My dad was a shopkeeper D.E. Allman, Grocer and Wine Merchant, Purveyor of Fine Foods. Commonly called Danny’s. His was a corner shop in an area of back to back terraced houses peopled by hard working, hard living families loyal to Danny who had seen them right during the war and the years of rationing that followed. It was more than a shop: it was part of the community, the cellar, a huge dungeon, had been adapted and used as an air raid shelter for the surrounding streets during the war years and it was not unknown for under the counter dealings to take place there. Danny himself was jovial and rotund, with a twinkling eye and a listening ear. There was not much local news that didn’t get related to him, although he himself was not a gossip and was never known to betray any confidence entrusted to him. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s many people had difficulty making ends meet and it was usual for regular customers to have goods on ‘the book’ and to pay at the end of the week or whenever money was available to them. Weekly orders were dropped off usually on Thursdays and the goods would be picked up on Fridays or delivered to the door by the errand boy in his wooden truck_ This system worked very well and everyone was satisfied and contented with the arrangement.
In the late 1950s and early 60s a major slum clearance programme was embarked upon by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Danny’s customers began to disappear as they were re-housed in other areas. T.V. advertising and the opening of the first ‘Tesco’ supermarket in nearby Moorland Road posed another threat to Danny’s livelihood. Some customers however escaped this upheaval and continued to shop at Danny’s in the old way; but times were changing, people had more money to spend and became vehicle owners with the mobility and the opportunity to shop around.
Mrs. M. was one such customer and when the day came that no order had been pushed through the shop letterbox, my dad said to me, `better put Mrs. Ms. Usual goods together, she must have forgotten her order.’ Later that day, at tea time, Mrs. M. came into the shop. Waited her turn and said ‘can I pay what I owe Mr. Allman please?’ Dad got out ‘the book’ and handed over the bill. She paid to the last penny then said `I shan’t be needing any more goods Mr. Allman’. `Oh’ said dad, ‘are you moving after all?’ no’ she said, ‘but I shall be doing my shopping at Tesco’. Dad was quite taken a back, ‘is anything wrong? Has something not been up to scratch?’ No’ she said, ‘everything has been fine as it always has been, it’s just that we have a car now and it’s cheaper to shop at ‘Tesco’. It was the death knell for Danny’s.
Mrs. M. was not alone in her change of allegiance but she was the only one to have the courage to face the man who had supported her and her family during the lean years, and who’s premises had sheltered them when danger threatened from a foreign land. Her reward to him was to tell him that now that she was experiencing the good years, the services he had to offer were no longer needed or wanted.
Danny’s faith in human nature was shaken to the core.
© A. Oxford
This 1936 Trade Directory entry shows the shops address, currently occupied by ‘The Kebab Range’ on the corner of Ford Green Road & Croft Court.