Thursday, 24 November 2011

Lost Jersey

How many places in Jersey can you remember that have vanished, disappeared like smoke? Here are memories of a few shops and tourist sites.

One of the first shops I remember disappearing is the old Noel and Porter building, a general department store, which was knocked down. I can still recall a picture of the semi-destroyed building with the JEP caption "Little now remains of the site of the Noel and Porter building...". I remember that mainly because in those days I kept a scrap book of press cuttings, which had this one, and waves breaking over the pier at St Brelade's Bay on a stormy night. Sadly, I've lost the scrapbook, but the memory is still there.

Second hand bookshops have been vanishing steadily. Now there are lots of charity shops with book sections, but those only have the same kind of books, for variety, there is only the Guide Dogs for the Blind's Charity sale once a year.

I used to go to Thesaurus, originally in Sand Street, and then later in Burrard Street. I could browse three stories of books, with book cases even on stairs between levels. Most of my G.K. Chesterton collection came from that shop, as well as some very strange old books. Mr and Mrs Creaton looked after it, until his death, and the air was often thick with smoke; something you wouldn't find nowadays! There would also be the paperbacks, and I once had an almost complete collection of the Pan Books of Horror stories, compiled by Herbert van Thal, and Ghost Stories compiled by Cynthia Asquith.  I also remember posters for Jennifer Bridges in the window, when she was try to get elected; she had very long hair back then. The shop interior also featured briefly in one episode of Bergerac.

Hillgrove Books, where Mr Pipon was in charge,  had a second hand section, and old and new Jersey books. I got a copy of Balleine' Biographical Dictionary from there, and also the Cartulaire of Jersey, a bound volume of all kinds of odd texts in French and Latin over Island history. Second hand Société Jersiaise Bulletins were also available,  and I found Philip Ahier's Jersey Sea Stories, Sidney Bisson's Jersey Our Island, to name a few.

Elsewhere James Street Books, almost opposite the Church, had mostly paperbacks, and was the JDM book shop. Sometimes Norman Le Brocq manned the desk, and people would come in and out for advice. I used to get mostly detective books and science fiction from there - Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Conan Doyle, John Dickson Carr, and John Wyndham, Robert Heinlein, Robert Sheckley, Isaac Asimov and others. I also found quite by chance a second hand copy of "Simple Simon" by Ann Lovell, a story of an autistic boy. I'd heard about it, because my eldest son is quite profoundly autistic, and I had been reading up on books. This was one listed in a list of books, and I went into James Street Books, and there it was in front of my eyes! Apart from Norman Le Brocq, who wasn't that chatty to me, Stella Perkins would sometimes be at the desk, and we'd chat about Jersey politics. There was a collecting tin for CentrePoint, and if I had loose change from a purchase, it would go in the tin.

The SPCK was in Waterloo Street, and had a very wide variety of religious books, more so that the Central Market. Where else could you get a copy of "The Myth of God Incarnate", as I did. Or John A.T. Robinson's "Redating the New Testament". In the second hand section, I got hold of M.R. James Apocryphal New Testament in the second hand section.

In those days, there was no online second hand book sales, and it was very difficult to get out of print books, or even in print ones that hadn't made it to Jersey. Some, however, were specific to Jersey. In the UK, you could not get Spycatcher, but Jura Books sold copies. That was not a second hand bookshop, just an ordinary - but very good - bookshop, but it's gone now, along with De Gruchy's book section, and The Printed Word at West's Centre.

Woolworths of course, was a good one stop shop for everything; I always enjoyed getting Christmas presents there. DVDs, CDs, children's toys, children's clothes, paint, bedside lamps, light bulbs, headphones, pillow cases, cushions, towels, duvet covers, sheets, plates, crockery, pots and pans, cards, calendars, gift wrap - the list is not endless, but certainly very long. At one time or another, I bought all those from Woolworths; the only thing I actually didn't buy was the pick-n-mix!

There were lots of Toy shops too. Not just the recently departed 101 Toys, but there was Brigg's Toy shop on King Street, and in the West at Quennevais was Panicos, described in adverts as "The Toy Mecca in the West" - now that would probably lead to militant Muslims burning teddy bears and mechano sets! Panicos was run by a couple who really couldn't stand children, if they were unattended by adults, and would hover round, looking as if they expected shoplifting by every youngster.

At Red Houses, there was Mr News, the paper shop, where the Constable of St Peter, Mr Le Brocq would sometimes serve behind the counter, a chip shop, and "Old Friend", a Chinese takeaway, although after several rather dodgy meals from there, we renamed it "Old Fiend" after having upset stomachs. Le Riches at Red Houses - as well as food - also had a large toy area, a cafe upstairs, a dentist, a hairdresser, a travel agent, and a large record area - selling LPs mainly in those days, but also a few cassettes, the incoming replacement for records. Or so we thought!

Houguez Poole in Colomberie was an old fashioned sweet shop, where you could get sweets by the quarter from large jars behind the counter. Lemon Sherbets, Pineapple Chunks. They also sold Gobstobbers, Acid Drops, Sherbet Fountains, and Spangles. My gran used to take me and my sister there on the odd weekends when we slept over at hers, and I probably have most of the fillings in my mouth thanks to that sweet shop!

On the tourist trail, I recall The Cobweb in St Brelade's Bay - afternoon tea with home made cakes. Their lemon meringue was scrummy. And there was the Strawberry Farm - glass blowing, leather workers, craft goods as well as strawberries. In St Mary, or was it St John, was the Butterfly Farm, with the owner pictured on the front of the leaflet, in a bow tie, giving a talk on butterflies. Sadly neither he nor the talks were listed on any notices when I went there; the food was cafeteria style, and edible enough, but nothing special. Unlike the Boardwalk Cafe in St Brelade's Bay where the Crab Shack is now, where the food was cafeteria style fast food, and pretty dreadful. Also in St Brelade's Bay was the Post Office - the shop and letterbox are still there - and a nearby shop called "The Gay Window" which hastily renamed itself "The Bay Window" in the 1970s. We saved up pocket money and bought a china desert service for my mum with a very nice pattern for one guinea!

Do you remember guineas? One guinea was one pound and one shilling, in the days before decimalisation, with twenty shillings to the point, and twelve pence to the shilling, half-a-crown which was two shillings and sixpence, a sixpenny piece, a three penny piece, a half-penny, and a ten shilling note (in Jersey anyway).

Then there were all the small newspaper stalls, almost sheds. There was one in St Mark's road which sold TV Comic which my grandfather bought for me - probably lots else but that's what I remember! TV Comic had a William Hartnell Dr Who comic strip, so was an obvious hit for me. And another stall was along Queen's Road near to and facing Mont A L'Abbe school, near my Aunt's house. Myself and my cousins would get the odd sweets from there. And newsagents included Downer in St Aubin, where Len Downer, once a Constable of St Brelade, could be found.

In town there was Stones the Chemist, opposite West's Cinema, where I could supplement my chemistry set with all kind of goodies - tubs of sulphur, potassium permanganate, copper sulphate, iron filings - health and safety would have a fit if 14 year olds could buy that now!

I remember taking my children, when young, for a walk around the Shire Horse Farm, where there were only a few horses to see close, but the odd time, a baby lamb, and lots and lots of bantams of all varieties, and I think rabbits in cages. A season ticket meant there was a place for an outing when you wanted to show the kids some animals close up. Next to it was the Bird Tree Tea Garden, a cafe doing afternoon tea, and light snacks, with lots of cage birds outside in large cages, and a sign that said "we are free", to emphasis the fact that the discerning tourist wanting to save money might go there instead. It's all gone, all houses now.
There was the old El Tico, not the Art Deco style modern place, but place where the windows rattled in Winter storms, the old beachside cafe, which had excellent food, often home made, at very reasonable prices, and an outside toilet. I once was part of a party looking into computerising Time Jewelers, and Eric Young, the millionaire owner, said he would treat us to a meal, which we thought meant a post restaurant - instead it was a simple jacket potato, with butter, and salad, with ham, sitting outside, in the sun, the tide full of spray, on a warm summer's day. Frugal perhaps - how else did he keep his millions - but understandable, it was a perfect place to relax and eat. Now it's massively expensive in comparison, and not a beach cafe any more; that casual tone has been lost. Do the surfer's still eat there, I wonder?
The Sabrina in St Brelade's Bay, which became the Zanzibar, and then closed for good, was somewhere that usually had pretty good food. I say that despite the fact that Constance Brown, in her 80th year, chocked to death on a piece of Beef Wellington at the St Brelade's Bay Association Christmas meal. As the Zanzibar, it thrived for a while under the chef Steve, and then was finally closed. Below it was a small shop selling beach art and craft stuff, now boarded up, and the boards themselves rotting away.
At L'Etacq was the Marina Cafe, where we used to go for egg and chips when our parents wanted to give us a treat. And after the meal itself was the sumptuous desert - a giant knickerbocker glory, which used to take the best part of 15 minutes to eat. I've never come across any as good as those. Later it was revamped to try and survive in a more upmarket environment, but then closed; now the site is just beach side houses, granite faced, and attractive, but not the same.
Albert Ramsbottom, the Fish and Chip Restaurant, was by Wesley Grove Chapel, and used to serve excellent food, with the exception of the bread and butter, which was bread coated thinly with butter, just piece piled on piece and sticking together like a slab of dough.

And of course, Fort Regent Swimming Pool, which I remember going round when it first opened, before anyone was actually swimming there, and the public could look over it. Was it Deputy Farley responsible for that? I remember swimming with different coloured wrist bands, and they'd announce one arm band had to leave the pool. It always had a very strong smell of chlorine. I took my first girlfriend, Julie Pallot, there, and afterwards we had a warm cup of coffee and a snack at the cafe overlooking the pool. My autistic son, Martin, also competed in the Swimarathon, and I still have a photo of him in the water with the school helpers from Mont A L'Abbe.

The Lions Club were involved there, and they also had once year a Donkey Derby at Springfield Stadium. I also remember going to the buildings there for an Ideal Homes Exhibition, in which myself and my friend John Hallam rather aggressively attacked the "gee-whiz" style graph showing the benefits of loft insulation having digested Darrell Huff's "How to Lie with Statistics" earlier and keen to put it into action. My grandfather also took us round the fruit and vegetable displays for the agricultural shows there, where different classes would receive prizes, and there was a wonderful aroma of fruit and vegetables from each table. He lived in a house in St Mark's Road, and could almost literally go from his back garden gate into Springfield, which was very handy for his post as Secretary of the RJH&S.

Along Havre des Pas was the Les Pas Hotel, part of the Seymour Group, where we used to go with my parents, and the Binnington family, and the Miles family (who were friends and used to perform in the Samares Players) for New Year's Eve. There would be a pretty dire cabaret - bad impressionists, singers who couldn't sing, and so on, but it was still fun, and there would be good food, in a buffet with sculptures from butter or ice on display as centre pieces. At the end of the evening, everyone would join in the conga, and I still associate that with New Year's Eve. It's flats now, their skyline dominated by the large heap of the incinerator, and most other beachside hotels in the area also demolished or due to be knocked down. Only the Havre des Pas Swimming Pool remains, a reminder of tourism past.

In Roseville Street, there was the Merton Guest House, not to be confused with the Merton Hotel, run by the Carpenter family, and their son, Bruno, was at school with me - I believe he went into the catering trade later. I was always envious of the way in which he got all the small toys from cereal packets, because, of course, the guests went through those much more speedily than me and my sister at home.

In Gloucester Street, there was the Chelsea Hotel. We used to go there for meals with the Binningtons, Betty and Bernard, and their son Alan and daughter Anne. It was also the venue for the election night, when Bernard was trying for Deputy and later Senator, and we would wait avidly for the results to come through. It was exciting, and the first close contact with anyone in the States of Jersey. In the Winter months it would close, and reopen briefly in January (gleaning some extra income for the family) for all the road tax department who took up residence there, with officials to deal with the annual road tax, and stamp the old log books accordingly. Road tax went, replaced with extra duty on petrol, and the Chelsea Hotel was sold off, and became Spectrum Apartments.

And from childhood, the Old Pavilion, the "Pav", later refurbished and rebranded as "The Inn on the Park", but in those days, a place for parties, and it was even visited by Rolf Harris. Where are the venues like that, and the other nightclubs like Caesar's Palace now? Bergerac's Jersey was written in the 1980s, when John Nettles remembered the BBC team going to many of those shows, and it is now a historical record of what they were like, in the glory days of tourism.

It's amazing what has vanished over the course of my lifetime that I can actually remember. It's sad too, and while I know that nothing is still, everything changes, there seems to have been greater variety in the past than today. Perhaps the pressures of economics have brought about a move towards less diversity, with older businesses being squeezed out of the market, or seizing opportunities to gain more profit from developers, but my Jersey, as I compare the present to past, does feel diminished as a result.


Nick Palmer said...

Your post was like the last episode of Dr Who - all time was happening at once.

I remember Laurens' shop because they had a mysterious cellar. I got a toy helicopter there which actually flew - it had a kind of egg beater hand set which was connected by a thin cable to the helicopter rotor. It was just about the best toy I ever had. I have now got one of the new radio controlled ones, because men never grow up.

Do you remember the name of the sweet shop on the corner of Broad street and New Cut, approximately where the Fast sandwich bar is now? My mum used to get us lemon sherbets and fudge there, round about 1962.

And another stall was along Queen's Road near to and facing Mont A L'Abbe school

This was "Mother Rowe's", as we used to call her. We used to buy penny chews from her and sell them to the neigbourhood kids for two pence each (!) in a stall in our garden shed. An Islander, who grew up to be of note, was suspected by us of half inching either the sweets or the profits - I can't now remember which...

Do the surfer's still eat there, I wonder?

Re El Tico: otto's daughter was notorious for her brusque manner - one of the surfers once asked her for "a cup of abuse and a slice of hurry-up pie, please". Nowadays, we'd get some boring PR business efficiency type telling the management that the customer was always right and must be treated with respect. This mindless marketing compliance has taken all the colour out of life.

Spencer Pryor said...

Ah, Panico's - they really didn't like children did they! I used to get my Airfix kits there and yes I was made to feel like a 13 year old criminal for being in there! Also at Quennevais Parade - the Copper Kettle which was like a fish out of water - didn't know whether it was a cafe or a posh restaurant. And the Robinson's fruit and veg shop where the health food shop is now, and Charles in his little basement shop around the back of the precinct selling dodgy CB radios..

And re Nick's comment - Otto's daughter? Was that the fabulous Poppy? Bringing back memories of a teenage crush there...

Mind you I'm sure the sun shone more then and the world was a happier place!

Anonymous said...

Re: The Old Pav - does anyone remember the old airline Christmas parties?

ginny inman said...

Lady Jayne records in queen street they used to be through the little arcade and downstairs and i think there was a toy shop there. now theres no walk through its just next.