I HAVE so many memories of Beales in Old Christchurch Road from when I was a child.

At that time I lived in Terrace Road and my first encounter was around the middle-1950s when I was about eight or nine years old.

For me and my younger brother, Beales was our ‘playground’: first we loved to ride up and down in the lifts, which had attendants who called out items each floor held. A bit like that vintage television programme Are You Being Served?

The several Beales floors also had demonstrations going on with many new and inventive products. We just loved to watch them.

I can especially recall the coloured glass modelling over a hot flame, the Popham Puppet Show and one time where some plastic could be squeezed from a tube to make a balloon. I was given the sample and carefully took it back home but just outside my front door a passing dustman popped it with a brush.

Another time I can recall was when the RAF put on a large display in Beales with latest models of new aircraft that actually flew around (via some wire etc). Beales had a toy department where in the centre, just about every wind-up toy was on display and able to be tested out by us kids.

But best of all Beales had a television section. Not many people owned a TV at home back in the late 50s and I can always remember they were high-priced in guineas despite, just a seven inch screen and only one BBC channel that was closed down more than showing.

Beales, in their excitement, chose to promote their television sales by putting up a kind of mini-cinema where one could sit and watch. My brother and I made it a regular Saturday date (after first leaving the Saturday Morning Pictures Club at the Lansdowne Odeon), to sit in Beales and watch The Cisco Kid’and Pancho. That idea went well for a long time until my brother decided to bring along a bag of fried chips and we were both thrown out.

I can also remember Beales’s Father Christmas back in those early days. Santa used to ride through the streets of Bournemouth town in his coach and horses – throwing out sweets to the kids en-route to Beales to set up his grotto.

Many people used to crowd the town at that event and I often got to tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas and he wrote it down in his big book. Though not once did I ever find a pony at the end of my bed come Christmas morning.

Beales back then was always known as the top quality shop. Bealsons never compared but JJ Allen and Bobby’s came very close.

It will be a sad day for Bournemouth if Beales finally goes but it belongs to an era when we have seen many other top popular stores fade away and where many, if not all, have held a lot of good memories for us all.


Wellington Road, Bournemouth