Email from Richard Hubbard - 3rd December 2009
Firstly, I think you and the team are doing a wonderful job, and I just hope you're able to keep up the energy currently going into the Facebook and website!
Although I now live in Milton Keynes, and have done this past 30 years, my family were "Old Dunstablians", and go back many generations in the town. We lived in Winfield Street, just down from The Globe pub, and as a child, well I remember hearing the 'old Joanna' playing, and many voices singing, as it got closer to closing time!
In the 1950's/60s, opposite us, on the corner of Winfield Street and Edward Street, was Phil Mead's butchery; where, at 15, I became a butcher's boy, and cycled round the town on my delivery bike with customer's orders. We always got our meat 'ration' (i.e. what we could afford that week) from either Phil Mead's or Bob Bunker's butchery, which was just round the corner on the corner of Edward Street and Union Street. Opposite Mead's, in Edward Street, was Daisy Dudley's grocers/greengrocery, and a few doors along one way was Creamer's bakery, and the other way was Doll Bowers grocery. Dear old Doll Bowers had turned her "front room" into a shop (or that's what it looked like) many years before, and sold a small range of groceries and dairy products, like the best cheddar cheese we'd ever tasted! She used to keep open all hours, and would sit in her "back room" watching television - especially Coronation Street when Ena Sharples was on, with her living room door open so she could see the shop, and she'd call out to you "Wait a minute while this finishes!" and you'd stand there maybe ten minutes before she'd come to serve... but no-one cared in those days, we were just glad of a shop open if we'd run out of tea or sugar!
Within a couple of hundred yards of our home we also had Eric Lovegrove's greengrocery in Union Street, and Mrs Cuss's wet-fish & fish & chip shop on the corner of Stuart Street and Union Street. There was another "chippy" down Union Street near the High Street - he was only the tiniest shop and on a cold winter's evening the queue could easily be outside the shop and we'd all be dying to get into the warmth!
So all in all, when I was a lad, we hardly needed to "go down the town", as we had everything we could want on our doorstep. A far cry from today, for as far I as know, not a one of these businesses survive, even as something else. It had been my Great-Great Granddad who had startedthe bakery which became Creamers in Edward Street, and my Great Granddad who started the grocery/greengrocery which became Daisy Dudley's.
All these dear folks, Doll Bowers, Eric Lovegrove, Daisy Dudley, would never have been allowed by modern councils, and I can remember the only public telephone nearby was inside the back door of the bakery, so no matter what time of day or evening (reasonable hours!) we could go across and knock-up Mrs Creamer to ask to use the phonebox. Afterwards, we'd often buy a cake or a loaf of bread that was still on their shelves... Stale cake? When folks earn very little no-one cares to ask how long that Chelsea Bun has sat on the shelf, if the shop owner says you can have it for a few coppers! Creamer's even used to roast many people's Christmas turkey in their bread ovens when I was a kid! Few of us had a large enough oven for a family size bird, and Creamer's would put them in to roast after the last bread-bakes - where would you find that sort of service these days?
Of course, they were hard, cold, penniless, days, too. I certainly wouldn't want to return to those times, except for the spirit of neighbourliness and great customer service, as they call it these days. For instance, when the Great Freeze of '62/63 was in full swing, the only tap in the neighbourhood which still ran freely was in Doll Bowers alleyway - an outside tap wrapped in a bit of old potato sacking - the only tap running for hundreds of yards around... so Doll had a queue of people patiently waiting in line, down her alleyway, and round the in front of her shop every evening at tea time, and again later, after tea, as everyone filled up saucepans and jugs, even hot-water bottles and milk-bottles - anything that could hold enough water for the morning wash and a breakfast cuppa tea! That lasted right through till March in Winfield Street! Good old Doll, she did get a few bob out of it, though, as folks would pop in for a chocolate bar or a bag of peanuts (and a warm-up!) while they waited in line for water!
Sorry - bit of a ramble... but I so love Dunstable, my home town. I just so hope that the Council take note of your campaign and pull the town round. I could write loads more about the lovely old pubs along the High Street, the books that inspired us kids which we'd buy from 'Keeps', on the corner of West Street (and was always known as "Keeps Corner"), the old story that was told us kids that if we waited long enough outside Chew's House, when the Town Hall clock struck a certain hour the two "black-boys" statues above the doorway, would change hands holding their plates! Hours I've stood waiting for it to happen! That was when The Little Theatre was the town's library and we still had gas lamps for most street lighting... and when those lights would all go out long before midnight, and there's be hardly a whisper of traffic noise along the High Street with only the occasional long-distance lorry trundling through the town that late at night! Happy days!
Yours sincerely, Richard Hubbard"