“This town ain't big enough for the both of us...and it ain't me who's gonna leave...”

This Whitley Bay Town Centre stuff won't perhaps be as exciting as some pages, I mean what did kids get up to in shops. Buy sweets. Loiter. Get asked to leave. What else to do.

Here's what......making rude words by rubbing letters off the chalky white writing on fruit and veg shop windows (the only one which I recall, so probably the only one, was shortening "tomatoes" to "toes" which was crap but we all thought it was hilarious). Pinching fridge boxes from the back yards of electrical shops for sliding down the grassy slopes onto the Prom. Smelly food fights with stuff found in the bins behind the VG.

PARK VIEW

From Marine Avenue traffic lights to St Paul's Church.

There were many bike and toy shops on this stretch and I spent many an hour in Jack Percy's (very nice man he was), an old-style toy shop with shallow wooden drawers bulging with soldiers, Brittains farm toys, Dinky catalogues, Airfix kits (and tiny pots of Humbrol enamel), and the most bike-tastic window display in all of Christendom — piles of stickers and Union Jack handlebar flags, parping horns and Pifco lamps, chequered tape, handlebar mirrors, handlegrips... There was nothing better on a Saturday (after Bagpuss and Swap Shop) than spending pocket money on something for the bike, then rushing back to the shed to fix it on and ride around the streets looking smug.

Punctures and worn brake blocks and stuff were always put right by Mr Alsop who had a bike repair shop on the corner opposite. I was in there almost every other week having my rear Chopper tyre replaced after skidding on gravel pretending to be The Sweeney. Our family were customers of Mr Alsop going right back to my granda who would travel all the way from Marden Estate to have his bike fixed rather than use the much closer Lavericks. I'm not sure at what point the business closed, us having moved away in early 1981; the still-recognisable shop now sells musical instruments.



That's the Wonder
of Woolies...


In a huge loss to the town centre, Woolworths has just closed for ever. In the '70s at Xmas I would marvel at their epic, tinselly telly ads. Usually starring Georgie Fame, you got 5 tinkly and twinkly minutes of Yardley, Black Magic, and the Ronco Buttoneer.

The store's biggest draw was the "pick 'n' mix" at which some kids (not me, coming from a nice family) would stuff the sleeves of their parkas in the pockets, then hide their hands inside and, from through the buttons, pinch sweets from the front of the display.

Once in 1974 my mate Jeppa's mum parked her pale green Cortina Mk. I outside Woolies and went in to get us some crisps (Tudor Hot Dog 'n' Mustard) and cans of pop to shut us up. So off she pops and, quicker than you could say "Gladstone Adams", we had the windscreen wipers on and were bouncing up and down on the seats, laughing and tooting the horn. Guess who got their legs slapped when she returned.
 
 
Kind of related to the cycling theme, there was a ladies' boutique called Penny Farthing (what a pity they didn't have white chalky writing on their windows for us to rub off...) which was named after — get this — an actual penny farthing which leant on the wall outside (good job it wasn't a purple Chopper).

Once every town worth its silt had a department store (with bits of black gaffer tape holding down the carpet) and Whitley Bay had Ryles, right on the corner where Park View goes round the bend. I can remember first being there in the late '60s. It was considered a rather classy, swanky establishment back then, two floors of leather goods and boxes of tartan hankies sold by salmon faces doused in Tweed. Silk headscarves, that sort of thing, and silver clothes brushes for sweeping the dandruff from the shoulders of velvet jackets. Posh Hedley Youngs, which I kind of remember, boasted an upstairs café with leaded windows and waitresses in black and white uniforms, till it fell from grace to become Thoms (now £stretcher).

Of the only other shops I could ever be tooled with were MacFarlanes just for that lovely rich woollen pong from the rolls of new carpet, DJ Records with its trendier upstairs bit of picture sleeves and coloured vinyl, Tom S. Ford, a china shop on the corner where my Aunty Ella worked, and Wilson's Sports (no relation, which I think morphed into Jack Percy's).

THE BUS STATION

Off with its head to make space for the current faceless shopping mall.

The old Bus Station was not unlike a little microcosmic town in itself; it had a few shops attached (Carricks/Crawfords the bakers, Young Blades where my sister Julie worked and got me free T-shirts with transfers on, a travel shop, a tobacconists), its own nightclub (The Sands I was too young to be allowed in so that's all it gets — looks like I was missing out on quite a scene, judging by that groovy ad below right, those guys are giving it loads), and topping it all off was the smokiest poohole of a bus waiting room, always full on rainy days, the windows steamed up, dripping wet folks with shopping bags, either chain smoking or stuffing down Crawfords "meat" squares and cheese 'n' onion crisps.

Anyone fancying a quick widdle before the red United for West Monkseaton pulled in, the public 'Gentlemen's Cloakroom' could only be accessed by crossing the furious feathers-flying pigeon-squish of buses tearing round the station. Then, having made it safely inside, you were smacked in the gob by the weapons-grade odour of Life Guard and a 2p charge for the sort of trap in which you might catch Peter Wyngarde standing with a lorry driver. And only two or three dangling damp sheets of slidey Izal (an industrial "anal cleansing film", usually found in the toilets of factories and other places where you were not encouraged to sit all day reading the Chronicle) left over to make yourself presentable, as eager draws on cigarettes, phlegm-rattling coughs, trouser-trumpets and various other unexplained sounds from the adjoining cubicles — heard only hitherto in Victorian hospitals — echoed around the ochre porcelain.

THE POST OFFICE

A lovely old building with a lovely old wood-panelled interior. Got pulled down with the Bus Station. There was a bustling rush in the goods yard around the back, with the red Morris Minor "Post Office" and the yellow "Post Office Telephones" vans. Morris Minors were surely insisted upon en masse by a person of good humour because of that distinctive "farty" noise they made when changing gear.

No pics of the Post Office itself yet but here is a good one of various vehicles that were used at the time. Well this takes me back — vans in those days almost had cheeky little Tootles The Taxi faces. There was also a related yard at the bottom of Norham Road (the Telephone Exchange, with the heavy wooden gates) where the yellow P.O. vans would slip into their pyjamas and go to sleep.

WHITLEY ROAD

From St Paul's Church to who gives a knacker.

"It's all at the Co-Op...NOW!" Well not as we knew it, moved from its attractive corner site opposite the church to where Liptons was (opposite the no-longer-there-neither Bus Station). Co-Ops were always in nice 'Quakery' buildings. There was another Liptons further along Whitley Road with a very busy sausage-beans-and-chips type of restaurant upstairs, but now it's a health-supplement store for those men who walk around scowling with imaginary rolls of carpet under their arms.

There was nowt worse than having a mam and three older sisters when forced to go along when they were shopping for clothes. I'll not stir up any more childhood bitterness towards girls' fashions of the time, so for Topaz and Book's Fashions you can add your own memories. I'm off... (Though there was a lady who worked in Topaz who I used to fancy called Rosemary, but I was only 4 years old so fat chance there.)

T&G Allan not only had a classic toy department on the first floor (near the spiral staircase) where we bought catapults and jokey things like horns with a suction pad to stick on your forehead and snappy gum, but also a very hip 'in-the-groove' record department in the basement. T&G Allan would have gotten a monster plug here for never having lost it's charm, warm staff, and comfort zone-ness right up to the present. But tragically for our town, after over 150 years of wonderment, T&G Allan has ceased trading.

All I can remember about the rest of Whitley Road was a surfing/diving shop where we bought skateboard things (opposite the clinic) and a brill model shop further down (and I'm sure that same shop used to sell terrapins).

OTHER FLOTSAM and JETSAM

My granda told me way back then of a bloke who lived in Embleton or somewhere far up the Coast who would actually cycle down to Whitley Bay just to get his fish and chips from the Arcade (the world's bestest chippy)! We would often gather up the discarded empty pop bottles from the late-summer-afternoon Links and with the return money from the shop opposite the Berkeley Tavern we'd each have enough to buy hamburger and chips and a can of dandelion and burdock from Torres next door (quite a selection of chippies back then).

I had a bit of a childhood obsession with cars (see Motorshow section on Links & Beach page) and some of us would cycle round the garages collecting brochures for an imaginary school project (otherwise you were told to go away). Look at some of these great names — there was Colebrook & Burgess (VW, Audi, NSU, Volvo) where Morrisons is now; Wingrove (Citroen) which is now a carpet shop; Minories (Hillman, Humber, Simca) at Preston Grange; Taylors (Vauxhall, Bedford) opposite the Spanish City and at West Monkseaton; R. Wilson (Austin, Morris, Wolseley, MG) on Cauldwell Lane; Foxhunters Garage (Triumph, Rover, Land Rover); Oxford Street Garage (Skoda); Davidsons (Ford) at the bottom of Whitley Road; a Datsun garage (another Minories?) at Whitley Lodge; and Renault at Shiremoor (can't remember the name, Brown's or something). As part of the car fixation I suppose, I could also often be seen skulking shiftily about on Saturdays in the Chris Dawson shop (now a tanning studio) on Station Road, fancying I looked a potential Roger Clarke in my 'rally jacket' with a Castrol GTX patch sewn on.

Opposite Dawson's was Rickards the estate agent. My mam worked there as a secretary for a few years in the mid-'70s and, as spooks would have it, this website is coming to you from the very same office premises (though no longer Rickards). Prior to this, she worked for a company called Burton Coin Machines (owned by the pervasive Harry Swaddle, the man at the helm of many other Whitley Bay 'thrill quadrants' including the Coliseum) on Victoria Terrace, which is now a council office. This was essentially a small team of repair men with 'walkie-talkies' who drove around the amusement arcades fixing the machines. During school holidays I would sometimes go along for the ride, or just hang around in their workshop playing pinball all day, with 'Seasons In The Sun' never off the radio.

And this is where it starts to get boring (if it hasn't already). That's all I can be arsed to recall. There are a lot of stores and businesses that still remain from three decades ago, but give that lot a mention and it starts amounting to free advertising. (We need money first.)

















































Footnote #5 — Don't want this page to be just a list of shops, though I might as well give a mention to some friends of my parents at that time, Jean who ran Victoria Wine on Park View, and Cilla who ran the "Two-Sixty-Six" Clothesline boutique, still there on Whitley Road. Our families used to all go and stay at a hostel up in Belford called Windy Gyles. When the parents went out to get pissed and have a dance at the community hall, me and Clin would get up to lush stuff like sneak down to the kitchen area and steal people's food, put drawing pins in folks' beds, and remove the wooden slats on the communal bunks like on The Great Escape. Poor Clin once got a bollocking off some parents for telling their kid to, and I quote, "Shut your cakehole!" Fortunately Clin's social skills have since taken an upward curve.