It was 1962. Simon was 2½ and Bernard was 4 months old. Josh was working full time in our dental practice up in town and I was working part time in the dental practice I had set up in our small terrace house in Wimbledon.
Despite the fact that we were both working, we were overdrawn, having taken on too big a mortgage. We cast about for ways of making some extra money and finally decided to open an educational toyshop. It was such an ordeal getting two small boys ready to go up to town to find some toys that didn’t fall to pieces almost straightaway. The word you thought of then when someone said ‘toys’ was ‘broken’!! There was a very good toyshop owned by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt in Wimpole Street and Heal’s had some good toys, particularly at Christmas, but it wasn’t easy dragging the boys up to town.
We approached local agents in Wimbledon village only to be told none of the shops ever changed hands. All of them had been there for ages. Then, just before Christmas, one of the agents rang to say a small shop had come on the market.
It was ideal. A reasonable rent for a small bow-fronted shop – just one’s image of ‘Ye Olde Toy Shoppe.’ Winter 1962-3 was the coldest for years and we almost said ‘no’. I remember inspecting the premises, still with a post-pregnancy weak bladder, and finding the loo frozen solid.
Having managed to borrow £500 between the bank and a friend of my sister’s, we spent £250 on fitting it out and £250 on stock. If we visited any shop that stocked attractive sturdy toys, we turned them over to look at the labels to find the suppliers. We also managed to find some craftworkers making beautiful toys to order, as well as sturdy wooden toys imported from Scandinavia.
I wrote to all the Sunday glossies to tell them our shop would be opening at Easter and to our great good fortune the Woman’s Page editor, the wonderful late Moira Keenan, wrote about us on the Sunday before Easter. Fantastic!!
That Wimbledon shop later moved to a larger shop in the High Street and we opened a second shop in Putney. We never made much money out of them though it was a wonderful experience. Finally, having had enough of running John Dobbie, we sold the Putney shop in a property deal, and the Wimbledon shop to a couple who had opened a shop like ours elsewhere.
I decided to return to medicine, hoping to specialise in dental pathology. The professor who’d invited me to come and see him, if and when I was ready, had retired and when I approached his replacement for a job, he turned me down saying ‘A married woman with four children and no expertise – you’ve nothing to offer.’
Five years later I was a consultant pathologist with an international reputation. When we met later he swore he’d never said anything of the kind – but he had!!