In a fast changing world, elements of stability and continuity are treasured.
Crouch End lost one of its favourite and most enduring landmarks at the end of February 2021 when Paul Saxton clicked the padlock of his kiosk for the last time. Sporting the patina of much use, it has stood on the corner of the Broadway and Weston Park for decades.
Paul took over the business in 1979 and since then has sold hundreds of thousands of magazines, comics and newspapers to generations of Crouch Enders – many of them making their rush-hour dash to the W7 bus stop in front of Hornsey Town Hall.
The history of the stall is very hazy and there are no family members left who can help with dates or key events. However, it was Paul’s grandfather who started the business (he also ran a pub) some time before the outbreak of World War II. His son Jim (actually Christened Horace John but, confusingly, known to the family as Bill) took over the stall following his demob – probably in 1948. Jim only had one day off a year and so he spent Christmas Day 1948 getting married at St James’ Church, Muswell Hill. In turn Jim handed it on to Paul.
When Paul sold his first Daily Mirror (8p) an average house in the UK cost less than £14,000, the Happy Meal was generally considered to be a ‘good thing’ and Yuppies were struttin’ their stuff listening to hip-hop with their Walkman headphones clamped over their perms. On TV, the glamour of Dallas vied for viewers with the charm of Compo and his chums on The Last of the Summer Wine. Afghanistan had been invaded by the USSR, Trivial Pursuit was the must-have Chrissy present, Pink Floyd (former residents of Crouch End) released The Wall and the Hon Member for Finchley became the UK’s first woman prime minister.
The big brand names in the Broadway were changing: Budgen’s was still a recent arrival, Tandy’s was a few doors away from Paul, Freeman Hardy and Willis as well as Curtis were selling shoes and opposite the kiosk was a Dewhurst and a bustling Woolworths. A pint of beer was about 46p (depending on where you drank) and a gallon of petrol would set you back 98p ( if you needed a calculator to work out the price per litre, Currys would have sold you one for £8.95).
Crouch End was making one of its occasional transitions – this time from bedsit land (with lots of thirsty students and building workers filling the pubs) to an attractive area for first time buyers: estate agents referred to it as “Highgate Borders”.
Paul left a charming message on the Crouch End Appreciation Society’s Facebook page announcing his retirement and move to Doncaster in which he referred to all these changes.
“I can honestly say, it has been a pleasure serving the community of Crouch End over the last 42 years. It has also been a somewhat eye-opening experience watching the changes over all those years to the same local community. I’ve seen businesses come and go, both large and small, whilst I’ve been lucky enough to have somehow survived and keep going with your support, and all of you were more supportive than ever when the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020 and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
“With a heavy heart I will therefore be saying my final goodbyes to you all from this little wooden cabin that has been my work home for more than half my life. So, here’s to the end of an era and being lucky enough to leave whilst I still have my good health, wearing a smile on my face, and with a good few years left in the tank to enjoy a slightly slower pace of life.
Farewell comrades …. And Up the Gunners!!!
The Hornsey Historical Society is keen to hear from any of Paul’s thousands of customers: if you have any memories you’d like to share, please leave them here.