I’m sat in a hotel room in a rainy Manchester writing this week’s piece.
It’s nice to get away for a short break, usually in my case for music but it is always good to come back home.
So to awkwardly quote a Clifford T. Ward song or earlier poem written by Robert Browning here’s some ‘Home thoughts from abroad’.
The first record I ever bought for myself was in 1964, not a Beatles, Kinks or Stones track but Petula Clark’s ‘Downtown’.
I would appreciate any feedback or memories you may have via the usual channels because I’m sure I will miss some that you can remind me of.
As a young person I clearly remember buying a fishing line but can’t remember if it was in Peggy’s Lounge or in Frenchies.
Afterwards I would wander down to the quayside or pier and land crabs with claws outstretched waiting to be returned.
Peggy’s Lounge worked with Manx Radio’s ‘Kiddies Club’ offering competition prizes.
Big glass windows displayed every toy you could ever want.
For many young people the various arcades occupied probably too much of their time. The sound of coins dropping into trays and men looking after the arcades with lots of keys to maintain the machines remain clear in my mind.
Places such as Funland, Leisure Inn, Crescent Leisure Centre, Ideal Amusements, Barry Noble’s Sun Valley Amusements and of course while not in Douglas town centre, in Onchan the White City.
Another attraction for young people was Woolworths with the display of ‘pic and mix’ sweet. Hands up, did a sweetie ever accidentally find its way in to your mouth before you reached the till?
They also had a great record counter and were the first to come up with K Tel records of original artists which were so much better than the previous ‘Top of the Pops’ LPs by studio artists.
How about other record shops? Who remembers Kelly’s records, Jim Mitchell’s Music Box, Hinton’s, Boots with the facility upstairs to actually listen to records before buying them and later the legendary Shocks with really knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff?
Moochers had a record stall in our original premise in Wellington Street which specialised in American imports of indie, country and western, jazz and classical plus ‘one off’ specials.
It’s really good that Wellington Street today once again hosts a special record store with the resurgence of vinyl and collectible titles from yesteryear in Sound Records.
A real treat was going to the pictures and in Douglas alone there were a number of cinemas.
The Royalty in Walpole Avenue, The Regal in Victoria Street, The Strand and Picture House in Strand Street and Crescent on the Promenade.
The Gaiety Theatre also showed films all day during TT week with traditional favourites such as George Formby in ‘No Limit’, and American films such as ‘On Any Sunday’ and ‘Easy Rider’ with its soundtrack including the Steppenwolf rock classic ‘Born to be wild’.
As youngsters many of us would go to the pictures for the matinee on a Saturday afternoon and before the show there would be a number of trailers and adverts.
Who remembers the incorrect pronunciation of Bridson and Horrox?
I also recall prior to bonfire night some naughty boys would sneak some bangers in and set them off during the show.
Mr Killip would quickly eject the culprits or they would escape via the toilets.
The famous police treats, recently re-established also included a matinee performance.
Later there was a period where late-night movies were shown usually of the hammer horror variety if my memory serves me well.
Who remembers the X-ray machine in Kermode and Bignell operated by the Lightbody family where your feet would be checked for the best fitting for your new school shoes, usually Clark’s.
Other shoe shops included Trueform, Saxone, Stead and Simpson, Freeman Hardy Willis etc.
Around the corner on Well Road Hill was Courtie’s Pram Shop operated by Edna Crellin, with special Silver Cross prams which could be paid for weekly.
Opposite Vera Martin operated a very successful cafe.
Around the corner was the original base for Dial a Cab.
In back Strand Street among others the Ingles family operated an engraving and trophy business.
Just in to Strand Street was Fred Bridson’s outfitters, remember the slogan: ‘If you want to get ahead get a hat!’ With three caps of various sizes displayed outside.
Remember Crafts? Where many got their ears pierced and another memorable slogan displayed outside ‘ears pierced while you wait’.
How about Percy Dawson’s children’s shop which specialised in the Ladybird range later available in Woolies.
There were a number of clothing retailers dotted around the town from fashion boutiques to everyday wear.
You could obtain the latest crushed velvet garments, bell bottoms, Ben Sherman’s, polo necked cardigans, Afghan coats and that was just the men. Remember Jimmy Berry in Paraphernalia, Thing A Ma Jig, Mic Mac Boutique, Esquires, Ray Terret’s Ugly Bug Boutique - there’s got to be more? Remind me.
In the original Moochers there were a number of pitch concessions with the likes of Frank Magee’s ‘Sergeant Swags’ army surplus, while Paul Laughier was at the rear of the shop glass-blowing galleons, animals and the like.
I’m reminded that there were other glass blowers in other locations such as Castle Street one of whom was Roy Saxon.
Graham Bayliss and Bob Urwin were among those who operated the cafe at the rear of Moochers.
I took over the sweet shop at the front of the store where we would display sweets in cellophane fronted bags that I weighed up at home.
I called the shop ‘Sweetie Savers’ and the original proprietor,Bill used the slogan ‘We don’t sell cheap sweets we sell sweets cheap’.
Next door was Peter Locke’s Pot Black Snooker Centre.
Opposite was the Theatre Royal which I’ve written about here before with Ethel Groome, the landlady.
Basil Callow had an antiques shop just further up the street and Mark’s Cafe was next door to the snooker hall which had another life as AllSorts Disco and Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks which moved to the Crescent Leisure Centre.
Further down the street adjacent to Duke Street where Marks & Spencer is located was a prominent kitchenware, catering and household business Irvings and when that closed OK Bazaar again with a number of concessions was established. Jimmy and Heather Gould, David and Linda Overfield, Dougie Morton and others all of whom had operated on the outside markets at the same time as myself became established and provided a range of affordable goods.
Next time I am going to have a further look around downtown looking at some of the pubs, cafes, restaurants and other businesses fondly remembered.