Saturday, 20 July 2013

"HEAVEN IS A VERY SMALL PLACE..."


The Town Centre in the 1960s

Ah, where do the years go?  Y'know, it sometimes galls me that there are places I can no longer visit because they simply don't exist anymore.  Once upon a time, I would drag myself from bed, get dressed, washed, brushed, have breakfast, and set off for school in the mornings, subconsciously absorbing the details of my surroundings as I did so.  When I wake up nowadays, I do so in the same room as I did when I was 13, but my school no longer exists and the route along to where it once stood has changed in quite a number of ways as well.

Even the shopping centre I once explored in wide-eyed wonder has changed beyond all recognition, having quadrupled (at least) in size and been roofed over to protect shoppers from inclement weather.  Ironically, although it's now larger, many of the best and biggest shops have moved to an out-of-town retail park where the rents are apparently cheaper, leaving the original centre with numerous empty premises. Indeed, many of the newer units built in the last few years have never been occupied since completion.

Outside W. & R. Holmes.  (Out of shot to the right -
you can just see part of the shop sign)

I miss certain shops, havens of my youth, where I'd idle away the minutes looking at books, toys, comics or annuals.  I still have quite a few items (or replacements) from my childhood, with which I associate the places I first purchased them.  SUPER-MAN From The '30s To The '70s, The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL Annual 1973, EL TEMPO marker pens, PRITT glue sticks, and a whole host of other items instantly transport me back to W. & R. HOLMES, a bookshop, stationers, toyshop, tobacconist, art department, etc., which has never been equalled by any subsequent would-be replacements since it closed its doors in the late '70s.

And what about that old standby that everyone of a certain age must surely miss as much as I do?  WOOLWORTH'S, where every child of the '60s and '70s obtained some of the best toys ever released at that time, to say nothing of two ounces of PIC'N'MIX whenever one wanted some some jelly babies, dolly mixtures or jap desserts.  'Woolies' was usually the place my elasticated black plimsolls were purchased for gym classes in primary school.  No such thing as designer trainers for kids back then - Woolworth's was a great 'equalizer' when it came to blurring the distictions between better-off families and the not so prosperous ones.

W. & R. Holmes - now that's what I call a shop!

R. S. McCOLL's was another haunt of mine in bygone days.  'Twas in McColl's I obtained my first MARX friction-drive DALEK (1967), my CORGI TOYS diecast orange bubble-car (1969 or '70), The INCREDIBLE HULK Annual #2 (1973), a TITCH stapler that sits to the side of me as I type (1978 or '79), and a COCA-COLA sign which still adorns my wall to this very day (again, '78 or '79, I think).  In the early or mid-'80s, it moved from the premises it had inhabited since I was a lad to another unit further up the street, and though I still frequented it for years afterwards, it was never quite the same.  (Though I did buy my very first brand-new ACTION MAN there in 1984.)

Well, I could go on and on, and perhaps some of you think I'm going to, but I'll call it quits with this last little thought.  If someone were to ask me what my idea of Heaven is, I'd have to say that my home town exactly as it was in 1969 or '70 would come pretty close.  To be able to walk the streets and run through the green fields I knew as a child, to visit the shops I liked from my earliest days and which could always be relied upon to supply the simplest and the best of pleasures - well, that sounds pretty heavenly to me.

R.S. McColl's is under the awning to the left of the
pillars.  Further up the street is Woolworth's

Sometimes, in dreams, I once again wander the familiar haunts of my youth, where long-vanished people and places welcome me warmly and invite me to spend some time with them.  However, such moments are fleeting, and the harsh reality of the here-and-now lies in wait to disappoint me when I awaken to a new day.

******

We thought there was no more behind
But such a day tomorrow as today
And to be a boy eternal.

William Shakespeare

******

So, any places from your childhood or teenage years that you wish still existed, or do you prefer things the way they are now?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. 

14 comments:

PhilSee said...

I grew up in a provincial town but now live in a capital city, I go back there from time to time to keep up
family connections with those who stayed put. Two places spring to mind that either don’t exist any more or have changed so much that they no longer evoke any memories of their heyday in my youth.
The first was a cramped poky little shop called Bill’s Book Bar in one of the arcades, selling, as the name suggests, used books as well and magazines and comics. The latter of course being the attraction to myself and my brothers. My memories of it, evoked whenever I open one of the comics I still have from those days and see their stamp on the bottom of the page, are of rows of shelves towering above me. We always saw it from that angle from our position, seated on the floor going through the stacks of comics in the kid-friendly position on the lower shelves looking for gems. We rarely ever came away empty handed. The other venue was an import record store where you’d thumb through the racks of vinyl, wondering what exotic sounds lay on the plastic inside the cardboard sleeve under your fingertips. It was the 70s and I was, and still am, into Prog rock, Krautrock, jazz fusion, underground heavy psychedelic bands and electronic music, and for the life of me I still don’t recall where I heard this music to send me searching it out on vinyl. That one is now some generic CD and DVD outlet that certainly would not tempt a purchase of anything in there these days! I am thankful that I still have 95% of the comics and albums bought back then to connect me with those memories – I never “grew out of” the former or heard much that would diminish my enthusiasm for the latter. Great topic.

Kid said...

And great reminiscence, Phil. I was almost in Bob's Book Bar right along with you for a second or two there. I still have 'singles' that I bought in a little record shop situated in an arcade in my home town. The shop has long since ceased to exist, but one look at (or listen to) those records and I'm right back there in another era.

baab said...

I was going to add something here,but as I reminisced my way through the front door of the small R S McColls of my youth,I quite simply got lost in the memory overload.

Kid said...

Oh, you rascal you! Don't be selfish - share.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see pics of EK from this era (early new town I assume). Although I used to live near EK (Rutherglen) I never visited until I started work there about 18 years ago. Since then I have made quite a few friends who have mentioned W R Holmes so it was nice to see a pic. It is amazing how many shops have disappeared or changed to become clones of every other one since the period we were kids. R S McColls (and Birrels) were shops I used to love going into - I recall picking up some many amazing US comics in McColls including an almost entire run of Atlas comics (the mostly awful 70s version of the company) and MWOM issue 1. We've already mentioned the legendary "Johnnys" shop (a great shop that sold all sorts of comics, models, toys, sweets - you name it, a kids paradise) now gone as well. I especially recall lots of indie newsagents in the 60s and 70s that were stacked with comics, toys and sweets - for some reason these were places I bought balsa wood model planes, now they all look the same and have no character. Its not only the loss of shops like Woolworths but also the fact shops like Boots have changed so much. I used to get LPs in Boots in Hamilton (upstairs), there was also a local (to West of Scotland)) chain of record shops called Impulse Records, (EK, Motherwell, Hamilton, Rutherglen) where I used to get all my records whether it was punk, new wave or middle of the road - not to mention great music shops like Listen, Bloggs, and the early Virgin store in Glasgow. All great shops to meet and chat about music (they also sold comics), now you can hardly see an indie record shop anywhere in the UK. McScotty

Kid said...

Believe it or not, McScotty, I used to do posters and signwriting for Impulse many years ago. It's been a good few years since I've seen Jim (the owner).

Yeah, it's a shame - many shops no longer seem to have their own individual character, but all look the same - boring.

Dougie said...

Having recently turned fifty, I can just about remember the fountains in EK. It was a vibrant, Modernist place when I was a kid. I wondered if we had discussed the Youtube footage from the BBC's Mad Death? It's vintage 80s EK- v poor quality but those orange plastic seats are a blast from the past.

Kid said...

It was a great place when I was a kid, Dougie. Fountains, flagpoles and pillars - very like one of those futuristic visions of ancient Greece (yes, I know that's a contradiction in terms, but you know what I mean) on Star Trek. I think you did mention the programme before, but, despite my own fond recollections of those orange seats, I prefer the place pre-Plaza.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Though looking at this from an American perspective, it seems like this Town Centre you've describe kind of reminds me of the "Lifestyle Centers" they're trying to do back here, merely replacing the enclosed shopping malls I was more use to myelf.
There's one south of me called "The Shops at Fallen Timbers" I thought about, though I've never been there yet.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifestyle_center_(retail)
http://www.theshopsatfallentimbers.com/

Kid said...

Had a look at those links, Chris. Interesting stuff. Ta much.

Chris Sobieniak said...

I still favor enclosed malls otherwise since it does still get cold up here in the winter months, I simply don't see a point in them when we had outdoor shopping centers anyway (like the one near my house that use to had a Woolworth's there with a lunch counter we use to eat in).

Kid said...

Chris, Woolworth's went out of business in Britain a few years ago - does it still exist in America?

Chris Sobieniak said...

No, it died out by the mid 90's. The last Woolworth's I been to was one in downtown Columbus, OH in early 1995. You can see it in this photo I put on Facebook from my trip there (originally we weren't stopping there but we had time after whatever we were doing on a school field trip so I got to go there and bought a cheap audio cassette of something or two)!
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=140642845965462

Of course this the original US company the UK stores had branched out of.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._W._Woolworth_Company

Kid said...

Strange that the U.K. branches outlasted the U.S. ones. If I remember correctly, there was a management buy-out in the early '80s, which is when the two 'companies' separated. I checked out your links - your photo looks like the original premises that used to be in Glasgow.



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