|Newsagents, The Broadway-not much has changed, apart from the name. (2012)|
My favourite and most visited local shop was Ewarts, the local newsagents. The Ewart family ran the shop for decades. Compared to the more risky nature of some of the other shops; it was a sure fire business with no chance of failure.
From early in the morning until teatime, the shop was always busy. It was the shop at The Broadway which, depending upon the time of day attracted working men; housewives; teenagers; and children, both boys and girls, so it had an all-round appeal.
It had significant newspaper runs in the mornings and afternoons as well as Sunday newspaper runs too. I recall delivering Sunday newspapers for Ewarts-probably because it was my day off from Bairds Newsagents. The shop always had a different feel to it on Sundays because it was the one day of the week that Ian Ewart, (who ran the shop) took off.
I liked Ian-he was an absolutely lovely bloke with a good heart and excellent customer care, so his absence made a noticeable difference. Other relatives came in to open the shop in the morning until it closed at Sunday lunchtime; possibly it was Ian's father. Indeed it was probably his father and mother who initially started the business in the early 1950s.
His mother appeared at various times during the week, but not in a serving capacity. She was a serious looking, older woman, who appeared very efficient and business like. Indeed, whenever I saw her she seemed to be undertaking book-taking and other such tasks.
Because the shop proved to be so busy and lucrative, at an early opportunity, Ewarts took on the let of the adjacent first shop on the precinct, previously run as a little wool shop by Mr McNish. It thus became a double shop unit.
Some people may be surprised at what a good mark-up there is on newspapers. When that is multiplied by hundreds of newspapers each day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks of the year, it really adds up. It was only after reading A Season In Dornoch by Lorne Rubenstein that I became aware of this. So the Ewart family made a very good living indeed; that said Ian Ewart in particular had to work hard and long hours.
Because Ewarts sold comics the shop was a big attraction for me. When there were free gifts in The Hornet I would set off early on a Monday morning to buy my copy. I might be up at the shop as early as seven o'clock. As I neared the shop my little heart would race as I neared the shop to find out if the comic had arrived or not. Sometimes there was a delay. As well as being very disappointing this was a great worry too, in case by the time I returned after school, all the copies of the comic had been sold out; I think Ian Ewart was probably bemused, but entertained by my angst and keen enthusiasm!.
The free gifts were a simple and clever piece of marketing by DC Thomson-usually it was a plastic wallet with some football team photographs.
The shop also sold some toys which were displayed in the window. We played a bagsy game. Like something out of Dickens, a few of us would line up along the shop window front with our little noses pressed against the glass. In turn we would bags the toy which we were going to get for our birthday or Christmas. I don’t ever recall buying a toy from Ewarts and many of the boxes remained unchanged in the shop window for years. It was an easy way of filling the large space for little work and imagination.
Whilst newspapers, magazines and comics were the main-stay of the business, tobacco and cigarettes would have come next in the pecking order. In the 1960s a significant part of the adult population smoked and this figure would have been higher in Oxgangs which was predominately working class. Players No 6; Kensitas; Embassy Regal-all the common brands, but of course no Gauloises or Disque Bleu!
Most children and some adults bought sweets regularly and the shop sold hundreds of sweets and chocolates each and every day. For the shop assistants, this was a tiresome business. Within the shop one whole side was devoted to children’s confectionery. There was a long glass counter. The whole of the front cabinet was lined with jars of penny sweets, which were what most of the children came in for. The shop assistants had to bend over and stretch forward in an awkward position. Many of the kids took an age to make up their mind to the tune of ‘Come on now!’
So far I've resisted writing about 1960s sweets and chocolates-if you'll forgive yet another pun, it's such a big topic!