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.


10 Responses to “Anyone for tennis?”

  1. AlexJ Says:

    That is sad! Businesses just don’t last long anymore. And with our recent recession, they’ve been closing shop really fast around here.

  2. B. Miller Says:

    How sad… this was a great post, Alex.

  3. Karen Gowen Says:

    What a charming look back. I can almost see Mr. Tooley’s store. Do you have Walmarts in Hampshire? That would be a blight for sure.

  4. kate m Says:

    “Furious love”? What an odd, odd image

  5. Walmart bought a British supermarket chain called Asda, so yes they do. Hampshire and Dorset are both full of Asdas – and they have a huge logo in yet another disgusting shade of green, placed on their buildings so that you can see it from every single point in the town centre.

    The logo was there before Walmart, though. I’m not sure what Walmart’s really brought to Asda, apart from employment practices and Snuggies…

  6. @ Kate – I’m completely bemused by ‘furious love’ as well. Best guess: the guy who wrote the slogan and the guy who wrote the slogan’s mate like using the phrase in conversation at the pub, frequently prefixed by the word ‘making’.

    Damn, I’m going to feel silly if the agency are all female. Especially if the agency are all female and surnamed Tooley…

  7. Old Kitty Says:


    As my train pulls into Liverpool Street station there are two buildings that always catch my eye: one is the Gherkin the other a red brick turret with the words Truman written on its side
    that I think used to be part of a brewery in the 1880’s or round about there!

    I think the brewery is now offices but at least they had the decency to keep the turret with its original signage – makes for a really eye catching landmark – you can just imagine “oh you can find us easily – just head for the Truman turret”!

    It’s a shame the furious love IT company saw fit to paste over that original Tooleys sign! No sense of continuity..!

    Take care

  8. @ Old Kitty – at one of the stops on the Southampton to Brighton line there’s this *massive* perfume factory with the original sign tiled into the front wall!

    Amazed it’s lasted this long really…

  9. But there is still a Tooley in Massachusett’s Hampshire College!

    …but alas, I do not play Tennis.

  10. Hello Douglas, welcome!

    So is there actually a Southampton connection…?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: