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Here's Alison: The Second-Hand Shop

Alison Ross tells of a childhood friend whose mother ran a second-hand shop.

Polly loved the clothes in her Mothers shop. She loved looking at and touching the grown-up frocks that hung on the rails down each side of the tiny Aladdin’s cave. .She would inhale the fragrance that clung to those rich fabrics, closing her eyes imagining exotic perfumes from the orient. None of the clothes ever had to-day’s Salvation Army mothball smell.

There were hat pins, glamorous long lethal weapons, some with pearls some with diamantes, all telling of a by-gone age when women wore hats! Going to church hats, going to town hats, and the deceptively smart everyday hats!

She could vividly recall the elegance of those bygone days. The fox furs, with black beady eyes staring from the furred head, tail hanging, waiting to be draped artistically over madam’s best outfit.

She also remembered the corsets. Torturous looking garments with long whalebones stitched into them. Never could Polly imagine wearing one of those. There is no denying they sold however.

Her mother also had antiques and jewelry in her shop, items that had been discreetly exchanged by some lady needing the money for the rent man. One day a beautiful dressing table set, with crystal bowls and tortoise shell comb and brush appeared in the window, marked for sale. Polly would have loved it, but it wasn’t to be.

Comics usually found their way to Polly’s home and books were often added to their big bookshelf. They weren’t the only things that arrived home however for many men’s large sized coats were handed out at home, along with a new razor blade. Polly and her siblings were expected to un-pick the stitching. The material in the coats was often quality cloth. Mother cut it down to make small boys' trousers, which she lined with washed flour bags.

There was a ready market for these trousers. Polly and her Mother would take them out to the Maori Pa on a Saturday, where they would sell for 5 shillings each.

They had a home with a mortgage, and there was no way her Mum intended to lose it. Without her contribution Polly confided, it is doubtful that they would have lived and grown up in such an elite area.

The Police List was another thing that added to the atmosphere of the tiny shop. Her Mother pursued it regularly, for she was determined no-one was going to sell her stolen goods. She had a quick mind and was nobody’s fool. The shop did well and the money provided many things that they would never have had on her Dad’s wages.

Everything has a down side however. For Polly it was the shame of her Mother having a second-hand shop! Perhaps she was a snob for, in spite of loving the sight, smell, and touch of the shop's goods, she cringed when her high school classmates walked by.

As childhood friends often do, Polly and I lost contact with one another…

I often wondered what had become of her and recently I found out. On a trip to another city I ran into her. It was in a very up-market Second Chance clothes shop. She smiled, as she told me business was booming!

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