A stroll down the high street of our youth
There was a time when almost every high street had a butcher, baker, grocer, greengrocer, tobacconist, bank, off licence, sweet shop, pub and café. Not forgetting a drapers, ironmongers and haberdashers, trades we rarely see today.
The high street back then was the heart of community life and shopping was a social occasion, with some shops providing a chair so customers could sit and chat while the shopkeeper gathered items from a wealth of counters, cabinets and drawers.
Car ownership helped bring about the end of the high street as we knew it. It’s become a parade of pound shops, charity shops, betting shops, banks and take-aways with everything else bought in supermarkets and out of town megastores.
Just like us, many much-loved retailers have weathered the storm - Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, Boots and John Lewis – and independent shops are enjoying a come back. But many more didn’t make it. Here, we take a stroll down memory street and remember just a few of the shops we loved and lost.
1. The local shop
Every neighbourhood had one. A bell over the door would cling-a-ling to announce your arrival. A few pennies got you a quarter of sweets from the plentiful glass jars lining the walls.
2. Home and Colonial
One of the many grocery shops around in those days. The smell of cheese and freshly ground coffee, the bacon slicer sound that set your teeth on edge. Everything weighed, measured and wrapped meticulously. Money flying back and forth on tracks overhead. A place of wonder…
3. Lyons Tea House
Another place of wonder and a favourite destination for a special treat of cake or ice cream. Tea served from a giant urn by a ‘Nippy’ in uniform.
4. F.W. Woolworths
As it was known back then. Remember when self-service arrived on the high street? Suddenly it was everywhere - Liptons, Fine Fare, International Stores. But pick’n’ mix and records from Woolies were the only self-service that really mattered to us.
5. Independent department store
Every town had its own independent and often family-founded department store - and the bigger the town, the bigger the store. Some were very grand with escalators and ornately decorated halls. Some even had a pet department! Lewis’s was famous for its Christmas grotto.
6. John Collier
…was “The window to watch”. The likes of John Colliers and Burtons gave the local Gentlemen’s Outfitter a run for his money with their affordable made to measure suits.
7. Chelsea Girl
C&A may have been where mum took us for school clothes but Chelsea Girl was where the fashion conscious teenage girl really wanted to be.
8. Freeman Hardy and Willis
With paper bags imprinted with the legend FHW – For Happy Walking. Our other favourite shoe shop, Dolcis, is long gone too.
9. Radio Rentals
There was a time when renting your telly and even your radio was quite normal. Back then, pay per view was a coin slot on the side of the telly!
10. Wimpy Bar
Not burger and fries, it was Wimpy and chips! Many hours spent sitting in the window looking out on the rain, relishing a knickerbocker glory washed down with a bottle of coke. Wimpy was the in place to be.
Long before Nectar points we had Green Shield Stamps. Mum made a beeline for the high street shops that offered them in the hope of getting enough for a new iron or some such gadget. The best bit was sticking the stamps in the book!
The days of counter service and shillings may be long gone but many of us can still remember them like they were yesterday. If this trip back down the high street of our youth has got you reminiscing about your own shopping experiences, we’d love you to share your special memories with us.