4 Dec 2012

The 70's


Growing up in the 70's

Does anyone remember Mayder's the confectioner in King Street? We were spoiled to have three sweetshops on one block. Mayder's was the posh one next to the Hobby Horse that weighed out sweets from a jar. It only sold loose sweets as far as I can recall or big boxes of chocolates. In the middle of the block was a tobacconist that had a bigger range of penny sweets and it stocked all the comics; Beezer, Bunty, 2000 AD and all the part-works you could buy that was our internet in them days. Lastly, near the Renault garage was a rough hewn newsagent that did some sweets but a bigger range of tobacco. I guess they'd worked out their market segments between themselves. One by one they went. I'm surprised that Harry Nash is still there though. Anyway I digress, I just remember Tanya and I seeing the adverts on the telly for the new Curly Wurly - during an episode of Scooby Doo probably - and so, lemming like, we just had to get one on our way to Flora Gardens School, to which we walked to along King Street and through Ravenscourt Park. I recall thinking afterwards what a rip-off. A Curly-Wurly cost the same as a Fruit and Nut but it had much less chocolate. Tanya had a sweet tooth but it always annoyed me she had much more self control. In the middle of the week when pocket money was still a few days away she always still had some sweets whereas I'd consumed or spent my lot by Monday.

Skateboarding took off in England around 1977 with the Kensington Broadwalk being popular with American kids from the diplomat and business ex-pat fraternity however Tanya went to visit relatives in Canada in the summer of 1976 and brought back an early fibreglass board (when all you could buy here was the pathetic Grentec) and we went for our first attempt to ride it to Parliament Hill Fields. Tanya disappeared down the hill and after gathering a frighteningly rapid speed, she began fishtailing and spectacularly wiped out. We took her to the playground supervisor's hut for first aid. She bore the scars of her 'road rash' for years with pride as one of the first people in London to ride a skateboard. We soon discovered the Broadwalk which wasn't as steep and some pads and a helmet were purchased at Alpine Sports which had started selling skateboards. I later got a job there but that's another story.

Playplax was invented in 1966 so it probably hit the market by the 1970's. I recall we had a set and wore it out. It disappeared from toyshops for a while until some people, no doubt like me, wondered what became of it and found the dies and resumed production. It's now available from the V&A gift shop doncha know?

Tanya got a Moulton Mini for one Christmas. A red one naturally. I found it hidden in the cellar but I kept the secret as I figured this Santa fellow didn't call on snitches. I had got a blue one for my birthday earlier. This was her first bike that wasn't one of my hand-me-downs. Tanya's was nicked (careless or too trusting I guess) but we got it back from the police. It was nicked again, lock cut from the railings. Guess people thought then it was going to be a classic.

Biba: what can you say that hasn't been said? Just a 27 bus ride away was this fantastic magical emporium you could wander around in, meet your mates, we never bought anything though, far too  expensive. I bought myself on sale a pair of Oxford bags, they fell apart in a few washes. Our mum was fond of Art Deco and brown velvet, it was the 70's after all, and it felt as if everything in the sitting room was from Biba's, though it was only really noticeable after the closing down sale as my mum went up there and bought boxes of stuff sight unseen. We ate tins and tins of Biba Baked Beans for ages I recall.

That reminds me, the 27 bus. What a useful route that was to our family. To go swimming or ice skating in Richmond you would take the 27. To see friends in Chiswick; the 27. To go to school, shopping in King Street, High Street Ken or Notting Hill Gate; the 27. The dentist in Earls' Court: 27. To go to football at Arsenal or go to family in Archway: the 27. The original route was from Hounslow to Muswell Hill. When we were very young our father lived not in heaven but in Kentish Town and sometimes Tanya and I, when only five or six years old, would be put on the lower deck of the 27 by our dad and the bus conductor would remind us to get off at the Commodore. From there it was a short walk the same way were allowed to go to the sweetshops to our home. Is it any coincidence I married a girl from Muswell Hill who I met when I was 27?

Which leads to the Commodore. We used to play tennis against the back wall. I practically cried when it was torn down in 1981. My friends from the neighbourhood and I went up to the balcony when the screen end had been demolished and we held a wake while a bonfire burned in the stalls. The foundation stone was laid (like almost everyone in Hollywood) by Tallulah Bankhead. That stone used to sit in the wall just around the corner in St Peter's Square. There was also a horse trough beside it. They redeveloped it into a boring office building called Quantas House, philistines those Australians. Can't see why they couldn't have preserved the frontage. I've learned since that John Christie, the serial killer, worked there as the doorman in the 1930's. Ah, it's gone dark. Best stop here - Nat.

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