It wasn’t only humans who were well catered for in Charnwood Street. For many years Mrs Elsie May Bates ran a shop selling dog food at 225. Many thanks to her grandson John Immins, the son of Elsie’s daughter Joan, for sending these memories of the shop and the nearby area:
‘Elsie May Bates [nee Martin] was a formidable woman who could put the fear of God into any man. Elsie ran the dog food shop on Charnwood Street which opened on Monday and Thursday of the week only. She undertook cleaning to supplement her income as a divorced woman. The meat was delivered from the supplier and later, when it had been stripped from the bones, the man with the bone truck arrived. This vehicle smelled appalling. The bones were then taken to the glue factory to be processed. Meat was packaged in greaseproof paper and then wrapped in newspaper.
‘The frontage of the shop was tiled like a butcher’s in white rectangular tiles with a large front window and inside the shop were shelves and displays. The back access to the shops was in Occupation Road, which was cobbled. The access to the back of our shop was a shared entry leading onto the outside toilet, coal house and shed. The shop at number 227 was the fresh wet fish shop Haines, and the second hand shop was at number 223. Opposite the dog food shop was a double fronted premises called Corrigan’s, a shoe shop. The back rooms and upstairs were living accommodation for Elsie and myself. We never had an inside toilet or bathroom or running hot water, so I used to go my other Gran’s house for a weekly bath. I lived on and off over a period of several years with Elsie up until the 1970’s when the Council condemned the housing and we moved to Hamilton Street.
‘In about 1958 I had a bike and used to deliver the dog food to some of Elsie’s customers in the school holidays. One of the houses where meat was sometimes delivered was Southern’s, the doctors house which was on Regents Road. Elsie used to clean for Doctor Southern and sometimes looked after their large white Alsatian dog. Sometimes Mrs Southern would pick up her meat and park outside the shop in her car. One place I hated delivering meat was the Chinese Laundry on Uppingham Road. Having watched Charlie Chan at the pictures the strange faces and smells of the laundry use to scare the life out of me.
‘The shops down Charnwood Street were part of the extended family of shopkeepers and their families. On a Friday night I would go across to the corner shop (Newby Street/ Charnwood Street corner) and watch The Army Game on their television, and then it was up to Hynard Hughes with Gran for a quart bottle of Shipstone’s beer and a bottle of Pepsi for me. We drank it as we listened to Radio Luxembourg. Many happy times were spent looking in the shop windows, especially the bikes in Vines’s and the old leather shop which sold deep sea diving boots and helmets. Joblin’s was a small single fronted sweet shop full of jars of sweets of every kind – you could get lots of sweets for a few pennies. There was a shop which sold only Dinky toys and half a crown could buy a good vehicle.
‘One of Elsie’s visitors was her brother Bill Martin. He had been a runner in the trenches in the 1914-18 war and suffered badly with shell shock. Our Billy lived permanently in the Tower’s Hospital and was allowed out to visit us. You could buy anything you wanted down Charnwood Street including ex army great coats and boots from the Army and Navy which was called Ashwell’s. There were numerous shops providing a warm personal service to their customers including second hand clothing, fresh fish, green grocery, off door, butchers, clothier’s, shoe shop and bakery. The fish and chip shop was however on Humberstone Road and I cannot remember there being one on Charnwood Street’.
John Immins, born 1948