Author Topic: Revolving doors, getting lost, various species of shop girls. Mid 50s nostalgia.  (Read 989 times)

Offline Gyppo

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In one of the game threads Firefly mentioned turnstiles, which reminded me of revolving doors...


When I was a kid there was a big store in the nearby town with revolving doors.   These were a very impressive thing for a little wild boy from The Forest.   They towered over me, they even towered over lofty adults.  Made from dark wood with regularly polished brass fittings it had four distinct sections.  Each would easily take four adults, or more if they didn't mind being squashed a bit.

If a bunch of kids got in there, three or more to each section, we could push it faster and faster until we got dizzy.  This probably wasn't very safe.  Looking back I assume there was supposed to be some sort of braking device so it couldn't spin so fast, but if so it didn't work.  Maybe it was worn out.  There were some brass tongue things in the floor which pressed down and popped up again as the door revolved.

Maybe they just relied on common sense back then, which is no defence against determined kids driven by mischief or curiosity.

The store manager, liveried doorman, or some other 'suit', would stand there yelling at us to stop, but had the sense not to try and grab the dividers as they spun by.

Eventually we would stop and the town kids, who used to hang around by the store to play this game, (nearly always including the evil little red-headed boy from the slum area down near the docks), would just leg it and vanish into the crowds.  The poor innocent little lad from the caravan site, lacking anywhere to run to, would stagger dizzily to a seat and wait for his Mum to reappear.

I have to say I never saw them playing the trick when there was a unsteady little old lady or a mum with a pram negotiating the hazard.

I didn't like going in that store because I got lost in there once.  More to the point I lost Mum, who was browsing amongst the racks and I wasn't tall enough to see where she'd gone.  It happened in other big stores too.  I'd stop to look at something and Mum wouldn't realise I was no longer glued to her coat-tails like a little shadow.  (I've lost my two girls the same way on occasion.  My Grandaughter has the same ability to just unobtrusively detach herself.)

I was usually rescued by some friendly-faced older shop lady who would ask what Mum was wearing and look above the racks to spot her.   It was often her green coat, in the post-war mid-50s clothes were still only replaced when they wore out or got damaged beyond repair, not just on a fashionable whim.)

These older shop ladies often looked like one of my aunties, who was a classic stereotype of a 'little old lady from the corner shop'.  There was a definite 'look' to a certain kind of person back then that children instinctively recognised.

If the 'auntie' couldn't spot Mum they would often leave me in the charge of some terribly serious looking junior 'girl' with orders to sit with me until the older one found Mum.  These poor kids, aged between fourteen and sixteen, came in two distinct types.  Some were the big sister type who were either bossy or would try to jolly me along.  Some just looked totally overwhelmed by the unwanted responsibility and would sit with legs tight together, hands folded on their lap, eyes restless like a spooked horse, and look terrified if I even stirred a muscle.

One of the big sister types fished out a loop of string from her overall pocket and taught me how to do that 'cat's cradle' thing.  Fascinated me and kept me occupied.  Instant rapport.  I expect she was a 'little mother' type from a big family.

I saw her a few other times when we went there and she always smiled and made the 'cat's cradle' finger motions to show she remembered me.   Maybe she was hoping I'd get lost again and give her a break from routine.

But eventually I persuaded Mum it was safe to leave me outside the store, where, even at an early age, apart from being sucked into the spinning door game, I was developing my skills as a 'people watcher'.  You can learn an awful lot about body language as a child, even if you don't know the description.


I still sometimes get disorientated in big stores, especially those built on a slope where you can go in at ground level, go up or down three floors, and still come out at ground level on the other side.  I believe places like these are a godsend to pickpockets and shop-lifters who know all the exits.

Being a smart little kid who was already deeply in love with words, I read every sign I saw and sometimes totally misunderstood them.  How a word is written and how it's spoken are sometimes poles apart.  It was Dad who picked up on one of these misunderstandings and smilingly explained whilst ruffling my hair.

"No, Son.  The lingerie department isn't a special room where people just linger when they're waiting for their wives to finish shopping.  Not a good place for a man to be seen on his own, and they tend not to like little boys in there either.  It's a woman's world the other side of that door."

I also remember Dad explained the pronunciation of that exotic word brassiere to me, when most of my Hampshire schoolmates tended to call it a brazeer, with the a having an 'uh' sound to it.

He did a bloody good job in the fourteen years before his accident scrambled his brains.


Shopping malls are even worse.  I need a native guide to venture into some of those hell-holes.

« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 11:26:15 PM by Gyppo »
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