Thursday, 10 March 2011

Old-fashioned toy shop.............

When I was a child, we used to take our family holidays at North Berwick, a small, sleepy seaside town on the east coast of Scotland, not far from Edinburgh.  We always stayed in a caravan on a small site near the beach.  It wasn't a permanently sited static van, but a tiny touring caravan, with no toilet facilities and water which had to be pumped into the sink by a foot pump.  I can still remember the evocative smell of the gas mantles which provided the lighting.

I always looked forward to these holidays..... a combination of living in such a tiny doll's house on wheels, the freedom of the campsite and beach, and the prospect of at least one trip into town to visit the most perfect toyshop a child could ever imagine.

Back in the early 60's, this toyshop, just before the main street, (actually, the ONLY street) was a time capsule.  Step off the street, through the door and you could imagine that you'd travelled back 100 years.  The old gentleman who owned the shop, was also seemingly unchangeable, and for all the years we went there he always looked, to my young eyes, exactly the same.  Perhaps his father before him had owned the shop because it was crammed absolutely full of the MOST WONDERFUL toys.  There was never a scrap of mass-produced, imported plastic tat to be seen.  Almost everything was made from natural materials..... wood, cloth, metal, porcelain.

All year I would save up my pocket money (2/6 a week, the equivalent of 12.5 pence),  birthday money etc, specifically with the summer holiday at North Berwick in mind.  I had a particular fondness for 10 shilling notes, which to me represented untold riches, and I would always try to ensure that I had a crisp, new 10/- note for my visit to the toy shop.

These visits could never be rushed.  I could spend a whole morning or afternoon, carefully perusing the vast selection, with the old gentleman patiently moving his ladder on wheels along behind the wooden counter, to reach the boxes of wooden jigsaws, or Fuzzy Felts from the top shelves.  If I happened to have my favourite doll with me, I could spend hours sorting through the drawers of gorgeous clothes and accessories to select new outfits for her.

I would always emerge with a paper bag full of things to do and make..... magic painting book, proper original Plasticene, scrapbook and scraps, kaleidoscopic shapes to glue into pristine notebooks, Fuzzy Felts, craft kits........ plenty to keep me occupied if it rained.

Which it did.

Every year.

One year, I bought a magnificent wooden sailing yacht.  It was just like a real yacht - the sails could be lowered and furled, the tiller moved the rudder, and best of all, a section of the deck could be removed to reveal a tiny galley and bunk area.  I played with that yacht for years and years, in the sea, in rivers and streams, on ponds and boating lakes.  They don't make toys like that any more.

Any time I visit a new place, I'm always on the lookout for the rare survivors from the halcyon years of old-fashioned toy shops.  I can't bear going into the new breeds of toy shop..... Toys R Us, Gamleys, Hamleys and like.  Even Harrods toy department these days is a disappointment due to the inexorable march of the branded toy.

So, it's not surprising that I've re-created my perfect toy shop in miniature.  I have my lovely 3-storey shop, which was the inspiration for this blog.  If you look way back to my first posts back in December 2006 you can follow its construction.  I've even managed to get the proprietor to look like the old gentleman who owned the North Berwick shop.

I also have two toy shop window displays, which I made specifically to take to fairs and exhibitions.  One is a showcase for our range of toys, games and playthings.  The other is a Doll Emporium to showcase our range of doll's dolls.

Some time ago I obtained several of these shop window kits with a view to creating a DIY toy shop project with lots of bespoke extras.  This project has finally made it off the drawing board and I now have just 4 kits remaining available HERE.

If you click on this photograph, then click again, you can read the information on our flyer.  

The cost of the kit is £75 (plus P&P £8.00 to include insured next day delivery) Orders placed on the website include a proportion of the insured delivery charge in the price so when shipping is added at the checkout the overall cost will be the same.
Sadly, due to the size and weight of the package, it is only available within the UK as it would be prohibitively expensive to send by AirMail.

Oh, and if you know of any wonderful old-fashioned toy shops, anywhere in the world, do please let me know.  They're an endangered species......


Anonymous said...

We used to holiday at North Berwick for a week over Easter. Probably later than you though. We went in about 1970 until 1975.

We took a house which was directly opposite the children's paddling pool on the front.

Haven't been there in years. Wonder if it has changed much.

I don't remember a toy shop although there probably was one and I probably went in at some stage.

Sandra Morris said...

I went back a few years ago for a day trip with my daughter when she was at Edinburgh University.
I hardly recognised the place, although I'm sure it hasn't changed a huge amount.
We used to go there in the early 60s. The toy shop was just before the bend in the main street. Wish I could remember the name of it....