Broad Green and all that jazz

By - Tuesday 23rd April, 2013

As the debate surrounding Broad Green’s classification rages on, long-term resident Terry Coleman reflects on the history of the potential village

As a child, ‘going down town’ meant a shopping trip to the town centre, accompanied by mum of course. We walked in those days (1940-1950) from where we lived along St James’s Rd towards Broad Green.

On St James’s Road were a couple of interesting places for us young lads to see: the bike shop, Woodall’s, with two bicycle polo machines and a pair of clubs on display in the window. I believe that Mr Woodall was an enthusiastic cyclist and a cycle maker of some renown.

There was also Mr Pierce’s cottage: he was the local chimney sweep. There were a lot of chimney sweeps in Croydon – a lot of chimneys I suppose! The sweeps would get a small perk on Saturday afternoons if called upon to attend a wedding in their working clothes. With brush in hand they would kiss the bride for good luck, and a small remuneration would be given for their service to matrimonial harmony.

At the corner of St James’s Road and London Road was a nicely-positioned shop front with a gentle curve going towards the centre of town. The shop was a confectioners that sold every manner of delight: sweetmeats, chocolates, humbugs, sugar cane, liquorice, desiccated coconut, etc. – mostly on display in glass jars and sold loose by the ounce. It was enough to make any small boy pause, only to be dragged away with a promise of a treat on the way home,  if good behaviour prevailed.

Looking across the London Road and at the junction with Sumner Road was a small café, and next to that was the Savoy Cinema, part of the ABC group. We used to go to Saturday morning pictures, providing we’d done our errands and chores. It cost sixpence and we saw, at different times, the likes of Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Flash Gordon, Johnny Weissmuller, Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry, and many more. The cinema manager would get us singing too, ending with ‘We are the ABC minors’.

We loved the Savoy, and so did my Aunty Daisy. She queued to see ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and saw it on seven consecutive nights. She knew all the words to all the songs and would prove it after a glass of sherry for many years afterwards.

My Aunty Daisy was a wonderful woman; a large, big-hearted, straight-talking lady who could iron a shirt with military precision in ten seconds flat. She was a good organiser, who got things done and would stand no nonsense from anyone.

The Star Public House is very old and from the late 1940s to the early 1960s it was home to the Croydon Jazz club on Friday nights. The club was run by a gentleman named Frank Getgood and he was a true jazz aficionado. Frank would get all the top traditional jazz bands and singers to play at the club. I have been privileged to see Ken Colyer, Chris Barber, Humphrey Lyttleton, Dick Charlesworth, Ottilie Patterson, Acker Bilk, Cy Laurie, George Melly – you name them, I’ve probably seen them there!

It was all great fun with lots of atmosphere. Students from Chelsea College of Art used to arrive in droves. The ladies dressed in ballet tights and pumps, the gents in floppy jumpers, corduroys, and sandals. Strange attire, but those youngsters could jive! The girls would twist and twirl around their boys, who would leap around the floor all to the great ensemble of excellent musicianship that swung like the clappers.

I believe that towards the mid 1960s the pub changed over to rhythm & blues bands, with guests such as John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, etc. – not my bag, but my younger brothers liked it.

Broad Green has always been blessed with many small shops covering every trade. I particularly remember Hollidge Bros, boot makers and repairers. I still have a pair of hiking boots bought from them about 30 years ago and if the Lord spares me I shall use them for a few more years yet. I had many dealings with Mr Hollidge over the years – he was a plain-speaking, kindly man and was chairman of Broad Green Residents’ Association for many years.

These just a few of my many happy recollections of Broad Green – I still live close by, and Broad Green remains close to my heart. I move around town quite a lot now that I am retired, and have noticed that the Broad Green area is in more urgent need of repairs to its infrastructure compared to other parts of town.

Firstly, it seems clear to me that street cleaning and refuse collections are not as they should be. It makes me wonder if the reporting systems are being used correctly and responses properly monitored.

I know from personal experience that there is street crime in the area. This saddens me, but a few bad apples must not be allowed to spoil the tub, or indeed its reputation.

I am positive that things can change, and they will, for the better!

Broad Green now has a much greater diversity of people than I can ever remember.  I am convinced that diversity brings with it a much greater strength. We must harness this strength. We have established associations, and we have some newer associations coming on nicely. Perhaps alliances should be formed to lobby the council, just as big businesses in the centre are doing all the time.

I am sure that Aunt Daisy and Mr Hollidge would have been in favour of a Broad Green Village.  I certainly am!

Terry Coleman

Terry Coleman

Retired bloke having a lot of fun doing what he wants after 51 years doing what the bosses wanted. Croydon born & bred. Politics-Blairite, Faith-Agnostic, Interests-Music (mostly Ellington), Reading, Pilates, Gym.

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  • Philip George Harfleet

    Aah … Broad Green, the Savoy, St. Mary’s maternity hospital (St. James’ Road) and many other places which I knew like the back of my hand in the early 1940s. Elmwood Road Juniors, Mr. Thatcher headmaster was a short walk from my house in Hathaway Road. In 1956, after demob from the RAF, I went to the Lonsdale Dance Studios, next to the Savoy cinema, where I learned ballroom dancing, taking the bronze medal test with the beautiful Patricia Teare, my teacher, in the long gone Café Royal in Croydon.
    It will never be the same, whatever the planners do. Broad Green is now a happy memory for me. Especially the ABC minors in the Savoy. The Royal Parade, less royal than ever now. All decaying.
    When I last made a nostalgic trip to the area I thought I’d emigrated to a different country!

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  • GuitaristiK

    In between the cafe at the corner of Sumner road and and london road and the Savoy (ABC Cinema) was a music shop around 1964 owned by John Edmed who had the Sho bud pedal steel guitar franchise and later moved to Norbury then denmark street in london. sad to say he has now passed away. i recall standing opposite, on the corner of St James’s road in 1963 when the beatles were on tour- young girls were clamouring at the doors of the theatre and Paul, Ringo and george could just be seen signing autographs. However if the fans had turned their gaze to the cafe just a few yards away they would have seen john Lennon sitting on the counter of the cafe talking to a beggar for whom he had just bought a cup of tea and a sandwich. i later attended the concert but after the first 4 bars of Please please me (their opener) I couldn’t hear a thing. A similar incident happened years before when Cliff and the shadows appeared at the Savoy. Hundreds of screaming fans were pressed aginst the glass doors and behind their backs Cliff pulled up in a chauffeur driven T bird and walked across the road to the front doors of the savoy pushing his way (in an orange herringbone coat) through the crowd until reaching the glass doors which were straightway opened for him, then turning he started to sign autographs!

  • John Getgood

    A friend has just shown me this article and wanted to say hello. My Dad was Frank Getgood who ran the jazz club until it was killed off by Beatle mania in the mid 60s. Dad and the Jazz Club were referenced in a Broad Green exhibition held in the Whitgift Centre a couple of years ago. Shamefully, The Star has now been re-named the Broad Green Tavern. I drive past it occasionally and weep. Sorry – so many memories. Like Terry I saw so many greats there, including Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee – some of the first black blues artists to tour the UK. Dad died very young in 1974. When my Mum passed on last year we found many pieces of Croydon Jazz Club memorabilia. I found an old plastic promotional magnifying glass from The Star, “with the compliments of Mary & Bert” (Smythe, I think) who were the landlords then. I had thought of cataloguing them for the Croydon Library Local History Archive but I think that has gone. Hopefully I can get them to the National Jazz Archive sometime. Thanks for sharing.