Although we lived in the Borough of Bermondsey in South London, we were within a short walk of other areas. Walworth, where I went to senior school, and Camberwell, where many of my friends lived. The main road from London to the Kent coast ran through the whole area, and is named The Old Kent Road in that section. That is actually one of the places on a British Monopoly game board.
The surplus stores on Walworth Road was where you could buy an ex-army jacket, a rucksack, or in my case, Doctor Martens ‘air-wear’ shoes. It was a regular hangout on Saturdays.
(This is a relatively modern photo. It is still there.)
Not far away was the A1 Stores. They seemed to sell everything at the time, but we went there to buy the latest records. Following the purchase, we usually sat in the nearby Wimpy Bar for ages, drinking ‘frothy coffee’.
But A1 wasn’t always my first choice for record buying. On the corner in this photo is May Smith, a dedicated record shop. I bought my first .45 single in there. It was ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, by The Searchers. That was in 1963, and I was eleven years old.
Many years before that, one of my places to hang out was St James’s Park. Not the famous one in Westminster, the one in St James’s Road, Bermondsey. It had a famous covered slide, the only one I have ever seen like it.
The two main cinemas locally were The Regal, and The Astoria. I went to one or other of them almost every week for years. They were both built in the Art Deso style,and beautifully decorated inside. This is The Astoria.
If you wanted to buy a bicycle, get a bike fixed, buy a saddlebag, a new chain, or tyre pump, Edwardes of Camberwell was the place to go. One of the premier cycle dealerships in the whole of London at the time.
Kennedys had shops all over the three boroughs. Their sausages were once considered to be the best you could buy.
George Carter was a menswear shop on the Old Kent Road. It was in there that I bought my first ever Ben Sherman button-down collar shirt.
Pie and Mash and Jellied Eels were staple diets of many Londoners then. I didn’t like the eels, but I loved pie and mash. Just a short walk from my school was my favourite Pie and Mash shop, Bert’s.
(Next door, you can just make out part of the name of The Popular Book Centre. This was a chain of large shops that sold secondhand books, comics, and magazines. They would also buy any you took in there, or give you credit against those they had for sale. My mum’s cousin Raymond was the manager of that branch, so I never had to pay!)
The World Turned Upside Down was a famous Victorian pub on the Old Kent Road. One of my school friends lived in the tenement flats next door, which were managed by the Guinness Trust as cheap housing for working-class people. If you look at the women pushing the prams you can see that they had filled them with coal, probably bought cheap from a nearby Coal Merchant, and too heavy to carry home.
Right at the other end of The Old Kent Road, almost in New Cross district, was this imposing pub, The Rising Sun. My mum’s older sister and her husband bought this pub the year we moved to the suburbs, 1967. They ran it for many years.