I was born and brought up in Shirley and have lived in the area ever since. I have seen so many changes to the area which has, in many ways, lost its character of the past.
One distinct memory that I have are the three little shops in Woodmere Avenue which served the community. The first one was a Sweet Shop and Newsagent, next door was the Post Office and Chemist, then the Grocers the third shop.
It is to the Post Office/Chemist that I return. Mr and Mrs Brooker ran the shop, with Mr Brooker being in charge of the Post Office and Mrs Brooker responsible for the Chemist. They were a delightful and very helpful couple who served the community extremely well. Then, sadly, one day we heard the news that Mr Brooker had died. This, of course, left Mrs Brooker on her own with great responsibility. Fortunately, a lady called Mrs Miles joined her and together these two ladies ran a very efficient business.
Mrs Miles was the wife of PC Miles and, I assume, Woodmere Avenue was part of his beat for he would often be seen visiting the Post Office to check that all was well. My personal recollection of PC Miles was seeing him on the corner of Woodmere Avenue/Elstan Way, where he would stand for a while and greet passers-by, including the children. He became known as ‘the children’s friend’. His kind and friendly face, together with the way he spoke to us, will never leave my memory. I always had a very high regard for him. Then tragedy struck. PC Miles was called to the attempted burglary, by Christopher Craig and Derek Bentley, of Messrs Barlow and Parkers’ confectionary warehouse* where, as we now know, he was shot and killed. How shocked and saddened we were as a community.
Unfortunately, my memory fails me as to how matters proceeded but I do remember that the Post Office was eventually taken over by new people. Finally, it was closed and is now converted into a flat and even the Post Box has been moved to the other side of Elstan Way.
*Barbara’s touching recollection refers to the tragic demise of PC Sidney Miles, fatally shot on the roof of the Barlow and Parkers’ warehouse in Tamworth Road, Croydon on 2nd November 1952. He was actually shot by 16-year-old Christopher Craig but it was his accomplice, Derek Bentley who, being 19 years old, received the death penalty. Craig was still regarded as a juvenile and was detained ‘at Her Majesty’s Pleasure’. He was released ten years later.
In our present day a confectionary warehouse may seem a strange place to break into but at the time sweets and chocolate were still severely rationed following WW2 and worth much on the ‘black market’. – Joan Pring
Story contribution taken from the Spring 2018 Edition of the MORA Magazine
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