Anyone for tennis?
7 April 2010
The road to work has little trace of how Southampton used to live before the War. The German air force flattened half the street; estate agents and pubcos accounted for the rest. One solid brick building still held out for the days when advertisements just told not sold, with a ground floor like all the rest but an original twenties or thirties sign in its blocked-up corner window on the first floor: Tooley’s for Tennis!
They must have listed it, I thought when I moved here: no other way it could have stayed there for so long, with its crumbling lettering painted in green and cream.
Mr Tooley was proud of the shop he kept, you could tell. The doorbell rang all summer while he re-strung racquets. For three years in the 1930s, he moved the household radio downstairs by the counter, not to miss a second of Fred Perry’s games. Young Jimmy or Bobby or Arthur Tooley, eldest son, made someone else’s father glad the day he nervously approached him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. They went through the same sadnesses as all our English families: strikes, sickness, war. When Tooley had to close the shop, the new owners kept the sign, of course.
I know nothing about the Tooleys. But, if that isn’t the story, then there’s something like it.
Today, I saw that Tooley’s for Tennis! has gone. An IT company has its logo there instead, in shiny black and lime. The sign calls it ‘a full service digital agency, driven by a furious love of all things digital.’ And, obviously, of absolutely nothing bloody else.
So now nobody is for tennis any more.