In the 1950s and 1960s “Dickie Smiths” newsagent shop was known by practically every person living in Billingham.
I was brought up on the Junction Estate on the north side of the railway but my Mother paid a weekly visit to the Co-op on Belasis Avenue for the shopping, this was because we were registered there for our food that was still on ration, she continued doing that even when the rationing came to an end, when the new town centre started to come on line she switched to Broughs, this will have been in the late 1950s, during our visits to the Co-op we passed Dickie Smiths, I had a year at Billingham South Modern School and visited either Dickie Smiths on the Green or Jack Bruces in Mill lane for my sweets.
During those times there were quite a few newsagents in Billingham but “Dickie Smiths” was probably the best known, its location on the Green close to St Cuthberts Church, the Methodist Central Hall, the main Co-op and the Picture House on Belasis Avenue as well as three pubs and a social club meant there were always people in the area.
The whole area was thriving, there were more shops close by in Mill Lane and Station Road as well as on the North and South sides of the Green.
The catchment area for newspaper deliveries was very large, stretching from the Railway Station in the North to the Green in the South, I knew about half a dozen of my peers who delivered newspapers for “Dickie Smiths”.
The road outside of the shop was known as West Row, since renamed West Road, there was also a North Row and an East Row, the latter housing the brewery, I believe the buildings on the South side were just known as The Green, they backed on to a row of very old cottages known as South View, these were built long before ICI appeared so they had an uninterrupted view down to the River Tees.
At the far end of the shops was the Half Moon Cafe, we had a couple of family get togethers in the room above the cafe.
The two bus shelters have since been replaced by a single shelter and been moved nearer to the church lych gate, I don’t know why there were two bus shelters outside this parade of shops, during the 1960s there were two operators stopping at the Green, United and Durham District Services, United went from Hartlepool to Middlesbrough and DDS from Sedgefield to Stockton, most of the other services ran along Belasis Avenue.
I think this photo is from the mid 1960s, the cigarettes being advertised are from that period, the YZ chewing gum machine is also typical of that time as is the weighing machine on the pavement, does anybody else remember trying to weigh a bunch of mates for a single penny?, the first would get on and put the penny in, the next would put his foot on the platform and press down while the first got off, this continued until we had all been weighed, when the last one stepped of the scales would lock until another penny was put in.
Kids never miss a trick do they?.
Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.