On Friday 13th September 1974 I lost my job, it was a complete shock, but really I should have spotted the signs and seen it coming.
Back in November 1968 I had been taken on as a houseparent at the fledgling charity known as The South Wales Physically Handicapped Children’s Holiday Home, a bit of a mouthful you’ll agree, but also known as the Jane Hodge Holiday Home as the original construction costs were met with a gift from the Jane Hodge Foundation. The home offered free holidays for kids and young people with a disability and every second Monday throughout the year we’d have a new batch of youngsters, sometimes as many as thirty, occasionally as few as eight, but averaging around twenty which was a nice number to cope with. The guests would stay for 10 days and go home early on a Friday morning leaving us with a whole weekend off before the next guests arrived on Monday afternoon. For nearly six years I’d be unpacking and packing suitcases as countless children and young persons passed through our door annually so we could, to the best of our ability, give them a good and memorable time whilst they were with us.
On Monday 2nd September we had a new intake of twenty five youngsters, ten girls and fifteen boys, of those, my notes show seventeen we had never seen before so they were totally unknown to us, with a number coming from Cheshire and another group from Bristol as well as others from various places in Wales and over the border. By this time I was the senior houseparent so had added responsibility in ensuring this group was well catered for in their personal and entertainment requirements.
We all knew the Home was having financial difficulties as there had been many extra campaigns by the fund-raising staff to find extra income. The persons responsible for that were a two-person team, fund-raiser and secretary and operated from a base outside the home. I could see our manager was more agitated than usual this particular week and preoccupied with something or other, but it was not until she called a staff meeting on the Monday of the second week of the holiday that we realised something was drastically wrong. We were informed the home was to close, there was just no money to operate, any funds left would be used to pay redundancy and salaries for the twenty seven staff and the rest to mothball the building and pay for the services of a caretaker. We were then told the closure would be almost immediately, on the conclusion of the current holiday period, on Friday 13th September, just five days away.
Keeping up the atmosphere of the holiday mood for the youngsters whilst there was a gloom hanging over all the staff was difficult, but we got through that final week and I don’t think they realised when we waved farewell at the end of it that they would never, ever return to spend a holiday with us again.
I have entitled this tale Another Friday 13th as I have previously written a story about Friday the 13th, but that was a different occasion four years later!