No News Here with Davey Stone: Woolworths, Bargain Bar and a giant chicken fights over a Kazoo

Davey Stone

 

Ramsgate resident Davey Stone is a former bestselling author for Disney in America and Hodder in the UK.

He recently wrote a book about growing up in Ramsgate called Too Much Information, which nobody bought so he now uses the copies as doorstops in his house or occasionally as toilet paper.

He lives in Thanet coffee shops and has no friends.

(Davey is actually a successful fantasy author best known for his series of books The Illmoor Chronicles. He runs independent publishing house Kingsbrook with wife Chiara)

I’m going to ask you a question at the end of this column…and I’m genuinely excited about the answers.

Let’s talk about the past.

It’s the late 1980s and I’m sitting outside Woolworths on Ramsgate High Street watching a man dressed as a chicken taking on Morris, the lovable town drunk, in a fight over a Kazoo. At least, I THINK the fight is about the Kazoo: at the moment, it’s pretty difficult to tell.

Morris, dressed in his trademark grey suit, is circling the chicken guy like a boxer, moving his fists in circles and blowing the Kazoo between his lips every time he moves forward. I’m quite sure the whole event started as a joke…but nobody is laughing now and even the Salvation Army have stopped playing as the fight begins to move closer to the edge of the band. I’ve never seen Morris with a Kazoo before: he usually plays a Harmonica.

The big chicken has had enough: he’s tired, angry, sweating like a beast and is throwing the sort of punches which would definitely send Morris into orbit if any of them actually connected…but he can’t seem to land one. Morris is catastrophically paralytic but for some reason he’s staggering around in such a way that he’s actually DODGING some really good punches.

Being a kid in Ramsgate was GREAT. If you wanted to see a good fight, all you really had to do was hang around the Horse and Groom or the Red Lion until my nan showed up. You didn’t have to wait long past lunchtime. I wasn’t really a big fight fan, so I spent most of my formative years playing Dominos with Johnny Giles in the Iron Duke on Bellevue Road. People used to stagger out of the Iron Duke and roll down the Plains of Waterloo: occasionally a few of them would roll sideways into the Camden Arms.

Times change, though.

Cut forward thirty odd years and I’m in roughly the same spot where Woolworths used to be, trying to work out whether I’m going to need lactase from Holland and Barrett before I take my laptop into Cafe Nero in order to TRY to get a cappuccino before all the Chatham House kids turn the place in their Year 11 form room.

Walking the High Street today is a different experience and I really do find it hard to see the place in quite the same way as a lot of the people who think it’s gone downhill. There is SOMETHING deeply depressing about the life of the shops in the town, simply because they seem to spring up and disappear with alarming frequency…but overall I think we DO look back at the past with rose-tinted glasses.

I think it’s because a lot of us still see the old places underneath the new ones. Some of us glance at the Halifax and can still see Burton’s or can’t quite walk around Poundland without remembering how much better Woolworths seemed to be…and yet we often didn’t use the places nearly as much as we probably should have done: we just wanted them to BE there.

I remember being absolutely devastated when Our Price went. I actually sat on the bench outside Woolworths with my head in my hands until a mate pointed out that I’d never bought a record from them in my life.

One shop in Ramsgate that I genuinely DID miss for all the right reasons was the Bargain Bar on Plains of Waterloo. It was run by a lovely guy who looked a bit like a giant, beardless garden gnome. He sold things like Sega Megadrives and also bought them back from you if you ever found yourself a bit hard up. In fact, there’s a good chance that most of the Megadrives he traded were actually mine.

What shops in Thanet do YOU miss? What’s gone that you’re genuinely upset about…and what ghosts do you see when you look at all the old shop fronts?

20 Comments

  1. Does Margate Winter Gardens count?

    Other than that, Garlinge Mart – a long gone D.I.Y. shop where (back in the 80s) I fancied the woman who worked there but was too shy to speak to her.

    • Margate Winter Gardens definitely counts! The last time I went there I’m pretty sure it was for a local boxing tournament.

  2. Barnets, the record shop, loved popping in there to listen to the latest singles, Chelsea girl, Etams, Littlewoods,to name a few! such a shame to see how the seaside towns have changed

  3. Harbour galleries,where the goose now is. Trevor’s record stall in there was responsible for most of my second hand punk gems. Plus it had a “defender” arcade machine that resolutely stayed at 10p after most of the arcades put theirs up to 20p!

  4. Woolies, Rooks and the Arcades.
    It was stationery heaven for many of us in Woolies, Rooks, say no more. Sausage roll burger puff and apple turnover heaven
    Memories of Operation Wolf, there was the WWF and boxing game at the arcades

  5. Barnetts the baby clothes shop, Queen Street. Boulangers stationers and office machinery, Queen Street. Courts furnishers, Queen Street. King Street? I could go on forever 😉

  6. Woolies without a doubt! Decca Sports, the Leather shop where Paydens now is, the old Tesco on York St, Littlewoods, the Pantry inside Peacocks, the tiny New Look where Cafe Nero is, the Grott Shop, Halfords. Our family shopped regularly in town and a couple of us worked in town too.

  7. Astounding to think just how much there used to be in the town centre. I remember Ramsgate having about 7 cardshops and nearly as many shoe shops! Pretty sure there was Tandy, Dixon’s, Curry’s, Rumbelow’s and Radio Rentals more or less all at the same time too! Winter’s had its Are You Being Served/Dad’s Army atmosphere. I have the vaguest memory of Bourne’s, like something out of an episode of Upstairs Downstairs. The leather goods shop in King St. Fine Fare, then Gateway in the High St. Goulden and Wind where my parents bought the recorder I had to learn at primary school…

    • So many shops and businesses have disappeared. Blinko s ; Video Crazy ; Maxted’s ; Woodward & Wray ; Holness & Ovenden ; Shaxteds ; 3 x Bowketts shops. Our seafront had amusement arcades and rides plus a small Zoo with monkeys etc, Helter Skelter ; and of course Merrie England & the Ghost Train. But of course we now have a variation of the latter — The Ghost Town — instead of Ghouls we have Parking Attendants ; hazards – rubbish , druggies , shoplifters ; etc etc. So scary that even MacDonalds and M & S have pulled out 😢😢😢

  8. Lewis and Hyland at the bottom of harbour St. The sweeping staircase that took you down to the toy dept in the basement ..

  9. Like others I’m going to cheat… Pleasurama Arcades at the seafront was 60% of my Saturdays… but the biggest miss is W P Sanders the butchers in Addington Street. I’m hugely bias of course but it was the bedrock of a community. Addington Street used to be the main high street in Ramsgate and had over 64 businesses trading there in the early 70’s. When W P Sanders closed at the start of the millennium there were just 3 remaining. And guess what… in the early 70s the street has 3 butchers shops and Ramsgate had 27!!! How many Butchers are there in Ramsgate now? 1? Waitrose and turning the street into a one way street killed the businesses there. Westwood Cross has a similar impact on Ramsgate. Amazon has had a similar impact on WWX which has its own boarded up shops. The moral of the story? Enjoy it when you can Jeff Bezos…

  10. Dear Adrian, I agree with most of your comments and Addington Street was busy in the 70s , but was not the main High Street in Ramsgate because the town was far busier back then. You are 100% correct that Westwood X killed off Ramsgate town trade. The great shame was that no plan was ever dreamt up of just what to do to stop Ramsgate becoming a Ghost Town. We do not need a 10 year plan but a radical 10 month plan to encourage traders & shoppers back to our town is essential. As the majority ; if not all ; of our Councillors have never owned a shop or ran a business it is a dead cert that nothing will change sadly

  11. Littlewoods cafeteria. I can still remember that delicious smell. Also Goulden and Wind at the top of the High Street, just past the NatWest. Great shop for sheet music and more.

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