Within Living Memory – with Philip Leason

Within Living Memory – with Philip Leason
of the Stone Historical & Civic Society

A trip from Southampton to Iceland, and Norwegian Fjords 14 days for £13 tourist class to £22 1st class.

After the Christmas break we’ll continue our stroll up the High Street of Stone in the 50’s and 60’s. Last month we finished at the entry that lead to the InVogue shoe factory. The next shop we arrive at is Ford-Taylors who sold leather goods. The only item which I ever remember that we bought from there was tins of dubbin which was a mixture of wax, oil and tallow which we took to an old gentleman in Hilderstone who used it to waterproof and soften the brown leather gaiters that he wore. Of course dubbin was also used by footballers to help keep their boots in a wearable condition -before the birth of modern boots – football boots were made from untreated leather that was not waterproof and hence the texture of the leather became stiff and brittle when they dried out – dubbin helped make Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings less daunting.

Football  – and indeed Rugby balls too also were untreated and after an hour’s exposure to the rain quadrupled in weight – it wasn’t unusual to see players being stretchered off after heading a ball – intentionally, or  even worse, unintentionally

Next we come to Mrs Dutton’s Wool Shop, which was later taken over by John Smith’s of Longton. Knitting was undeniably a much more popular hobby in mid twentieth century (although there has been a mini revival in the last few years). The shop was resplendent with racks upon racks of different coloured wools, and all the different sized needles and gondolas full of patterns.

At the rear of the shop when it was still Duttons there was a toy department which was accessed through their other shop next door. And it was here that as a small boy I was introduced to the magical world of  Bayko which wiped out my pocket money for months to come.

Bayko - when toys were intended to educate  boys for their future careers
Bayko – when toys were intended to educate boys for their future careers

Bayko was a model construction system invented by Charles Plimpton and sold between 1934 and 1967 – but there are still 1000’s of collectors today – the internet is awash with sites. You had a rectangular Bakelite base which had a grid of holes in which you placed thin metal rods of various lengths. Bakelite bricks, windows, doors and other parts could then be slotted between the rods to construct a what was a very realistic looking home or building. Then sheets of plastic were used to construct the roof. I often wonder in these days of health and safety if children today would be allowed to play with a toy that used thin metal rods. Lego has taken over where Bayko left off – and although Lego is excellent, Bayko had the edge for realistic looking construction

Other popular toys of the period for boys were Meccano sets, Dinky Toys and Hornby clockwork and electric model trainsets. It would seem that toys of the age were all designed to train boys for work in later life.

Not wishing to seem sexist in this column, I have it on excellent authority that most popular toy for the girls during this period was apparently a Tressy Doll which had a sophisticated mechanism that allowed the doll’s hair to “grow” and be pulled back in.

This trend was followed in the 1960’s with the popularity of Barbie dolls. Again, it would seem that toys of the age were all designed to train girls for what they would become in later life – mothers!.

When the shop was sold to John Smith’s, the toy section at the rear continued trading and they were agents for Airfix, Triang, Britains, and Gorgi and Dinky toys.

This was indeed the golden age for toys. The shop also sold a wide variety of items as well as such brands as Sirdar, Lee Target, Wendy and Robin knitting wools.

As we said earlier next door was the other Dutton’s shop. The business had been established by Louis Dutton who originally had run a smaller shop lower down the High Street and apparently had a reputation for the quality of the snuff that he sold.

Duttons was one of those shops that is almost impossible to quantify. As well as selling newspapers, magazines, stationery, greeting cards (but nothing like the variety that we have today – it seems that you can get a card for almost anything these days), and various religious items. They also acted as “Shipping and Tourist Agents” (what we today would call Travel Agents). You could book anything from a Worthington’s Tour to a cruise. Their cruise brochure for 1939 is particularly fascinating for example with a trip from Southampton to Iceland, North Cape, and Norwegian Fjords 14 days for £13 tourist class to £22 1st class. How times have changed.

I hope that the above will bring back memories to some readers and will be of interest to others. Please help us to keep the heritage of Stone alive for generations to come. If you have any photographs relating to anything mentioned here please contact Staffordshire Past Track. All photographs will be treated with the utmost care and returned safely to their owner after they have made digital copies.


First appeared in Gazette February 2012