Broadway Radio

Memories of my days in Laindon

By Roy Langrish

My thanks to Eric, Gloria, Richard and Nina for their replies, to my first note. They have evoked many memories.

Photo:Broadway Radio

Broadway Radio

Roy Langrish

To Eric Pasco: No, I didn’t realise you were married to Sue Hewett, but perhaps I should have done. Your name was familiar to me - but it took my sister Christine (Chris) to place you as having married into the Hewitt family. We appear to have lost touch with them, and they with us, so perhaps it is time to say hello once again? (I’ve asked the Editor if he will kindly forward my email address to you.)  Chris still lives in the Gosnells/Armadale area (in fact, in Martin) while I am now in Gosnells (at the Thornlie end) - but enough of this because it will mean nothing to those not familiar with Perth and its suburbs.

When we arrived in Laindon in 1951 (and yes, Nina, we did buy our shop from the Willis family) the shop next to us (which became The Variety Stores but may then have had a different name) was the same internal size as our own.  That’s to say, the actual shop took up the front third to one half of the ground floor, the rest being either storerooms and/or family living accommodation.

As I think I said before, the Darroch family arrived some time after us (at a guess, in about 1953-54?) but soon started turning their small shop into the emporium it eventually became. First, they opened up the rear of the ground floor and later installed a new internal staircase for customers to access the top floor. By the time we left in 1963, I think most of their shop was actual shop, with just a small storage area at the back of the top floor. They also had an exterior staircase installed in their back yard, I assume for fire safety reasons. They were able to do all that because, only a few years after they arrived in Laindon, they bought a modern house in Billericay and then lived there, so their shop (unlike ours) was from then on just a commercial premises. Does anyone know how long the Darrochs continued trading at that shop after we left Laindon in March 1963?

My parents sold our shop/property to the Basildon Development Corporation, as I think most Laindon traders were doing, or thinking of doing, at that time. In fact, if it hasn’t already been written, there’s a whole story to be told there by someone about the commercial effect the opening of the Basildon New Town (and it’s London-based discount stores/traders) had on nearby village shops and businesses. I guess Laindon was just one of those “villages”, and ours but one of those businesses.

Looking back now, I can see and appreciate what I didn’t understand then, being only 17 in 1963. In the 12 years we lived in Laindon (1951-63) the mid-late 1950s was a time of rapid business expansion and (for our business and family at least) small scale prosperity, assisted by the end of wartime rationing and the rapid roll-out of TV - plus the amazing (for new TV sales) boost of the Coronation in 1953. That was followed in the early 1960s by a business decline (in “old” Laindon) that was as rapid as was the rise in the 1950s.

On quite a different note, Richard (and maybe Nina) will perhaps know about the chap who used to stand at the corner of Nicol Road and High Road almost every weekday evening, from memory between about 5 pm and around 8 pm. Especially in winter, my parents would often invite him over to the shop to offer him biscuits and a cup of tea. Only some years later (and I don’t know where this info came from, but it was probably my parents) was I told he was a bookie and that he was there each evening to take bets, in what was apparently an illegal activity at that time (the form of betting?). I have no idea of this man’s name but he may be known to anyone who was living nearby in the fifties…

Nina’s comment about the Broadway Radio Service charging accumulators also took me back to the rear of our shop, where the sheds at the back of our small yard were dominated by the large charging machine(s) to which the various accumulator batteries were linked for overnight charging. There were also some pretty foul-smelling and nasty chemicals (including hydrochloric acid, I think) stored and used by us as part of the charging process, before accumulators went out of style, initially to be replaced by very large and heavy batteries. I can still remember that early (so-called “portable”!) radios had both a high and low voltage battery, with some of them as high as 120 volts DC - which I know from experience can give you quite a jolt if you happened to put your fingers or hands across one. One of my jobs when serving customers was to test the voltage on their old batteries to see if they needed a new one. If you weren’t careful with the test leads you could get quite a jump from the connection - assuming the battery still had some kick! The most popular brand of battery we sold was “Vidor” - with “Ever-Ready” a close second.

Photo:Albert (Alb) Langrish

Albert (Alb) Langrish

Roy Langrish

Having just had one installed at a friend’s place here in WA, I can also remember going out with my father when he installed new TV aerials (usually lashed around chimneys) during the heyday of the new TV era in the 1950s. Unlike him, I have no head for heights, but can still remember clearly how I used to stand on the ground and freak out as I watched him climb the ladder up the side of a two (and occasionally three) storied house, only to then see him throw a long and heavy “duck board” from his shoulder onto the roof. He would then push the duck board up to catch over the roof gable before clambering out around the eaves and up the duckboard until he could then walk or slide along the roof to the chimney stack. Once there, he would set about custom-making the lashing (and his lashings were extremely well made!) to fit each chimney - before asking me to climb the ladder with the newly assembled aerial (we call them “antennas” here in OZ). As you will see from the above photograph, my father was not of a very athletic build - but that detail never stopped him from accessing a high and/or steep roof as if he was born to the task! 

That moment when he finished making the chimney lashing was always the worst point of the exercise for me, because I had then to go to the top of the ladder - but with only one hand for me when personal comfort dictated that I needed both of them to hang on! Problem was, my other hand would be clutching the ungainly (though not heavy) new TV aerial, until I could hand it up to him as he sat on the sloping roof tiles -  often set on quite a steep angle.  I was always glad when he came down from the roof and the “aerial” bit of the installation was over. However, that was always preceded by me having to watch the new TV and call out to him (when the best picture was found) as he sat on the roof twisting the aerial one way or another to find the best reception.

By contrast, the bloke who installed the new antenna for my friend the other day just whipped a small calculator-like machine from his pocket and, moments later, the aerial (antenna) was perfectly aligned to the transmission mast! That’s progress for you!  And because most Australians still live in what you call “bungalows” (even though ours are usually much larger), he wasn’t even THAT far off the ground!

Another memory came from reading Gloria’s comment about her mother buying records from our shop. When we took over the business it was all 78 rpm records, plus frequent changing of the needles needed to play them (the needles were sold in tins of several hundred - and lasted no time at all!), while more than a few records would get chipped or broken even before they were sold. Then (mid 1950s?) we started selling “long playing” (33rpm) and “singles” (45rpm) in the new vinyl format - and they are probably the records most of us remember. The Beatles were only just getting started as we closed our business, so I missed the Swinging Sixties entirely, except here in OZ… With those vinyl records came new “sapphire” needles that lasted and (such a blessing!) auto-changing record mechanisms, so you could set up and play a pile of records without having constantly to attend to them. It seemed like “progress” then and it was - while only now can we see how it was all still a VERY long way from today’s iPods…

Gloria also mentioned the shop owner (who she thinks) told her off for playing under the bridge to King Edward Terrace. I think that would most likely have been the shoe shop owner – not least because my father would have looked a bit of a hypocrite telling off kids for doing that when his own son was (in the day!) one of the worst offenders… I can remember many happy play sessions down, in and around “the ditch” (as we called it) with the Darroch boys and others who lived nearby. Occasionally, we even used to walk through the ditch tunnel where it went under King Edward Road - but that involved a much longer “stoop” than simply going under the narrow bridge over the footpath onto King Edward Terrace – and King Edward Road almost defined the limit of our play area, in that direction anyway. In the early 1950s most of our play attention was centred in the bushes up Nicol Road and its cross streets (all unmade then), where many bush camps and dens were set up and later knocked down as part of the “cowboys and indians” games we used to play.

Coming back to the Willis family for a moment, I seem to recollect that they (or was it their children?) also came out to Perth to live, some years after us. As I recollect, when Sid Willis and his wife moved away from the shop they bought a house in St Nicholas Lane, near the primary school I later attended - which was still there and going strong in 2005. The Willis family who later moved to OZ were living at the first house in King Edward Terrace when we left the UK, and they had a daughter called Edna.

Does anyone also remember Mrs Hill, who lived in the very first house in King Edward Road (on the LHR school side) during the 1950s? She and her two daughters, Margaret and Sylvia, became good friends with my parents, while Mrs Hill had a leg amputated (was it diabetes or cancer?) at some point in the years when we knew her. I think Margaret later became a teacher, while Sylvia, who was younger than me but older than my sister, used to take my sister for walks when she (Chris, my sister) was very young and in a pram. That would have been between 1953-1955, but our two families remained friends until we left the UK in 1963.

This page was added by Ian Mott on 22/02/2012.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

Hello neighbour of lo these many years ago. We lived next door to each other. While you were in number three we lived in number two. Sylvia Hill was the youngest sister of my good friend George Hill. Sylvia's older sister was Margaret.

The family lived in Marsk-by-the-sea in Yorkshire, on the coast neighbouring Saltburn and Redcar. James Hill (the father) was offered the position as the first Warden the Youth Centre when it initially opened. That is how the family came to Laindon.

Later, when he was no longer connected with the Youth Centre, he was often away on business as you state. He taught in places such as Wolverhapton, Nottingham, and Leeds. Over the prior years he had developed a new form of shorthand. He called it T Line. Apparently it took a very short time to master compared to Pitman.

His son, George, made teaching and popularising T Line his life's work. Eventually T Line overtook Pitman to become the leading form of shorthand in the country.

By Alan Davies
On 21/03/2014

Did a Henry Cullis have anything to do with the Broadway Radio Stores with regard to repairs, he used to live in Crays Hill. At one time he used to drive around in a 3 wheeled van. He was my uncle.

By Robin Lockhart
On 21/03/2014

To Ian Mott - yes I remember Sylvia Hill, she and I used to play together (mainly involving dolls!). Her sister used to make some gorgeous dolls clothes for her, which I envied.  Mrs Hill commanded silence when the Archers were on and hated that I wouldn't eat butter and had to have margarine.  Mr Hill was often away on business but often bought home sugar mice for Sylvia which I remember well and thought delicious!!

Helen Sutton (nee Brown) formerly of 3 King Edward Terrace

By Helen Sutton (nee Brown)
On 19/03/2014

Been looking through all the comments on people in Laindon and all shops and business's just wondered if anybody would remember Paramount Radio Stores in Durham Road, Laindon. It was my grandad's shop in the 50s.  He passed away in 1961 and my nan carried on for 5 years then sold up. They was John and Ena Slaughter, my dad was Ken Slaughter who sadly passed away 6 years ago at the age of 62. 

Been looking through pics and comments but don't see it mentioned anywhere. They lived in Kennel Lane, Billericay when they had the shop. Anybody know anything about my grandparents or their shop? I would love to hear about it, thank you

Editor: If you click here there is a John Slaughter with his motorcycling friends in the second photograph. Is he your father?

By Debbie Hick née Slaughter
On 15/05/2013

He he a little giggle, my criminal days started when I was quite young. Ray, the man you mentioned standing on the corner of Nichol Road, I have mentioned in one of my comments under "My Markham’s Chase years", I used to be my dad's lookout when he went to put a bet on. He must of known his regular punters because he always went behind the butchers shop to take the money. I can’t recall as a teenager the bets going on at the entrance to Nichol Road, so I think it must have stopped in the mid 50s and then gone on to operate from local pubs, much warmer for our little man I would think

Yes the old needles for the gramophones, some worked, some did not. I recall songs like “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (one of mum's favourites) playing away and mum running to rewind when it weren’t all slurry. The saffire needles were so much better and of course the diamond ones. They were however quite a job to get in as they had a tiny metal back that had to be fitted over a tiny arm, much much swearing went on then trying to fit them sometimes I recall.

Johnnie Ray was mum's favourite and I can recall her actually crying when we first acquired "Cry" from your shop, I would think.

Yes Ray, I too recall going all the way along the long tunnel under the end of King Edward Terrace, couldn't do it now though not such a tomboy today. Being nine when you came to Laindon and just married when you left, I am sure your shop front must have been one of our teenage hangouts.

We had our little Stella 9 inch TV about 1950, maybe your dad put our aerial up for us, sorry can’t remember that, but your Dormobile van triggers great memories, I had a red one along with an Anglia van I used, when I delivered outwork for the Warrens who owned the blouse factory in Laindon. 

Each new article that comes on this site breaks open another grey cell of memories for me. Thanks Ray for this one.

Richard there you were all those years ago blowing up roads and your still doing it, only now it’s to make way for better ones.

By Gloria Sewell
On 07/03/2012

William. Thank you for the additional information. I understand now that although the betting office pre-dated 1961, it only operated "legally" from that date. Some very interesting facts there, which I was far too young to understand at the time. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 04/03/2012

Nina remarks that Wignall's betting office must have operated from May 1961, but this is not quite correct for although punters were never allowed to visit the premises before then, the office operated for many years before by means of Wignall's runners who were always available and quite well known in all the local hostelries and although this was an offence for runners to be caught with betting slips and stakes, I can never recall an incidence of such.

There must have been a prevalence of 'Nelsons Eye' among the local landlords and local guardians of the law as this was never a covert enterprise.

For a long time during this period, Charlie Wignall also travelled daily to his employment in the City.

By W.H.Diment
On 04/03/2012

Roy. I have just returned from a week’s holiday and was thrilled to see the two photos of the Broadway shops that I remember so well. The window where I used to gaze longingly at the little tape recorder and the shoe repairer next door where I took my new shoes to have Philips stick-on-soles put on.

I would like to add a few things. I don’t remember the ‘bookie’ who stood on the corner of Nichol Road and High Road, but I do remember the local bookmakers were the Wignall family. Maybe there was a connection. Mr Charles Wignall and his wife Rosina ran the Turf Accountants at 4 Dorset Parade, Laindon High Road. My mother had told me about them, as I believe she knew the family. Their home was a bungalow in Cromer Avenue. During the sixties, I knew their daughter Rose Long (née Wignall) who was living in the same bungalow and as far as I know she still does. 

I remember buying tins of gramophone needles from your dad’s shop, when we only had a windup gramophone. I seem to remember the tin had a picture of ‘His Master’s Voice’ dog on the top. Those tins of needles and the green felt on the turntable of the gramophone had an evocative aroma all of their own which brings back some lovely memories. Oh, and winding the handle like mad before playing the 78 records and listening avidly to Elvis singing ‘All Shook Up’, despite all the crackling that was the sign of a favourite, well used single. 

The Willis family from whom your family bought the Broadway Radio shop were Sidney and his wife Edna. As I mentioned in a previous article, my mum worked in the shop throughout the war years and she and Edna were about the same age. Sidney and Edna had two sons, Clive and Ralph. Sadly, Ralph died in infancy. Clive once visited my sister Anne and her husband around 1965 in Norfolk where they had moved to. Edna’s single name was ‘Cole’ and I seem to remember being told she was related to the Cole family who had the fish shop in the High Road. 

According to the 1949 Electoral Register, Broadway shops were as follow:- 1 Broadway - Gweneth and Philip Ferguson. 2 Broadway – Emily (Edna) and Sidney Willis. 5 Broadway - Dorothy and Alfred Dangerfield. 6. Broadway – Angela Pelham, also Lillian & William Bird. Strangely, numbers 3 and 4 aren’t mentioned – perhaps they were not occupied at the time. I will try to find out more next time I visit the Essex Records Office in Chelmsford. 

I was reminded of a story I was told, about something that happened probably in the very late forties. My parents arrived home one day to find their nanny goat had been killed by an animal. She had been expecting a kid but her stomach had been ripped open and the contents removed (sorry!). They were very upset and my dad said that when an animal makes a kill, it usually returns later to the scene, so he left the body where it was. He was right. Early next morning two Alsatian dogs came bounding into the garden and made a b-line for the stricken goat. My older brother Dennis grabbed the gun and shot one of them. The other ran off very fast. The collar of the dead dog enabled the owners to be traced - the Dangerfields from Broadway shops. Apparently, the police were involved and the Dangerfields had to pay my parents some compensation for the dead goat and kid. I understand that uncontrolled dogs were a common menace on farms and smallholdings in rural areas. 

A similar thing happened again around 1964/5 when I was home alone one Saturday morning. Our two goats were tethered in the field alongside our bungalow, when two large Alsatian dogs came bounding into the field and started to worry them. The goats were terrified and so was I. I really thought they were going to be killed, so I screamed out to a neighbour who lived in a nearby bungalow, who quickly came out with his gun and fired a shot over the heads of the dogs just as they were about to attack the goats. The noise made them turn tail and run off. I’d never been so relieved, as our goats were not only commodities, they were also our pets. 

I will also try to find out when Variety Stores closed. I loved that shop. I used to buy my birthday cards from there, which were kept under the counter in small boxes labelled according to relationship. I remember going in there once with my classmate Fred Llewellyn and asking for a birthday card for my mum. The appropriate ‘Mother’ box was pulled out and placed on the counter while Fred helped me to choose a nice one. I can’t remember how much they cost but it could only have been a few pennies.

My research shows that Betting Shops were legalised on 1st May 1961. Therefore I assume that Wignall's Betting Office must have operated from that date.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 04/03/2012

Roy what a very well written piece on your days in Laindon, this is an article in itself. So many memories evoked by your two brilliant photographs as well. 

The Bedford Dormobile vehicles are the same as I used to travel in when working for Acrow Engineers a few years later except ours were closed in vans and were distinctive yellow and black. 

Your stories of your exploits on roofs would have safety experts cringing these days but hey - you survived. 

About the Darroch boys, two brilliant characters, just like their dad, always coming out with jokes. We used to play up at the top of Nichol Road, as you say in the bushes around the bit of land called ‘The Cot’. One year we bought about 10 tuppenny cannon fireworks and buried them in the mud embankment and lit all the fuses at once, blowing big holes in it. 

Andy Darroch was one of the first people I played with in Laindon, as was Gillian Bull who made her own camp in the bushes which we played in quite innocently. Both of us were at Laindon Park school in 1957. Peter Darroch seemed far more grown up than us, quite a big lad and a bit of a leader, already at LHR. 

The ditch and tunnels in the High Road fascinated me as well. My friend Mick Blackery and I would drop lolly sticks in and follow them along the route during lunch hours in the first year at LHR. Another reason for being late back every day - happy times. 

About the bookie at Sizers in the High Road, Gloria and Vanessa already mentioned him, he sounds a character, before my time though, I would guess 1953-1956 or even earlier. We had similar bookies and runners in Barking when I was a small child. They would soon disappear, along with all their paperwork and money at the mention of a sighting of old Bill. Keep up this kind of article guys, the more the better.

By Richard Haines
On 26/02/2012

I particularly remember the The Broadway Radio Shop from pre-war days as it was then a cycle shop owned by Geo Fuller and who supplied the Claude Butler frames for the Laindon Bicycle Polo Club. Also, the adjacent timber yard was owned by A.M.A. Building supplies whose manager was Sid Hayden who was the founder of the Polo Club and later opened his own building supply business near to the old Laindon Recorder offices.

By W.H.Diment
On 23/02/2012
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