The corner shops sold everything

Customers in a shop corner.
Customers in a shop corner.

Today Olive Pinkney continues her fascinating look-back at corner shops here in Shields.

She starts with a mooch inside “the shop Mam went to the most” – Elsie Dixon’s general dealers, which was on the corner of Napier Street and Lord Nelson Street, at Tyne Dock.

“The shop itself, was quite small, with sacks of potatoes on one side and a big stand of boxes containing loose biscuits at the other,” explains Olive.

“Each box had a glass lid, which meant you could see inside. But the broken biscuit tin was the favourite as they were so cheap.

“You bought them by the pound, and if you were lucky you might even get a few whole ones, or better still, chocolate ones.

“The sacks of potatoes stood up against a wooden partition with a set of weighing scales next to them.”

Olive said there was a high white cupboard in the shop which she believes may have been a fridge.

“The assistants would come in and out with sides of bacon and cold meats to be cut on the slicer.

“Behind the counter was a long marble shelf where the cheese and butter stood. They were cut up when you bought them; the cheese being cut with the aid of a wire cutter.

“When cut, they would be wrapped, like a parcel, in greaseproof paper.

“I thought the shop assistants were really clever being able to cut the exact amount you asked for. “The sugar came next. After it was weighed from a big bag, it would be poured into little blue one-pound bags, all neatly folded down.”

Above the shelf were long wooden shelves, climbing high to the ceiling, and stacked with rows of food tins and jars.

“The sweet jars stood on a shelf above the window, and were displayed alongside any home-made toffee.

“Elsie’s wasn’t a fruit shop, as such, but she still sold vegetables, cooking apples, and rhubarb when in season.

“I remember Mam buying bilberries, which were in a basket on the counter. She made a pie with them, and after I had eaten some, my mouth was purple.

“The shop interior was dark, the only light coming from one bare light bulb, which had a twist of fly paper hanging from it to catch the never ending buzz of bluebottles which flew in and out of the shop.”

As most people alive at that time will remember, food was in short supply, even long after the war had ended, with some things still on ration.

Even so, says Olive, there was plenty of variety.

“Elsie was an agent for Vaux Breweries, selling beer and stout, and whatever was available.

“The licensing hours were 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm.

“Cigarettes were sold in packets or loose in one or twos. Woodbines were the most popular then, and the cheapest.

“Tiny scales weighed pipe tobacco and snuff. You could tell the people who used snuff, as a little shadow of brown snuff stained their skin just under their nose!

“My mam was a regular at Elsie’s, apart from when she went to the Fad (Boldon Lane) or Frederick Street.

“I don’t know if Elsie opened up anywhere else when they demolished her shop along with the houses.”

Next door to Elsie’s, on Lord Nelson Street, was Hall’s shoe repair shop.

Another shop Olive recalls is Christenson’s, a general dealers, opposite Elsie’s shop.

Meanwhile, Kedgley’s fish and chip shop stood opposite Elsie’s on the corner of Napier Street.

“It was run by Mr and Mrs Kedgley who lived above the shop.

“He was the fryer and she served.

“It opened every night, except Sundays and twice a week at dinner times, on a Friday and Saturday. “They only sold fish, fishcakes and chips.

“Fish and chips were a cheap meal in those days. “There was another chippy in Bede Street, next door to the pawn shop.

“At night time, when I was sent to the chip shop, as soon as I got near, the smell of fish and chips frying in the beef dripping could only be described as ‘heaven in a newspaper.’”

l Next time: Venturing into an Aladdin’s Cave and shying away from seeing rabbits being skinned.