I think it was better than what it is now. You’d got more shops to go in, as I say…you’d got more grocery shops, you got…Winnie Ballards at the bottom of Castle Street. She’d got two shops there. You’d got the 50 bob (£2.50) tailors, you’d got Burtons, you’d go in and get measured for a suit and if you hadn’t got the money they used to pay so much a week until it was paid for. Same as the old pawn shop that used to be there – take your things in on a Monday, fetch them back on a Friday.
Castle Street, from the bottom
There was Hall’s where we used to get the clothes from – that was a gent’s outfit and they made ladies as well – there was Gilders, that was a tailor’s. Pridmores at the bottom of Castle with all the old-fashioned bottles in the window – a chemist…The Maypole, you’d got Currys, you’d got Caves – that was a fruit and veg and they sold seeds there. Yoxalls cake shop – that was two windows. Used to have a policeman on duty at the bottom of Castle Street. It used to be packed years ago if you wanted to go into Woolworth’s, you couldn’t get in the door. You could buy anything you wanted – screws, nails, hair clips.
You used to watch what was in Winnie Ballard’s window, you know, this was the fashion shop. I remember an orange dress I had, it was beautiful. It was square neck and it’d got a brown sash with it. Oh and it was nice. I used to go to the dance in that.
Whistling Willie – I don’t know what his proper name was. He was a little man and he always used to whistle, and he lived in the Outwoods. There was Squeaker – he’d got a squeaky voice. It was him that came into the air-raid shelter with us and there was a lady in there, a Mrs. Payne, kept the paper shop, and he sat down – he was scruffy oh yes, – ‘Oh dear, I don’t want you against me’ – that sort of thing, and he turned round and he took his shoes and socks off and he said, ‘Missus, I’m as clean underneath as what you are. My clothes might be dirty but I’m as clean as what you are!’ Oh, she didn’t know where to put her face.
Then there was a man, I can’t remember what they call him, he used to sell the papers at the bottom of Castle Street, sit on a chair, and he, when he died, he’d got no end of money in the house, and Squeaker had. He used to live in one of the dug-outs that they had on the golf-course. They used to have the guards there, you know, with a little slot for the gun, not that I could see them going down there, but they did. He furnished it inside, had a bed in there.
You used to have the man outside Simpkins and James that was selling carpets and lino and stuff like this, oh you know, ‘What am I bid for this?’
Somewhere where Wilkinson’s is now, The Victoria Hotel, the Vic as we used to call it. On the bar there used to be an iron rail all the way round and when I see these pictures of cowboys and they’ve got their foot up…I always think of the Vic. They used to chew twist. Although everybody smoked I can’t remember a lot of smoke puffing about – probably because I smoked those days. So you didn’t notice ‘cos you did it. The George used to be the place to go. That’s The Bounty now. In the entrance there they used to have half slices of pigs hanging up and hams, oh yes, all salted hanging up there, I mean, they dare n’t today. It was a big entrance. Everything was salt-petred down to keep, there were no fridges or anything like that. You wash it well, leave it to soak for twenty four hours or something like that to get it all out.
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In Mansion Street, there were a chip shop and they used to sell chips and faggots – that were one of the delicacies – you’d pay about 1d in them days – for a plate of those. You’d have to be rich to live like that! As lads we couldn’t have any money because mother were that poor, so we used to go down…where the bank stands on the corner of Castle Street, right at the bottom…now on that corner used to be Wheatley’s fish’n’ chip shop and they used to have batter bits – the bits of batter that’d come off – they used to chuck them in the side there and us chaps we had to go and ask, ‘Could we have some batter bits, please?’ You’d get your ears cuffed and turned out of the shop but sometimes he’d take pity on you and give you some.
Just round the corner was Finches, that were an ironmongers shop, that were one of the best ironmongers in Hinckley. Behind the ironmongers shop was a yard or a walkway that went through by the public house and come out where Barclays bank is now and there was an iron urinal, just an iron sheet like that, and just a little trough for you to go wee in and that was there ’til more or less going up to the Second World War that was. There used to be one of those up in the Lawns by the Castle Tavern.