When you are young you accept the world as it is. And that it must always have been thus.
From a young age I used to go up the hill (Oxgangs Street) regularly to The Broadway. Initially, I would be sent for messages and when older it would also be of my own volition too. Probably this was from the age of only three or four. Whilst I enjoyed running messages, there was always the worry of crossing the path of an older boy with a fierce reputation for confrontation. Although I had some run-ins with him, I somehow managed to talk myself out of trouble with him; alternatively I could have taken to my heels, although he was a quick runner. More often I simply took a detour via Oxgangs Row therefore adopting a pragmatic non-confrontational approach; it was however an ongoing concern and I know that many friends of mine suffered quite badly.
Growing up in the area I never really considered that the shops at Oxgangs Broadway had not always existed, whereas they were built around 1953/54. And of course behind each and every business venture, there was an individual and human story-a tale of individuals seeing an entrepreneurial opportunity and actively taking the risk of following the dream.-a dream of making it economically-working for one self and aiming to provide for one's family to lead a good and satisfying life.
|Oxgangs Broadway In The Winter|
A collection of the individual stories of these early pioneers from sixty years ago would make for interesting reading today-their hopes and aspirations; successes and failures; ups and downs; joys and worries; colourful customers, colourful stories and lessons learned. Was it a success or was it a failure? Did it provide a good income or was it always a struggle? How did it affect one's health? What happened if one was ill? Was the business seasonal? How above board was it? Were there unusual or unorthodox transactions and business arrangements? Did the stock fall off the back of a lorry! Did some customers get tick? Did the early aspiration meet the realisation? Did it become a conveyor belt that one couldn't get off? Would one have done it again, if one could go back in time? All these stories, now sadly gone. As a customer one only saw the shops as being retail institutions, for one's convenience, not realising there was a human story there.I assume that when the public housing schemes were first muted, agreed, planned for and thereafter designed and developed after the war, that Edinburgh Council must have taken cognisance of local needs and included these small retail shop units for rental. Did they deploy a prescriptive and restrictive policy whereby they had a shopping list of the range of businesses they wanted e.g. one post office; one chemist; a dry-salter and so on?
Probably for most of the individuals, it would have been their first venture as a self employed businessman. I suspect that for some of them they had perhaps worked in the particular trade, but never before been the owner of the business. Now here was a once in a lifetime opportunity to go it alone-what excitement-what a worry!
Similar to tenants becoming home owners under Mrs Thatcher's government I wonder if in later years and decades they thereafter had the opportunity to purchase the shop units? I expect so.
|Oxgangs Crescent Shopping Precinct Shortly Before Demolishment|
The shops at Oxgangs Crescent (sadly, now demolished) were similar to those at Oxgangs Broadway, except there were fewer of them. The shops at Oxgangs Broadway remain today, but are of course all different. There are some similar types of shops to the past-a newsagent, a chemist, a post office, a baker's, but also a betting shop and three hairdressers; there is a convenience store-family owned, long established which has picked up some awards.
|Oxgangs Broadway (Photograph Mark Travis)|
The Oxgangs Broadway design is a rather dinky and clever lay out, which when seen from above is shaped like a cockit hat-an interesting triangular shape with a road bordering the three sides-similar to the Cockit Hat at the Redford Road/Oxgangs Road North junction. On the north side there are some flats located above the shops, which unusually take up two floors i.e. levels two and three. The flats are most handily located if you run out of bread, milk or sugar or want to nip out for an early morning roll or newspaper.
The shops are set down below ground level in a small self-contained dip of ground; there are approximately a dozen shops. These shops are evenly distributed and laid out opposite each other. The area between the shops serves as an interesting social area where during the day, local neighbours could catch up with one another’s news.
Back in the 1960s the shops were fairly small. However, there was a general store which was larger than the others-perhaps it was a double unit? Behind the shops and up above were some further units, but these were mainly used by the shop-keepers down below as storage units. Today, these units are all in use including a large Corals bookies! It's not surprising, because these shop units are south facing and one can park directly outside; however they are set away from the main body of the kirk.
In the 1960s there were two important exceptions to the storage units-Ben Mackenzie, the hairdresser and Rissi’s fish and chip shop-these two businesses occupied either corner site.
An earlier blog was called Cellophane, Airfix and Ben Mackenzie (Oxgangs Broadway, Shop No 1)-after all how could Ben be anything other than number one!
I intend to do short blogs in future on each of the 1960s shops, so if you have any memories, please let me know.