Saturday, 3 August 2019

The Saturday List #226 - 10 long gone Mill Hill companies of note - A guest list by Richard Wilkinson

As Roger is away in Malta for a week, I suggested I could help him out in his blogging duties by compiling one of his beloved Saturday list for him. I thought I'd put together a list of a few well loved Mill Hill businesses which have departed our town and why I miss them.

1. Pestons Groceries - Hale Lane. Pestons used to be the only shop that opened after 5pm in Mill Hill. If you needed a bag of sugar, teabags, a loaf of bread or a pack of ciggies, Pestons was the only place to go. Locals lovingly referred to it as "The Nutty Man's shop" as the owner would serenade you and tell rather bad jokes. He also sold beers and as the licensing laws forbade sale at certain times, would deliver them to you, which wasn't banned. But only if you told him to deliver them to the flowerbed outside the shop.

He sold up the week after Budgens announced they were opening until 9pm.

2. H.A. Blunt and Sons - Mill Hill Broadway. AKA The Model shop. It was a paradise for young boys in the 1950's and 60's. The shop supplied Hornby train sets, Airfix and Revell models, various gliders made of balsa wood and Humbrol enamel paint. Later on they did radio controlled planes and cars. The shop also sold magazines for enthusiasts about trains and planes. It was run by two brothers, who seemingly knew everything about everything when it came to models. They were based on the small parade under Clarence House by Mill Hill Circus. I suspect the shop was responsible for a generation of engineers in Mill Hill, fascinated by the the mechanis of train sets and aerodynamics.

3. Callis bike shop. When we grew out of train sets and balsa wood gliders, we got into bicycles. Callis was a ramshackle shop on the site of what is now Budgens. In the late 1950's/early 1960's boys would buy a basic bike and then slowly upgrade them, improving the brakes, adding gears, perhaps doing a snazzy paint job. I suspect that he was kept in business selling me puncture repair kits. I had one inner tube with 14 different repairs. These days, we just buy a new tube and be done with it! As much as he loved selling you his wares, he always had time for a chat and like many engineers, was keen to pass on his skills and advice. I see the modern day cyclists in their lycra with their £1,000 carbon fibre bikes and wonder what old Callis would make of it all. He'd love the engineering integrity of the new machines, but I'm not sure he'd be so keen on the snazzy lycra. He was very much a bicycle clips sort of chap.

4. The Pet shop at The Green Man. I'm sorry to say I can't recall the name of this. Please leave a comment if you can. I was never allowed to keep pets, but we loved fishing and this was the place I bought my first floats, fishing line and maggots. I had acquired a fishing rod at a local jumble sale, one of the old bamboo style efforts, with a cork handle and rubber bung on the end. It came with a Hardy reel, which I soon found out was a fly fishing model. I traded this for a more suitable coarse fishing model, having restored it to working order. I recently saw a similar model on sale for nearly £200. I think I didn't get the best of that deal!

5. Mac Fisheries - The Broadway. This is where Mani and Nicks are now based. As a keen fisherman, this shop always intrigued me. The Broadway in the late 50's and early 60's had three butchers and a fishmonger. The butchers would have various game birds, pigs trotters, tripe and all manner of delicacies in the window. Mac fisheries would have a tub of live eels and crabs that would occasionally move. For those of us who had journeyed as far as Stanmore Common ponds on our bikes, these aquatic lifeforms seemed impossibly glamorous. It is strange how, these days people are almost disgusted by the notion that their food had ever been alive.

6. Acceleration. At some point around 1970, Acceleration opened its doors. For those of us who'd dumped the bike and moved on to cars, this what quite something. Around that time I'd managed to procure an almost new Ford Escort ( a mere 3 years old). Acceleration sold extras such as steering wheel covers, spray paints, oil and all manner of other gadgets for the car buff. It had a  snazzy mustard yellow chequered sign, with a steering wheel. In those halcyon days, a good motor was an extension of your libido and for a few years they did a roaring business as people had money in their pockets. As the 70's turned into a decade of recession and shortages, we spent less on our cars and more filling them up. I think they finally packed up in the mid 1980's but I'd long since stopped buying seat covers and driving gloves.

7. Granada TV Rentals. I'd rented a flat, I had a bit of cash to spare and I wanted a TV, not just any TV, but a colour TV. I couldn't afford to buy one, but Granada rentals allowed me to rent. It was a good deal as they would repair it if it broke down. Once a month I'd trudge down to the Broadway to rent. I finally stopped renting from them in the mid 1990's, buying always seemed an extravagance. I think they closed in the Broadway in the late 1990's.

8. Perry's wine Merchants. This was based where Boots opticians now is located. I owe them a debt of gratitude. I'd rented my own flat, I had a car, a TV and I had met a lovely girl, a bit posher than me. I wanted to impress her and tempt her to visit my flat. As I couldn't cook, I thought the offer of fish and chips from the King Neptune at the Green Man and a bottle of wine might do the trick. The only trouble was, I didn't know anything about which wine to buy. Luckily, the guys in Perrys were more than helpful. They suggested a white, maybe Liebfraumilch or Blue Nun. I asked if these wines  were any good, as I wanted to make a good impression. They suggested that if I wanted to spend a few pennies more, maybe an Italian Frascati. Whilst my tastes have developed, a fish and chip dinner from King Neptune and a bottle of Frascati is still a guilty pleasure for us. These days we buy our wines from Mill Hill Wines, but I've not seen a bottle of blue nun in there for a few years!

9. Budgens. Am I the only Mill Hillian who misses Budgens? Much as I love Marks and Spencers, Budgens was a shop where you could seemingly get anything. They had a deli counter, where you could get thick cut ham. They sold many different brands of teas and tinned fruit. The staff were always friendly and most were old school Mill Hill. When Marks opened it seemed that my weekly shopping bill doubled. Not only that but you couldn't buy PG Tips or tins of custard in the Broadway for a while. Thankfully they now sell various brands and delicious tubs of custard. For a while, we used to shop at Sainsburys in Edgware, as that was the only place you could get everything you need.

10. Barry Edgars plant shop. On the site of where El Vaquero now stands. This was the place to buy your bedding plants and peat in Mill Hill. The family were locals and you could tell their house in Woodcroft Avenue as it had the finest bedding plants in the front garden in Mill Hill. Our garden has many fruit trees bought from Barry still filling our bowls with apples and pears. When they closed down, we moved our trade another fine Mill Hill institution, Finchley Nurseries. Phil and the team have celebrated their 90th birthday as a business this week.
Many thanks to Richard for his list. If you've got a Saturday list or a guest blog, please sent it in.


Glyn Burns said...

I think the pet shop at the Green Man was called Champions.

ArkAngel said...

I've been reflecting a bit on that pet shop and The Green Man myself - this post may spark some further memories

Rog T said...

Thanks ArkAngel - great stuff

Unknown said...

In the 1960s my sisters and I used to bicycle on boring Saturday afternoons from our home in Millway to this petshop, because in the window were tortoises for sale at what now seem ludicrously cheap prices. If we pooled our pocket money,, we could afford one and we cycled home in triumph!