Whilst having a coffee break during our regular visit to Lakeside Shopping Centre, I found myself reflecting on the way life has changed since the 50’s and 60’s. In the 50’s, there were no shopping Centres such as Westfield, Lakeside and Bluewater with a multitude of shops located under one roof. No large DIY chains such as B & Q or IKEA type one stop retailers (most of these were not created until the late 60’s and later) and the small shop keeper reigned supreme. This was also assisted by the small number of people with cars and most trips to the shops involved a walk, a concept that today’s kids would find alien, or a 1d or 2d (in old money of course) ride on a bus or trolley bus.
Living in Kelmscott Gardens Council flats at the junction of Askew Road and Goldhawk Road, there was a valuable source of such small shops in Askew Road itself. Immediately across the road, the local Newsagents, Huxleys, became our second home and source of our estate-demolishing penny and tuppeny bangers, of the firework variety, in mid-October, and the usual delights of chews, sherbet, bubble gum and comics etc. These were the non-PC days when you could purchase such items as Black Jacks, Sambo Chewing Gum (liquorice flavoured) and marmalade jars would have a Golliwog on the side. Such were the times we lived in!
We alternated between this shop and the Off-Licence in Westville Road as to our source of a frozen Jubbly subject to word having got around that there were half-frozen ones available which was a great delicacy ! This shop was also the source of the local paper, the West London Observer, which gave us, along with the Evening News, Standard and Star, the London evening papers, our main source of everything QPR. I am indebted to Steve for reminding me that many local shops would also have fixture list posters, should we forget ! Some yards away and near the Goldhawk Road junction traffic lights was a second and ‘posh’ supplier of cigarettes and tobacco which was a sign of the times and a valuable source of discarded cigarette packets and sometimes with the cards within them which boosted our cigarette packet and flick card collection.
My earliest memories of trips down Askew Road usually involved being sent to the bakers near the Co-Op I think, to purchase a seeded bloomer loaf fresh from the oven. Unfortunately, the aroma of the fresh baked bread usually proved irresistible and much of the carefully wrapped loaf had bits pulled off the end before I reached home ! Curiously, I could not remember being sent to the Fish and Chip Shop, probably as my parents preferred much of the purchase to reach home safely !
The other gem in Askew Road was the corner situated toy shop, Standens. This was a regular haunt to spend ones limited pocket money on the latest fad such as Scoobidoo or lead toy soldiers. They had a Christmas Savings Club which enabled my less than affluent parents to provide me with a special Christmas present such as two layer Meccano, a Hornby Dublo train set (the original metal three rail system) and possibly my much prized Philips Kingfisher bike (which expanded my range and horizons greatly). I say possibly, as young Kerrins has reminded me that there was a nearby cycle shop called Hinds which I had forgotten about. Most of these items, if kept, would be worth a fortune now. I enjoyed speculating as to what my present that year would be and if the toy shop was visited with my mother, I ensured that she had suitable ideas by looking longingly at items out of reach of my pocket money.
These were the days when you had to make things work to entertain you by either playing games or assembling things such as Airfix plastic models of planes. Building kits were popular with two such kits coming to mind. One involved small stone-like bricks which were ‘cemented’ together much as a house is built and a Bakelite building system with ‘bricks’ slotted into thin rods inserted in a base. The names escapes me but feel free to remind me…no doubt Kerrins will be the first ! My need for train set bits and pieces and other modelling items also meant a longer trip by bus or bike to a strange model shop in the Turnham Green area. I say strange, because it had a sales counter to the street.
It was a reflection of the times or the way that I was brought up by my parents that whilst on a Saturday morning trip down Askew Road, I found a five pound note in the road, a fortune in those days of the late 50’s. I decided to take it to the somewhat Dickensian Askew Road Police Station and my honesty was rewarded three months later when I received a letter asking me to collect it ! The toy shop became a beneficiary of my good fortune, as did my parents.
As technology progressed, the second little gem appeared in the far reaches of Askew Road, but it was worth the walk, as this was a curious little shop near Becklow Gardens which sold some of the first portable radios. These were a valuable source of news on Rangers away trips and enabled covert listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bed sheets !
The main source of clothing involved a bus ride to King Street, Hammersmith for Marks & Spencers or the shirt shop in Shepherds Bush Market which also included a visit to W G Stores for records or the stamp dealer with his small table. I also visited the record stall for ex-juke box records with the black inserts to convert them for normal record players. Woolworths in King Street was also a valuable source of a multitude of items. In those days it was an antiquated collection of old timber desk-like displays, a far cry from the modern display stands that followed. I acquired a taste for their own brand of chocolate buttons, not to everyone’s taste bur somewhat addictive.
Our new found love of fishing also gave us a good excuse to walk to Uxbridge Road for our fishing tackle and bait from Mascalls (?). Long gone I understand, but at least it also brought us closer to the other love of our lives…following the R’s. On the subject of fish, I also used the Queensborough Fisheries in Goldhawk Road for tropical fish, an early but short lived hobby. When I started work in the City in 1963, my new found wealth also resulted in my shopping for upmarket clothes in Krantz, also in King Street. Otherwise, there was not the wonderful choice of clothing shops that we have today, although a greater outlay on a bus and/or tube ride, opened up the great delights of the West End and Oxford Street, but in the early days that ‘Promised Land’ seemed a million miles away and we mainly satisfied ourselves with our trusty local shops.
It would be interesting to have confirmation as to when these shops finally succumbed to the pressures of competition or merely faded away as society changed, so feel free to enlighten me ! They were all part of my early life and provided a valuable service.