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Friday, December 9, 2022
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Growing up in Harrow in the 1980s

Harrow was and still is a place I call home. I’m now 42-years-old and have lived in Harrow for much of my life as I approach my 43rd birthday.

I can vividly remember going to Central Harrow and walking up those escalators that never seemed to work in Debenhams, there was a massive toy department at the top of the store. The toy section featured all of your favourites from the 1980s and early 90s such as Transformers, ThunderCats, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Care Bears, Barbie dolls and many more.  There was also a tree that used to ‘speak’ to children as they walked past it, it used to be quite scary thinking back now!.

Just a little bit down the road was a fantastic shop called ‘Adams Shop’. I remember going in there to buy all the latest Commodore 64 games and Spectrum ZX that we’re so popular in the 1980s.

We would venture over to Wimpy Bar after going to the shops and get one of their lovely burgers! You can’t beat Wimpy and it’s a shame so many have closed down although there are still two in Ruislip I believe.

In Wealdstone there was a small department type store called ‘In-Shops’ that featured an array of little shops within one giant complex. They had a small toy shop at the back that seemed to get all the latest toys from America before anyone else did. They also had a fruit and veg seller at the front and a barber shop called ‘Mainly Men’.

There was also a small video game shop inside that had every NES, SNES, Master System and Megadrive game you could imagine – This was before big video game retailers like GAME came along. I remember a man called Raymond who would always be in there playing the latest games and trying to bargain with the owner for a discount.

Round the corner was a nice little joke shop (opposite the post office) called ‘Giggles’. It had a huge fancy dress section at the top and was perfect for practical jokes and costumes.

Growing up in Harrow in the 1980s Harrow Online
Harrow Town Centre in the 1980s.

Wealdstone also had one of two Woolworths that were located in Harrow, the other was on Station Road. Each Christmas I would go and find presents for all my family as it was pretty much the only shop you needed to go to as it literally sold everything. I guess you could compare it to Wiko today but it’s not as good.

Outside of central Wealdstone, my friends and I would often go swimming at Harrow Leisure Centre on Saturday mornings. They had giant inflatables that they would set out within the pool area, you could climb onto them and jump off. Great fun! and it was aptly called ‘Fun Session.’

They also had three waterslides that have since been taken down. Considering the leisure centre is relatively small, or at least the pools are, the slides were really quite good, very fast and long as they would twist around the outer building above the much-loved outdoor swimming pool which is also no longer there.

We also used to attend some of the roller discos that took place in the halls, roller skating was such a big deal in the 80s and early 90s.

When we weren’t swimming or going to the shops, sometimes we would head down to North Harrow and visit what was called ‘Super Bowl’. It was a big bowling centre that also had a bar and arcade inside it. You could go bowling and then go for a drink afterwards (or clearly before as some people did!).

We would spend hours in there and it was a great local hang out, on Tuesdays they even had a student night! It was a pretty cool place to visit even if you just wanted to chill out with your friends somewhere.

I couldn’t end this without mentioning the old cinemas in Harrow. Before St George’s ‘Vue’ came along, the building that is now occupied by Gold’s Gym was a huge old style cinema. As a listed building, most of it still looks the same today. I saw such classics as Gremlins, Back to the Future, E.T, An Officer and a Gentlemen and many many others in the Granada cinema.

It then became known as Cannon Cinema in 1989. I also went to the other cinema a bit further down Sheepcote Road, it was also taken over by Cannon, but was originally a Dominion Theatre. I saw my first James Bond film in here called A Licence to Kill along with the classic Teen Wolf amongst many others.

Harrow has changed a lot over the years but it’s still very lively and a great place to live. I think it gets an unfairly bad presentation across social media as it’s still very nice and has a fairly low crime rate compared to most other boroughs. It has great access to central London and is very clean compared to other parts of the city. I don’t know if I’ll stay here forever, but for now it’s still somewhere I am pleased to call home.

By Nathan Radcliffe

(Featured Image Credit: Jan Clark)