Hostile takeover

The Crosville coach station in Crescent Road. I used to sit on the wall while waiting for coaches to arrive.

I was doing quite well with my sources of income as the summer went on. I had my paper round, which I had got down to a fine art, and the casing was bringing in money.

All was fine and dandy. Holidaymakers always arrived on a Saturday morning and by 1pm business slackened off which meant I had the afternoon to see friends and just enjoy the summer.

That is until one fateful day in July, 1962.

Other young casers and myself were awaiting the first coach when we saw a newcomer arrive.

He was older than any of us and strongly built and was pushing a rickety pram chassis with a few boards laid across it. I had seen better carts consigned to the tip.

Somehow I knew this lad was trouble. Maybe my newsman’s nose for trouble was giving itself a trial run (even though I didn’t know myself that was the path that lay ahead).

I took in every detail of his build, his hair, his face and the clothes he wore.

The years have blurred the details but they were imprinted on my mind at the time.

He stopped and left his “cart” before walking right up to me. I was the tallest one there other than him and maybe he thought I was in charge. That was rubbish as each of us was there for their own benefit.

He stopped less than six inches from me and said: “Bugger off this is my patch.”

Now you thought I might have learned a lesson from when I was approached by a bully at school. I still trusted in the power of words.

“There’s plenty of business for all. Anyone who wants to come here is welcome.”

“You’re not. This is my patch.”

As he stopped talking I saw his arm was raised and a dirty fist was heading towards my nose.

I didn’t have time to take any action before he hit me smack on the nose and I fell back over my truck and ended sprawled on the ground with my nose feeling as though I had walked into a solid brick wall.

As I lay there I thought he was going to kick me but instead he jumped on my truck, then jumped off, kicked it over and proceeded to kick it in a bid to smash it.

Mr Massey had made a good job of the woodwork but my assailant still managed to break off the leg of the truck and bend one of the wheels.

As I got up he stood menacingly over me and said: “Bugger off.”

I appropriately buggered off, dragging my poor truck behind me, with blood pouring from my nose and reached our back gate in moments.

Once inside, and having bolted the gate behind me, I dropped the wreckage of my cart and went into the house to be greeted by my horrified mother.

As I tried to explain what had happened she got me into the bathroom, sat me on the edge of the bath and used a flannel and cold water to staunch the flow and hopefully clean up my face.

My father had been informed and had immediately phoned the police station, which was at the end of our road. Ten minutes later there was a burly police sergeant in the shop.

We sat in my father’s office while the sergeant asked me to tell him what happened. As I described my assailant and repeated our “conversation” a knowing look came into his eyes.

He got up and said to my father: “I reckon I know who did this. Will you let me deal with it?”

There must have been a general agreement between the police and local people at that time to let the police “deal with it”.

Some years later I discovered the name of my assailant. I also got to know his reputation.

I do remember the policeman laughing to my father about “casing wars”.

That incident ended my income from casing. I am not a coward but, like my father, I know when an action is futile and it comes down to commonsense.

Mr Massey had offered to repair the truck but I knew I would never use it again.

It didn’t stop my search for sources of income, however, and I came up with a good one.

What did some holidaymakers and a lot of daytrippers lack in those days? A camera.

My brother and I had both got a Coronet Flashmaster camera but Nigel had graduated to an Ilford Sportmaster 35mm camera with a good leather case.

His Flashmaster was now redundant. That gave me an idea.

The Coronet Flashmaster – a camera that used 120 roll film which produced square images.

Amidst the old stock Dad took over with the shop were two old Box Brownie cameras, not much different to the old homemade pinhole cameras.

A Box Brownie. A basic camera also using 120 roll film.

I was about to enter the film industry. No, not as a photographer. I intended to fill a niche in the holiday trade. I would hire out cameras.

If any holidaymaker had forgotten their camera or couldn’t afford one they could hire one of “mine”.

Half-a- crown a day or 10 bob for the week with a 10-bob deposit. That was 12.5p and 50p in modern money. The cameras themselves were only worth 10 bob each but most holidaymakers would rather have that deposit money back than a camera they might never use again.

It was also a win-win situation for my father’s business as they would have to buy a roll of film from the shop.

Maybe this was why Dad was willing to deal with the customers himself, or at least via his shop assistant, Karen.

That business did well and it also benefited another local business – the firm that picked up used films from my father’s shop, developed and printed them, then returned them to us within 24 hours for the customer to collect.

Obviously daily hire was better for business but daily or weekly it still offered a good income and nobody was likely to make a hostile takeover bid.

Next time: An actor’s life for me.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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