Tag Archives | 1940s

Whatever became of

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I’m always interested in paper ephemera and the record sleeves for my 78rpm discs are fascinating little pieces of social history and design. So, while listening to some of my records today, I wondered what became of those shops who once supplied Edinburgh’s listeners with gramophones, records and music?

There was Methven Simpson Ltd – Piano and Musicsellers to H.M. The King, whose main branch was at 83 Princes Street. I’m guessing that the King was George V. They were obviously a prosperous company, with branches in Dundee, Forfar, Perth and St Andrews. They stocked pianos, player pianos, gramophones, sheet music and music rolls, also offering a tuning and repair service. I like the art deco border and those stylish numerals 83. Number 83, near Hanover Street, was once part of the Life Association of Scotland building. It now houses offices and Superdrug.

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Only a street away at 28 Frederick Street was Pentland’s. The advertising here is less grand than Methven Simpson. Under the ‘Pianos and Player-Pianos’ is CASH or CONVENIENT TERMS. People who bought from Methven Simpson could probably afford to buy their piano outright, but Pentland’s was aiming more at the middle classes who had recently discovered Hire Purchase. And now? 28 Frederick Street has yet more offices and a branch of Thomas Cook.

Edinburgh-sleeve-1 Moving up Lothian Road, there was James Beaton’s The Gramophone House at Number 96. This building once housed opticians G Prescott & Co & a branch of Black & Lizars is still there. Beaton’s takes the prize for fanciful sleeve design, with smiling lambs at the foot of a classical column upon which sits a Pan-like figure playing two pipes. In the distance, a strange couple dance to the music, he wearing Cossack costume and she with a gay straw hat.

Edinburgh-sleeve-4A little further away from the centre of town was Kilgours at 66 Nicolson Street, boasting that they were agents for Columbia and His Master’s Voice for over a quarter of a century. Just a few doors away used to be La Scala Electric Theatre which opened in 1912. The cinema changed its name to the Classic in 1974 and has subsequently been converted for use as a bingo hall. Now Nicolson Street is one of the main places on the Southside for restaurants and cafes.

Charles M. Brown were Electrical, Wireless and Gramophone Suppliers, situated at 1 & 2 Melville Terrace on the edge of The Meadows. Or as the sleeve helpfully says Opposite Dick Veterinary College. The Dick Vet has since moved to modern accommodation on the outskirts of Edinburgh and there’s a Thresher’s off licence at No 1 Melville Terrace. The typography on this sleeve has pronounced serifs rather reminscent of Kelmscott and there’s a marvellous ampersand with swash.

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She Calls Me Teddy

barely there

She calls me Teddy. Unoriginal I know but I don’t mind. This is my story. I belonged first to the little boy who was conceived in the closing months of the war. He was an intense child, but very careful with his toys. My fur stayed fresh and clean and although I was well hugged, I sustained no injuries during my time with him. But being a boy, he went onto more boyish things in time, and in his eighth year, he was absorbed with his Airfix model aeroplane kits and I lay abandoned in a cupboard.

His sister was born then and she became my second human. We were constant companions. The mother altered the child’s old barricot gowns to fit me so I would be warmly swaddled for our visits to the park. The girl would push me back and forth on the swings (she was a little afraid to swing on them herself at this time) and hug me tight while she spun on the roundabout. We went to the zoo where, tucked into her pushchair, I gazed at some distant cousin bears and they gazed back at me. I was glad to be friend and comfort to this anxious little girl, but oh she was hard on my health…. First I lost one of my bright bead brown eyes in too vigorous a game. The mother kept the eye in her button box, meaning to mend me, I know. Then a tussle with her brother, tugged this way and that, resulted in an arm being pulled out of place, so much so that my straw threatened to spill out. The mother patched my wound with an old sheet but my shoulder was never the same again.

In time the little girl grew into a woman. She still suffered from night fears and secretly cuddled me in the small, lonely hours. I listened to all her hopes and fears and knew that I was much loved. In time, of course, we grew less close and I became more of a watcher than a participant in her life.

She was a troubled wanderer and I went in and out of packing cases more times than I wish to remember. She would say that it wasn’t truly home until Teddy had been unpacked and put in pride of place. Thankfully, she became more careful with her things, although one of my ears has never recovered from a gooey mess of medicine that spilled onto me during a sickly winter.

I’m an old bear now – I was made more than 60 years ago – and my paws and snout are sparse and worn. I never did have plush for fur and was always entirely the wrong colour. No toy historian will ever look at me and exclaim ‘Why, this bear is rare and terribly valuable’. Times were hard when I was made, and I was and am a very ordinary bear. I still have pride of place in a corner of her bedroom and sometimes she taps my nose affectionately as she passes. Now she’s about to take my photograph. I know I’m pretty battered looking, but we wartime bears are stoic, and I’ll try to look my best.

Photo © Rachel Cowan

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