|Arthur and Phyllis putting on the Ritz!|
The family were now living at 52 Hargrave Park in rooms that had previously been occupied by Cis and Fred Abbott and their daughter, Cecilia - proving once again that there was a continuity to the places where the family lived. After nearly three years at sea Arthur was hoping to return to his job with Mr. Morton but while he had been at sea a new man had been employed. But Arthur had obviously been regarded as a valuable and trustworthy employee and instead of resuming his job as chauffeur he was offered the position of manager of Morton's wet fish shop in Junction Road. The road runs south from the Archway crossroads (an article on Junction Road will be appearing soon on our companion blog DOWN THESE STREETS) and Morton's fish shop was situated on the eastern side of the street, next to The Red Lion public house on the corner with Holloway Road.
Arthur himself was something of a local celebrity inasmuch as almost everybody you spoke to knew him because they used his shop. I'm pretty certain that Arthur's shop also supplied the local Fish and Chip shops such as Gold's in Holloway Road and probably other local restaurants (although they were much rarer in earlier days than they are now) as well as supplying fish for the BBC - probably at nearby Alexandra Palace. I remember that my mother sometimes worked at the shop cutting wrapping paper in the room upstairs (Alvin told me that he also remembers doing this as did Arthur's sister Joyce) and I was there with her one day. As we were leaving the shop a man in a chauffeur uniform came into the shop to collect some fish. Intrigued, we followed him out of the shop to where his car was parked. The car itself was a strange beast which I found out years later was custom built for its owner - half London taxi and half Rolls-Royce! The owner, sitting in the rear, was an equally impressive sight with a full beard and my mother was thrilled when he waved to her. For years she was convinced that the man was the Irish actor Noel Purcell but I eventually discovered that he was actually the millionaire American oil magnate Nubar Gulbenkian. Whether he was a regular customer or not he certainly thought it was worth picking up fish from Morton's! I'm sure there must have been other famous customers.
As myself and other members of the family will first remember the shop it had an open shutter front with marble slabs either side of a central gangway. The men selling the fish would stand at the front and Arthur would sit in a boxed-in seat by the till. The men would shout out the price of the purchase and send the money back to Arthur via an overhead wire system which used to catapult the money in a little container. By the time it reached Arthur he would have the right change sorted out and was ready to send it back for the customer. The system seems to have been an American invention but it was leased to many shops in England. The picture will give you an idea of what this contraption looked like.
When I was planning this series of posts about my aunts and uncles I spoke to Alvin and
one thing we both agreed on was that we very much wanted to see pictures of Arthur in Morton's Fish Shop because it was such an integral part of his story. Alvin didn't have any and neither did I and although we both searched the internet we came up with nothing. I happened to mention this to Alva, Arthur's daughter (see below) and within a very short time she rang me to say that she had pictures of Arthur in the shop! Almost at the same time I discovered two other pictures on the internet, taken in 1945 while Arthur was still in the navy. One of these pictures is currently the heading picture on this blog while the other, because I am somewhat doubtful as to whether it is, in fact, the same shop, I will publish in a future article on mystery photos from my collection. But, for now, here are Alva's pictures of Morton's Fish Shop.
|This is the oldest of the pictures and shows Arthur in the original shop before|
|Arthur holds up what looks like a Conger Eel. The other man is Albert|
Channing who worked in the shop for many years.
|Arthur and Albert are obviously finding something to laugh about.|
In 1949 Arthur and Phyllis had an addition to their family - a baby whom they named Alva Marylyn Lilian. As the children began to grow up the rooms in Hargrave Park were obviously too small for the family and eventually, with the help of Mr.Morton, Athur and Phyllis were able to buy their own house 32 Cressida Road. Arthur and Phyllis were keen ballroom dancers and I can remember a couple of times when they were going out my mother would take me with her to Hargrave Park when she would babysit for them. My mother was also a good dancer, probably having been taught by Arthur when they were young, and I have vivid memories of seeing her dance with her brother at family parties.
Athur and Phyllis. like most of the family often had their holidays in Southend. I think that the two pictures below are particularly evocative of those days.
|This one was taken behind the cockle sheds at Leigh-on-Sea (note the pile of shells).|
Arthur must have been behind the camera for this picture which shows L-R : Alvin,
Alva, Joe Stater (wearing Alvin's cap), Phyllis, Esther Slater, Robin Slater.
Much of Arthur's time was obviously taken up working at the shop but he still used to go home for his lunch with Phyllis and on Sundays while his wife prepared lunch both Alvin and Alva remember going for morning walks, often to feed the ducks in Waterlow Park and sometimes on to Pemberton Gardens to visit his mother and other members of the family who lived there. It was probably, according to Alva, for their twenty-fifth Wedding anniversary that Arthur and Phyllis got their first car, a Ford Consul Mk1 which was later replaced by an Austin Maxi. Arthur's mother, Esther, loved trips out in Arthur's car and there were often family picnics. I remember being on holiday at a caravan site at Shoeburyness in Essex with my mother when we received an unexpected visit from Arthur, Phyllis and my grandmother.
|Arthur and Phyllis with Arthur's mother Esther taken at Shoeburyness.|
Curiously, my mother can be seen just to the left of my grandmother, on
the ground - I have no idea why!
Arthur was a bit of a local celebrity his retirement made the local papers and the following item appeared in The Islington Gazette.
Arthur enjoyed his retirement and enjoyed trips to stay with his daughter who lived in Witham, Essex - which he jokingly referred to as "my country residence". I have many nice memories of Arthur and of the parties that were sometimes held at his house in Cressida Road. I remember having a rum drinking contest with him during my late teens. I was able to keep up with him but should have realised it was a mistake to drink rum with an old sailor. The next morning I imagine Arthur was fine - I leave you to imagine the condition I was in! I always remember Arthur as being very well-spoken and smartly dressed. My mother always said that he reminded her of the actor Basil Rathbone and I can see why. I last saw Arthur on the day I moved to Southend. He walked past the flat as the moving men were loading the van and stopped to chat for a few minutes.
Arthur was due to go and stay with daugher Alva for Christmas 1989. He rang me, as he always did, to wish my mother and I a Happy Chritmas. As my mother was unwell at the time he was unable to speak to her but he said he'd ring again while he was at Witham. Although not feeling to good himself he was determined to go to Essex for the holiday. On Christmas Eve he felt so unwell that he asked his daughter to call for an ambulance and he was taken to Broomfield Hospital near Chelmsford where he passed away in the early hours of Christmas Day.
It would have been impossible to write this without the help of both Alva and Alvin who were most generous in sharing both their memories and their photographs. The photos taken in Leigh-on-Sea and Southend come from Robin Slater's collection.