The sad day they demolished my old corner shop
Our top columnist, Geoffrey Shryhane, remembers a time when toast tasted so good...
Wallgate was on the up and up when our new offices were opened on Hodson Street not far from Wigan Pier in 1966.
Most of the terraced houses had suffered at the hands of the demolition men and their wrecking hammers.
Old St Thomas’ Church and the ancient school were still there when the first Observers with colour on the front page rolled off the press.
It didn’t take long to adjust and driving to that new office was to glimpse a Wallgate consigned to history.
We hadn’t a canteen – one would come later – but the little sell-all open-all-hours shop had survived. But for how long? It had served the community for countless decades and it became our canteen for morning toast and afternoon cakes.
It was homely. Cosy. Yes, the odd mouse probably scuttered across the old lino-covered floor. But “big” health and safety had yet to be born.
Each morning, one of us would phone through the toast order, and old Bert would bring it the 200 yards to the office a few minutes later. There would be the clank of coppers as we fished out three old pence per slice. The butter always melted into the thin white paper bag.
The shop was great for bits and pieces we’d forgotten to buy at Lennons, the town’s first supermarket which had opened on the site the old Hippodrome.
Slowly the empty houses on the half forgotten streets crashed down and just before Christmas, there were huge wood-burning fires as the school bit the dust. All sad.
One black-as-the-chimney back cat – minus tail – hung about. Obviously abandoned and that’s why every Friday, I bought seven tins of puss food and bought a kennel to protect him in winter. This feline was a great survivor and months later I had him seen to and brought him home.
He too was called Bert.
The saddest day of all was the day toast-ferrying Bert (the man not the moggie) said they wouldn’t be here the week after next. They were shutting the shop and going to live in Goose Green.
“But what about our toast, Burt?” we demanded.
A man of few words, he just laughed.
So we never saw Bert or his wife again. And at the office, a new coffee machine and a toaster heralded the new days.
But tell you what, that toast didn’t taste half as good as that from the corner shop.