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Going ‘downtown’ in South Shields

Crossing Ocean Road, in South Shields, in June 1964.
Crossing Ocean Road, in South Shields, in June 1964.

How and where we do our shopping has changed considerably over the years.

Back in the 1960s, South Shields, had it’s own “downtown” streets where you could shop in all sorts of stores, some large and some small, that sold pretty much everything your heart or home could want.

Playing football in the shadow  of the town hall.

Playing football in the shadow of the town hall.

Imagine what people in Ocean Road, seen here in our main photo, taken in June 1964, would make of internet shopping – they’d probably think of it as the stuff of science fiction books or films!

This retail revolution, along with other changes to the way we shop, may make life easier for us today, but how many readers would swap the convenience for the return of some of their favourite stores?

The Ocean Road photo, posted on Facebook recently, prompted many of you to recall the shops that still stir fond memories.

Agnes George took to social media to say: “I loved the souvenir shops, with all the inflatables and buckets and spades hanging outside. Postcards and candy rock, proper seaside town.” While Audrey Montgomery fondly remembers: “Maynard, opposite my mother-in-law’s and the little shops selling buckets and spades.”

Carole Smith recalled how she “would have been getting pushed along in my pram which was bought from a baby/toy shop that my mam worked at on the corner of Anderson street and Ocean Road”.

Kevin Howell said: “T&G Allan’s was good as a kid for toys. Maybe if you could drive up and down again, people would visit like the Nook etc.”

And Pauline Smith took to the Gazette’s Facebook page to say: “Goldmans was a great shop,” while Beverly Olds said she missed “most of them”.

Barry Feetham told how: “Woods was a good clothes shop for men,” with Yvonne Halton concurring, adding “Woods was a great shop”.

Going “downtown”, of course, harks back to the pop song of 1965, sung by Petula Clark.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the hit single, with its lyrics describing the place where: “The lights are much brighter there, You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, So go downtown,” certainly encapsulated the feeling of excitement you got, at that time, when shopping or socialising in the centre of towns such as Shields.

For with the Second World War still fresh in many folks’ memories, the attractions awaiting those visiting the likes of Ocean Road, King Street and Fowler Street, must have been in stark contrast to the black-outs and hardships of just a few years earlier (after all, food rationing only ended in 1954).

What are your memories of going “downtown” and the shops you would make a beeline for?

Which ones do you particularly miss?

Staying in the centre of Shields, our smaller photo captures a group of workmen having an impromptu kick-about near the town hall.

Taken in 1966, it too was posted online, along with the question: “How do you think the town has changed since that time?”

Keith Desborough commented: “Absolutely no comparison, back then everyone went to the town centre, these days what’s the point, it’s rubbish.”

Julieanne Besnard said the photo was taken during the same year she was born.

“It does look better days back then,” she said.

While Marc Scott pondered: “Bet you it wasn’t full of bookies and charity shops back then.”

Graham Scott said: “If this was today, everyone would be complaining and blaming the parents due to four unruly kids playing footy in the street.”