piercing blue eyes. His step was deliberate. He met his wife to be, Gertrude Grace in a restaurant in Penarth, a South Wales sea side town. Gertrude was born in Llanstadwell near Milton in Pembrokeshire. They married and had five children, Robert, Violet, Denis, Ronald and Josephine. Initially they all rode about on a Harley Davidson with a side car. In fact it is said that my Grandma was the first woman in Wales to ride a Harley Davidson. Pop loved his Harley and was one of the first in the UK to own one.
As the Angel had a bar, Pop became an excellent Billiards player, eventually he became Welsh Champion. His love of Billiards led to him mending and then building the huge ,heavy ornate tables made of slate, covered in green baize cloth and with huge mahogany legs. My early memories were of keeping him company in his workshop, perched on a table with the pungent smell of turpentine wafting in my nostrils from the varnish he mixed over a small flame. He always lamented that because of the war,( WW1 ), that he couldn’t get the green French baize cloth any longer.
Not long after the war started he signed up and was one of the lucky ones to survive the horrible conditions of mud and privation in the trenches of Normandy. He was a great mechanic and his job was to deliver ammunition to the Front lines and keep the truck running. Quite a hazardous job to say the least!
Pop and Nan kept a grocery shop, Nan doled out the groceries into brown paper bags, weighing everything carefully on brass scales which I use today in my own kitchen. Pop delivered the milk. He was out in all weathers but was never sick. I loved to help with the deliveries, being allowed to carry the ladles used to dole out the milk into jugs left on the doorstep for him to fill. He carried the milk in large copper cans. On his return, Sandy the ginger cat was allowed a saucer full to herself.
Pop loved to garden. In the little back yard a bed of pink Cosmos always bloomed throughout the summer with a patch of mint in a bucket. Pop’s pride and joy was his allotment Here he had a little shed and a lot of peace. He took refuge there on many an occasion. The Allotments were municipal gardens divided among the townsfolk who desired them. Visiting them was a joy. The camaraderie of the multiple tenants and the rivalry between them resulted in some bountiful crops and very large pumpkins and leeks.
Always a stylish dresser, he wore a boater in the summer and a felt trilby hat in the winter. He often affected a maroon spotted bow tie. It goes without saying that his shoes were always shiny.
When Nan and Pop were in there seventies, their shop was compulsorily purchased to make way or the M4 and they retired to live in Christchurch with glorious views over the Monmouthshire countryside. By this time, Pop had a shiny Black Ford Prefect which was used to take the family to Porthkerry Park, Barry island or Penarth for Sunday picnics on the glorious Welsh coast. The bulging picnic basket was full of wonderful sandwiches and fruit cake. Pop said they only ate the best. Every Thursday Nan and Pop used to drive over to our house with goodies. These were very welcome as food was still in short supply after the ravages of WWll. .
Their house on the hill was very comfortable but always had an antiseptic smell. It was TCP, an old style cure-all liquid invented in 1860 and still used today.. You can dab it on spots or bites, gargle with it and it did its magic, I still use it today. You name it, it cured it. For some reason it is not allowed in the USA. The ointment of choice was pink Germolene now famous as a color in the Farrow and Ball range of paint colors for historic houses. At the age of 96, Pop still at work on a daily basis with his billiard table business, contracted ‘Flu. Told to stay in bed, he got up, fell over and died. My Grandma, Nan Newport, despite being very fit for her age died soon after. They are sorely missed to this day. Their eldest son, Robert died recently at 99, my dad and my Uncle Ron died in their late 80s. Poor Josie died aged 5 after a fall at school fractured her skull, but that is another tale. Violet died aged forty from a kidney disease that is easily treated these days. Now the grandchildren are scattered across the globe, I am sure Pop Newport would have approved.