Oliff’s Life with Richard Oliff

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Corby’s town centre, even after all the recent alterations and redevelopment, hasn’t really changed that much in 40 years.

I find it quite easy to walk around those buildings and walkways to trace the steps of my friends and me as we filled the hours of many a teenage Saturday in the early Seventies.

The occupants of most of the shops have changed hands several times over, yet each pile of bricks and mortar they once occupied still have a way of bringing the memories flooding back.

Some for example, like the bus station opposite the police station, were obliterated to make way for others, though the ‘new’ and since defunct bus station proved to be a limiting and poorly planned project.

The most obvious survivor is the ever present blue clock face on Corporation Street.

I’m old enough to remember the first round of development that saw the land beyond Spencer Court being turned into a multi-storey car park, yet the heart of the centre, even after pedestrianisation, remains largely untouched.

Our needs from our town centre were quite specific to those of a teenager.

Places to buy music, clothes and somewhere to get an inexpensive lunch where four teenagers might sit, giggle, make a mess, and stay in a warm environment for what seemed like forever.

Our music was to be found in the HMV record shop on the Market Square. Our clothes would be found on the market or in Foster Brothers (for sensible clothes) and our long extended lunch would invariably take place in the Cherolet café, named after a breed of cow, just off the new Queen’s Square.

Another excellent place for a 1970s teenager to get a cup of frothy coffee just had to be the ‘room-with-a-view’ that came in the shape of the Fine Fare café.

It was situated at the George Street end of Corporation Street, directly above where the Iceland store is today.

Its large metal-framed utility widows gave one an excellent view looking down on the shoppers below.

Going to the cinema was always different. The old Odeon on Rockingham Road had long since closed leaving the powers that be struggling for a replacement venue of any description.

At one point the main concert hall at the civic centre would act as a stopgap cinema until, at long last, a new flea-pit in the town centre was unveiled to a highly expectant populous. Was it an Odeon? No. A Gaumont? No. A Roxy or Granada? No. A Savoy perhaps? No. Corby got a cinema with a name that, to this day, still baffles me: the Jerry Lewis.

It was situated directly above the aforementioned Cherolet café.

Back into the centre and time to make mention of some businesses long gone.

The large corner post office, Woolworth’s, Boots, Northampton and Midland Building Society, the ‘real’ library, Battery Services, the beautifully smelling delicatessen, the two storey Co-Op with its distinctive and mysterious balcony room at the top, and the Strathclyde Hotel.