Day 82 – Department Stores: Not exactly a department store , being clothing only, although being on three floors ‘C & A Modes’ was probably a bit of a forerunner to ‘Primark’? There was a bargain basement for separates where at the age of 13 I was bought a straight skirt with matching short sleeved overblouse in brown and white glazed cotton. ‘C & A’ (affectionately known as “Coats ‘n’ ‘ats”) appeared to have the largest selection of coats in town and all ages from teenagers to grandmothers could be catered for.I bought coats in boucle, mohair and the infamous foam-backed all from there plus jersey pinafore dresses with frills on the shoulder (that was a strange style!). Maternity wear too with grey and brown cord pinafores which I wore with pretty blouses and polos and were flattering in pregnancy – no skin tight maternity wear in the 80s, thank goodness! ‘Clockhouse’ was the department for young fashion and for those desiring tailoring or elegance, ‘Sixth Sense’. One thing we were very much spoilt with in the 80s and 90s was their Ski Wear, not that I went skiing but I did buy a beautiful padded 3/4 coat in petrol green shimmery fabric. All their clothing was reasonably priced and I assume that most of it was made in the UK then, One thing I don’t ever remember is returning items for a refund – it obviously fit. Before they closed I did buy my shell suits from there plus two jersey jogger suits with long sweatshirt tops but they was nothing to be proud of! ‘C and A’ were good for children’s wear and school uniform too so I supported the store until it closed. A sad loss to the UK but they still continue to trade in Europe.
Not far away from ‘C & A’ , although a World apart in elegance and custom was ‘Marshall & Snelgrove’. The moment one stepped inside the Store there was an air of tranquility and footsteps were silenced on the thick green carpet. Assistants spoke in hushed tones and customers felt obliged to follow suit. The only items I bought there were mini dresses from their ‘Jean Varon’ dept which gave me great joy and pride to wear. The store, often referred to simply as ‘Marshall’s, had the most elegant carrier bags and hat boxes; instantly recognised by the distinctive floral design on a black background.
From the sublime to the ridiculous there was the ‘Co-op’ or ‘Leeds Industrial Co-operatve Society’ to give it its Sunday name. Originally on both sides of lower Albion Street but I only remember it being where ‘Wilko’ is now. There was a hairdressing salon for many years and each year on ‘Children’s Day’ the Queen and her Attendants would be photographed there having their done before changing into their finery for the day ahead. As a Bridesmaid in 1973 the Bride and my co-bridesmaids had our hair styled at the Co-op and I was surprised at the size of the Salon with its long row of green leather chairs where one would sit under the large hairdryers and read a magazine; any form of conversation being out of the question. I would think the majority of Leeds bought from the Co-op, whether it was milk delivered from their dairies, shopping for food ar their local Co-op, booking the Austin Princess cars for a wedding or using their funeral services. Every purchase was awarded with ‘divi’ for which we had to say our number (“132998”!) the dividend being paid out twice a year in cash by presenting a book at the cash office on Albion Street. Actually I liked the ‘Co-op’ store very much as it had a good selection of departments, from white goods, electricals and homewares in the basement, the ground floor selling ladies and men’s clothing, footwear, haberdashery plus a pharmacy and perfumery counter. I loved browsing the beauty and medical counter as it was quite dated and old fashioned, as was the rest of the Store in its appearance, yet all sorts of products not generally available in other outlets could be found there. One could buy a methol cone to rub on a fevered brow, a plastic pleated rainhat (if so desired!) or discontinued cosmetics. The next floor housed furniture and home furnishings and the top floor – nursery goods, toys and the Cafe. The ‘Co-op’ was a favourite destination for my son, with his Nana almost always treating her grandson to some small toy, usually another addition to a collection of ‘Thomas the Tank’ trains or Wrestlers. The Cafe was designed to resemble a Parisian garden, with its dark green wrought iron furniture and fittings, all illuminated by ornate white and brass lamps. The ‘Co-op’ was yet another closure and loss for many.
Next M & S, Woolies, Littlewoods and Matthias Robinson.