Furry Friends and Loyal Customers

Marion and Richard reflect on their pet shop days at Rovers Return on Station Road and Elfin Pet Stores on Selhurst Road, where customers became friends and some beloved animals had their own fan clubs.

In this audio you can hear Marion and Richard.

This audio is 5 minutes and 38 seconds long.

 

Transcript:

Marion: Pet shop…I ended up having a woman who bought a rabbit. She had it for a year, called it Lucky. She said, “oh, it drinks out the children’s juice out the straw”. I went, (tut, tut, tut), “really, that’s not very good as it might be a bit of a laxative for him.” He was given the run of the house, which I approved of totally. But then she said, “we’re moving back home”. So she said, “Will you take Lucky?” So Lucky became my shop mascot, he was like a cat. Whenever the sun came in, he’d lay in the sun spot, don’t matter about the customers, they can walk over him, whatever. But he was laying there and if the children wanted to sit down next to him, cross legged, and stroke him that was fine. And then when I had kittens, they weren’t shut up either. They used to go round and nestle in and you could see Lucky there with about three kittens all snuggled up to him. It was a magical shop. We had a little white rabbit, she was a miniature. She was white with red eyes so she was called Ruby. She had fans and they would come in purely, “Can I see Ruby?” “Yes”, door open. stroke, stroke. “Can I?” “Yes”.

Marion: And then I had a rescued guinea pig. And they were brothers and, oh, boy, they were alright to start with, then they were fighting. I thought they’re going to kill each other so I had to put something down the middle of the cage to separate them like the Iron curtain.  Eventually I found a home for the other one and kept that one. He was called Mowgli, a friend named him after the Jungle Book thing. And she’d come in with the sandwich and go “Oh, dear, look, I’ve dropped all my salad on the floor, fell out of the sandwich”. I said, “You are a naughty girl”. Of course, she said, “I know someone who can eat that and she’d get the guinea pig and then she’d brush him on her lap.

 

Marion: There was a couple upstairs and he was a saxophonist. Often on a Saturday morning or Friday, he’d be tuning up and people would be looking up at the ceiling like, what’s that? The rare time I managed to sit on a chair and eat something that was bought two hours earlier, the moment I sat down and took a bite, he’d come past the back door, going “eating again” (laughs). They were a lovely couple, she was American. and people were lovely. Most people are if you give them a chance, even the grumpy ones.  I had a few grumpy old men come in, you know, the ‘grinches’. But I’d sweet talk them round, “I like your jacket, did you used to be in the army, you have that bearing”. Oh, and then next thing you know, they got the shirt open and show me, “That’s my pacemaker”, it’s like a packet of cigarettes under the skin, isn’t it, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one. I said, “it’s impressive”. “It keeps me going”. And he had a dog that died, and he said, “I’m off to get myself another dog, exactly the same as” I said. “You won’t, I said you’ll come back with a golden retriever or something”, “I won’t, no”. He said, “I know what I want”. I said, “Well, good luck”. So, he went down to Windsor or somewhere. He came out the station and he walked up and then he just stood there outside my shop, and I was chatting away and doing the till, and I thought, “Oh”. And he waited till it was empty, then he came in, I can’t think of her name. He said, and it was a girl. He said, “meet ….”. I said, “oh, she’s lovely”. I got down and went, “Hello you. What a lovely temperament, she’s perfect for you and a golden retriever” [laughs]. And people were lovely. 

Richard: Elfin pet stores was a place I spent hundreds of hours as a kid. Beryl Waghorn was the lady who owned that, she ran it with her daughter, Joan. They had the biggest German Shepherd I’ve ever seen in my life, and it was called Argus. And he was the softest, most dopiest dog in the world. And on evenings, summer evenings and weekends. I used to take him for a walk and it was amazing because everybody used to cross the road because this dog was so big. Norwood Lakes, used to walk around Norwood Lakes on Sundays, twenty times because I had the dog and I loved it. Everybody loved him, you know, he would say hello to everyone. He was just a lovely dog.

South Norwood High Street Stories is funded by Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme delivered by Croydon Council. For more information visit www.croydon.gov.uk/southnorwood

Image Credit: Croydon Council

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