The headline was ‘Beeching Blitz for Branch Lines. Many Dorset Stations are to Close’. Number one in the charts was ‘Summer Holiday’ by Cliff Richard and the Shadows, closely followed by ‘Please Please Me’ by a new group on the scene, the Beatles. The year was 1963, only 50 years ago, but articles and adverts in the Poole Herald make it sound like a totally different era.
On March 6th, the Herald reported that workmen demolishing St Paul’s Church, High Street [opened in 1833] had been asked to look out for some old copies of the Herald plus other historic items which had been buried near two foundation stones laid for the extension of the church in 1880. The stones supported the chancel arch and had been laid by Mr. Montague J. Guest M.P., Grand Master of the Dorset Provincial Lodge of Freemasons, and his mother, Lady Charlotte Schreiber.
The future of another church, the Methodist Church on High Street, was being debated. Under the headline ‘First Floor Worship – Methodists Discuss Revolutionary Shops Plan’, the paper outlined a scheme to demolish the church and free up its valuable site. It was suggested that the congregation could have a church and other rooms on the first floor above ground floor shops. The Minister, the Rev, Frederick Hunter, explained that the church, which seated 800 was very expensive to maintain and needed £1,860 for redecoration and repairs of which £1,000 had been raised. The first floor idea was only one of fourteen schemes being considered. [Fifty years later, the church is still there although not used for regular worship.]
Meanwhile Marc, Artiste de Coiffure (175a High Street) was pleased to announce that Mr. Anthony from the Home of the England World Cup Hairdressing Team had joined his staff. ‘Mr. Anthony is at present in attendance at my Poole salon for the Hair Fashion of your choice’. Bon Marché Poole Department Store, High Street Poole (Tel. 133) presented their Spring fashion lines. ‘Any woman with fashion sense will do her Spring Suit Shopping here. Assistants know what they are talking about and really help.’ William Taylor (176/8 High Street) was offering the latest N.S.U. motor bikes including the Quickly N/23 at only £69 15s 0d and a great selection of bicycles. The Regent Cinema was showing ‘In Search of the Castaways’ with Hayley Mills and later in the week, Kenneth Moore in ‘We Joined the Navy’.
On 13th March it was reported that Jeffrey Rose (19), a ladies’ hairdresser with Marc of Poole and Tony Wagner (16) a High Street display artist, had discovered an unexploded bomb on the beach near Boscombe pier. They raised the alarm and the police cordoned off the beach. ‘The bomb could easily have blown someone to bits’, said Jeffrey. ‘The police said we had a narrow escape. It looked very rusty and some people might not have even recognised it as a bomb.’
The H. P. Smith Memorial Lecture was given by Mr. Ernest Bristowe to the Society of Poole Men at the Dolphin Hotel. It took the form of a photographic history. ‘For 30 years his camera has recorded the changing face of the Old Town, its ships, archives, old characters and street vendors, so that today this unusual history ‘book’ in two albums at present contain 750 photographs’. [The following year, Ernest Bristowe was to emigrate to New Zealand after living in Poole for 60 years. He ended up living in Australia where he died in 1998, just before the publication of his autobiography ‘Poole was my Oyster’. Today his photographs are in the care of the Poole Museum.]
There were signs of change on the horizon. Councillor Joe Bright asked in a Council meeting whether residents were fully informed about the proposed Kingland Road / High Street development scheme. He was told that the Town Clerk had written to everyone involved. On 20th March, the Herald reported that John Betjamin had entered the debate on the preservation of Poole’s historic buildings, currently under threat. The Royal Commission reported that out of 400 ancient buildings scheduled of special interest, only 50 survived and Lt. Cdr. Valentine of the Society of Poole Men accused the Council of a blatant disregard of the town’s heritage. In response to the debate, Betjamin had asked for a written report with photographs of the threatened buildings from the Society and promised to do everything that he could to highlight their plight.On a lighter note, Sharp and Son, ironmongers (69, High Street) were offering their customers the chance to ‘buy any starred item from Sharp and Son and you can win one of these wonderful prizes free’. Starred items included Qualcast lawn mowers, Silvertone door bells and Salter duet scales. The prizes featured a £500 dream kitchen and a £500 luxury bathroom among other desirables. Meanwhile Speed’s Wool Shop (No. 179) was encouraging its clientele to ‘Knit yourself a P & B hat for under 5s.’ [P & B = Paton’s Beehive – I had to check on that!].
In the pre-Arndale Centre, pre-hypermarket, pre-Internet days of 50 years ago things seem very different, but the topics that concerned people are familiar. Concern for the past while looking to the future, the challenge of change and the enterprise of local traders are constants.