An Aladdin’s cave
When I was a kid in the late 1940s and the 1950s, Edward Street featured in my life quite a lot. The street was part of my route when I would visit the museum and library in Church Street from my house in Bennett Road, either on my skates or walking, later on by bike. The most enjoyable shop I remember was Jack Ball’s second-hand shop on the south side of Edward Street near to the bottom. To me this shop was an Aladdin’s cave.
Junk, dust and treasures
There was junk and dust everywhere. Firstly the shop window took quite a while to peruse every little nook and cranny looking for treasure of some sort. If you spotted anything that you thought you would get cheaply then forget it. Jack drove a hard bargain to get your hard earned pocket money from you. But maybe you could swap something or other for an item that had caught your eye, but you always had to give over some money, even a small amount with the thing you were hoping to swap.
A homemade desk
Inside the shop was an even better experience altogether. There were bits and pieces of treasure crammed into every corner. I vividly remember one day I took a pair of ice skates into the shop and did a deal with a bit of money and came away with an old brass microscope. This old microscope had bits and pieces with it and different lenses as well as a myriad of slides that somebody had made years earlier. I went to the local greengrocer and got a couple of orange boxes and found a piece of flat wood and made myself a desk in my bedroom in one of the alcoves that were either side of the chimney breast. I got so much enjoyment from this lovely piece of equipment.
Fostering a life long interest
Of course now I wish that I had kept it. It would have looked just nice in my home as a thing of real beauty, for me anyway, but I did another deal after two years or so. Ever since the microscope I have always had an interest in optical lenses, in my photography and also my hobby later on in life of repairing binoculars that were out of kilter. I am still fascinated by optics, thanks to that old Victorian microscope. The story goes that Jack Balls, if that was his name, was at one time a Brighton policeman, I wonder if that story was authentic.