|The trombone hung there in the shop window resplendent in front of
an azure blue drape and beside it the unattainable price label…£7. The
window was that of a second hand shop in Park Road near the junction
with Paynes Road and next to the old Police station building. This shop
was one of five of its kind between here and the southern junction with
|Park Road was then a thriving centre of little shops catering for
almost all needs. Apart from Doctor Cline's surgery, the chemists and
the Post Office at the junction of Sir Georges Road there were two
bakeries…one where the ovens opened straight onto the street which made
for ease of loading the little delivery van but would, in the
enlightened 21st century, immediately fall foul of the health and safety
regulations but in these far off days of the 40s and 50s offer an
inquisitive...or hungry child immediate access to the mysteries of
baking and ready access to hot rejects. The mis-shaped or slightly
burned offerings that were there for the eating! The other Southwells at
the corner of Kingston road was much more formal with counter ladies
dressed in smart tunics.
|There were four pubs The Anchor & Hope, The Star and Garter, The
Freemantle and The Swan (now The Wellington Arms) there were two
restaurants, also for a hair trim there was Spaggy's barber shop. Nearby
Alwins seed shop sold anything from seed potatoes to freshly ground
flour. For the fashion conscious there was even a clothes shop, two
greengrocers and a fishmonger…even a soft drinks bottling works where
the highly painted vans constantly came and went on their errands
delivering the magic Tizer to places far and wide. We even had a
church...the Elim where they sometimes sang their joyful hymns outside
on warm summer evenings.
|Of course so soon after the war four bomb sites graced Park Road
…one eventually became the Woodyard….dangerous but exciting playgrounds
for grubby youngsters to play cowboys and Indians and on these sites
were wild gooseberry bushes…in season a refreshing source of alfresco
picnics. Sandwiched in between these places were little houses…some
large detached surrounded by pairs of semi detached homes which had
escaped the German bombers and where families came and went on their
journeys to work and school. I recall there were no garages attached to
these homes hardly anyone owning a car….Park Road people travelled by
bike or bus.
|One detached house opposite the end of Andover Road one day grew a
huge pole alongside it's chimney and affixed to this was a huge metal
frame in the shape of a large 'H' which we were told pointed towards
South Wales from where the occupants could watch the latest
entertainment in their own home…television! As far as we knew this was
the first TV home in the area but later it was joined by another one and
this was in the home of a friend of the family so we could finally
witness the spectacle for ourselves.
|But far and away the most important shops for me were the second
hand shops. Our mother had an attraction to these places for more
practical reasons for here she could purchase at realistic prices
clothing for the family, kitchen utensils and a speciality of hers
Huttons on the corner of Lisbon road where were presented an
overwhelmingly striking selection of furniture from kitchen cabinets to
room filling wardrobes and even beds. But for me the attraction was the
wonderful array of electrical equipment on show at the smaller second
hand shops, names long gone. There was of course a heap of things
salvaged from bombed out houses but also a surprising selection of
mysterious things...a ship's wheel, a motor cycle engine, huge dialled
grey boxes bearing the legends 'AMPERES' or 'KiloWatt Hours'.
There were coils of wire and rope, bicycles, skipping ropes, packets of
nails, hinges and towers of tools and wonder of all there were old
radios…enormous examples of the woodworkers trade filled with glowing
dials bearing the names of faraway places like 'Hilversum' or 'Brookmans
Park',' Luxembourg', and all containing glowing valves which lit up the
inside of these wondrous creations. There were also windup gramophones
and hundreds of 78 rpm records. If you didn't like music you could buy
these records take them home, hold them in front of the fire and bend
them into shapes like flower vases. And of course there was the
occasional musical instrument and so to the trombone. Much as she wanted
to indulge me my Mum knew the family budget could not stretch to such
flights of fancy and my attention eventually was distracted to something
else…and the inevitable change from childhood to the new adult world.
|What seemed like only a few years later I returned to this
remarkable road with my child's hand in mine and certainly enough money
in my pocket to purchase the trombone. But it had of course gone and
along with it the whole shop...in fact nearly all the shops had gone. It
was now the fashion to travel far to do quite ordinary shopping. There
were no more free cakes at the bakery and certainly no more second hand
shop windows to press your nose against. Park Road was no longer a
place… it had become just a passageway to somewhere else…
|I lived at 61, Park Road from 1964 until about 1971. We had a newsagent's shop, called Prowtings, which my father, Ronald Curtis, owned. We sold the obvious things, such as tobacco and papers, but also confectionary, toys, cards, knitting wool and comics. I was very familiar with the different names of cigarettes in those days - Players, Kensitas, Benson and Hedges etc - but I never smoked as an adult! I used to read all the comics, including all the American DC comics, but Bunty was always my favourite. We used to have all the old fashioned jars of sweets even then.
I clearly recall the red tin jar with the picture of the man sneezing on the front - Hack's cough sweets! The papers used to arrive very early in the morning and when we came downstairs to get ready for school, the paperboys and girls were in the shop sorting out their rounds. We used to get our papers from Bishops and Surridge Dawson on Waterloo Rd. We delivered the pink Football Echo too. Our shop assistants were Mrs Marjorie Mallinson who lived in Lisbon Road, Mrs Ena Bremble who lived on Paynes Road and Marion Cunningham who lived on Park Road.
|Next door to us was the Cadena Bakery, which was known to you as Southwells. I can still remember what it smelt like in there! All those iced buns! The ladies who served were very familiar faces, and they wore nylon overalls, I remember. The Cadena had a little courtyard round the side in Kingston Road, enclosed by a wall with black railings. So many of us local kids used to play in that little area. My friends were the Jacobs family and the Eccles family from Kingston Road, and later the Prowses from Queenstown Rd. Mr Jacobs had a large black Princess car that he used for weddings. Sometimes we would ride around in it, feeling very regal!
|On the other side of us was the VG grocery store. It was an early forerunner of the supermarket, with many different products, but still small and, of course, local. It was run by a father and son, but their names escape me. Other shops in the street, were the fishmonger's, run by Mr Bert Hiscock. I remember him well. I seem to remember his hair brylcreemed down shiny and smooth! Then there was the butcher, Mr Scott. And the fish and chip shop (I recall dashing across the road in our pyjamas to get our tea!), the launderette, the hairdressers, the betting shop, Mr. Spacagna's barber shop, the seed store (a shop long gone!), the Post Office down by Sir George's Road (seemed miles away to me). We had everything we needed...it was a real community, with all its ups and downs. Such a shame it's all changed.
|Other places we used to visit was the library on the corner of Shirley Road and Grove Road, and the Atherley cinema for Saturday morning shows (Batman and Robin), Emanuel Church on Shirley Road for Sunday School, Povey's dance hall on Shirley Road for school ballet lessons, the old swimming baths, of course, and the Top Rank dancing Suite on Saturday mornings as well as the ice rink in Banister Park. I went to a small private school at first, in Arthur Road, called Landguard School, but then we all went to St Marks. I still see my form teacher, Miss Bowyer, from time to time!
|My father, Ronald Curtis, died in 1969 and we eventually went to live in St Denys. When I occasionally drive round Park Road, the place seems so tiny and even a bit sad. It has, however, a strange power to evoke memories and profound feelings from the past.
The photo (right) shows my mother (caught by surprise!) and brother outside our shop. There is also a photo of my Dad outside his newsagents at 61 Park Road.
|Image To Follow
|Connections with Bedford Place...
|I thought you might also be interested in my two photos of my great grandfather's and grandfather's post office that they run successively in Bedford Place.
|My great grandfather was Frank Curtis who was born in Southampton, 1863 to parents Henry and Caroline Curtis. Frank married Harriet Boyling and they had three sons, Leonard, Vernon and Hubert. Frank ran the Post Office in Bedford Place at number 33. You can see Harriet in the doorway.
|Frank's son, Leonard, my grandfather, who was born in 1894, was the postmaster there after Frank died in 1928 until 1949, when he died. Leonard and his wife, Elsie, lived above the PO with their three children. Leonard and his brother Vernon served in the First World War. Leonard came back minus an arm, but both returned to their loved ones thank fully. I have a letter written by Leonard to his mother on 15th September 1917 from Belgium saying that he was 'going over the top tomorrow morning' and telling her not to grieve for him. Amazing!
|At some point, the PO moved to number 35 - this is the more recent picture with VR Curtis advertising his skills on the top of the building. After Leonard's death, my father, Ronald Curtis, ran the PO for a year or so, then my aunt, Sylvia Curtis, ran it until the 70s.
Hope you find this interesting.