Three brass balls

From Harry Foy's Book  'Growing up in Portadown in the Thirties and Forties'

During the Thirties pawn shops played an important part in the life of the towns. In Portadown the pawn shop was situated in Woodhouse Street and was owned by a Mr. Boston. The three large brass balls showed the manner of business carried out at the premises. The shop offered a loan of money on saleable goods. Some said the three brass balls meant that two to one the goods didn't come out again. This did happen in some cases but mostly people redeemed their goods.

A family was fortunate if it had one or two pawnable items. These were usually a new pair of blankets, a suit, a topcoat or other items such as watches, jewellery, ornaments or anything easily carried. When a family ran short the item was sent to the pawn shop to raise as much cash as possible. A time limit would then be put on the redeemable goods so that if the customer didn't come back the goods could be sold to pay back the loan. Many a man had his good suit pawned on a Monday and redeemed on Saturday so that he could wear it to Church. A man was often told by his wife "Mind that suit. It goes back on Monday". Men in those days carried a white handkerchief in the breast pocket of the suit which was taken out to kneel on to save the suit from getting dirty. There was a stigma attached to pawning so people used to "duke" in and out from the shop as quickly as possible. If people couldn't raise the money to recover the goods they would sell their pawn ticket.

The staff in Boston's pawn shop got so used to seeing the same brown parcel week in, week out that it wasn't necessary to open the parcel. It is said that one man brought a parcel containing a new top coat for which the assistant offered 3 after examining it. The man asked for 4 but the assistant offered 3 10s. The man wouldn't shift from 4 so the coat was wrapped up again and the man stepped into the hall to leave. He then changed his mind and returned saying he would take 3 10s. The pawn ticket was handed over and the parcel left on a shelf beside others. One month later the ticket was not redeemed so the assistant opened the parcel only to find a bundle of rags. A man had waited in the hall with a similar parcel and a switch had taken place that day.

Another story is told of a woman who pawned her best blankets with the result that her children were covered with a couple of coats over the bed that night. One of the children shouted down that the coat had fallen off the bed and the woman, who was expecting a visitor, rushed in admonishing her and telling her to call it a blanket. While the woman was enjoying a cup of tea with her guest the child cried out again. "Ma, Jimmy's torn the sleeve out of the blanket".
Market Day in Portadown.

Street gangs and fogging orchards.

The wee shops.

Colourful vendors.

The Canon's trip.

The Butterfly.

Greenaway's ghost.

Summer on the Bann.

The Great Lemonade Robbery.

My first day at school.

The packman.

Even the dog understood the language.


Our House.

A long throw since skittles game was born.

The Gas Man Cometh.

In tune with the band.

Clubs and tickmen.

Donald Campbell Had nothing on us.

The Obinsville Cowboys.

Singing in the streets.

Such good sports.

The days of the sand quays.

The magic of Christmas.

Bombs - not sandwiches.

Skipping, football and cigarette cards.

Escape to the movies.

My first taste of plays.

Smuggling knew no borders.

The tale of the pigs.

Thanks for the memories.

First class show!.

Who could forget Mary Ann!.

Health remedies.

Fondly Remembered.

Going To The Dogs.


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