Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Charles Frank 67 Saltmarket

I wrote a post a while ago, which seemed to get a bit of interest following the news that Maplin had folded, and was closing (everything).

That post had been about the earlier demise of electronics retailers in Glasgow, specifically RME in Stockwell Street.

Responses to those thoughts included mention of Charles Frank, an optical and scientific instrument maker who, together with his son Arthur, had shops in the city’s Saltmarket, and later, Ingram Street.

That venture came to an end in the 1970s, with the shops finally closing their doors for the last time in 1974.

In his time, Frank designed, sold, and repaired photographic and scientific apparatus from the Saltmarket premises, with Ingram Street being described as a more upmarket showroom for the sale of his scientific instruments.

While I was never aware of the Ingram Street venture, I was dragged along to his establishment in Saltmarket, which had become an outlet for various sort of surplus just before it closed. Seems it was fuelled by a flood of high quality ex-military optical and photographic equipment in the postwar years. Frank Ltd took advantage of this by buying at public auctions held by the military which had no use for the items, and then reselling them to the public.

I have (as a child at the time) some memories of the shop and stuff stacked in it. Some large reels of quarter-inch recording tape were bought, and maybe some assorted slide rules, but that’s all that stuck in my mind. I’d always imagined going there when I ‘Grew Up’ – but neither of those ever happened.

See the note at the end of this post – my useless memory had the wrong Saltmarket shop tagged as Frank’s.

I’m amazed at being so wrong for so long – when the dumb strikes, it strikes hard!

I just learnt of my mistake after noticing the ’30’ above its door – Frank’s shop was 67.

Time to start hunting for confirmation, and I did find this old B&W pic on a number of sites, credited to the Jewish Archive, but I couldn’t track down the original, they were all ‘re-use’.

CH Frank 67 Saltmarket Jewish Archive Pic

CH Frank 67 Saltmarket Jewish Archive Pic

That made the hunt a lot easier to complete, and we can see the same shop today.

It’s a slightly bigger image than usual, so you can click for bigger.

67 Saltmarket Gilt Edged

67 Saltmarket Gilt Edged

Intriguing changes – there are now FIVE assorted electrical/electronic control gear boxes planted on this short length of street; the low wall in St Andrews Street (on the left) has been considerably heightened; and the close entrance which sat in the middle of shop (to the right) has had its original width reduced, and is now considerably smaller than it used to be.

My mistake

As noted above, tiny memories are not always reliable memories, and I walked past a derelict Saltmarket shop for years, sadly thinking (wrongly) of it being the remains of Frank’s.

I always thought it was this one, just across from the long-established pet shop in Parnie Street.

(Just how long has that pet shop been there anyway?)

Not Former Charles Frank Shop Saltmarket

Not Former Charles Frank Shop Saltmarket

When this group of shops was ‘modernised’ some years ago, I was here regularly, and was sad to see a (presumably original) stained glass window above the door to number 30 was gone when the shutters came down to reveal the ‘improved’ premises. I’ve always wondered what happened to that panel, undamaged for as long I watched it. Skipped, or ‘liberated’ by some lucky builder or salvager?

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September 17, 2018 - Posted by | Civilian, Lost, military, photography, World War II | , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I racall buying interesting thingies from the sheets of E&M during the 1960’s inc. from Charles Frank , did he not emigrate or branch out – just like the others swarm around Tottenham Court Road , London Charles Frank Optical rings a bell.

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    Comment by Tony | September 17, 2018

  2. While I’d never heard of the Ingram Street branch until taking a look at the records for Frank’s, I never saw any reference to ventures further afield.

    Unless someone comes up with an actual record, I’ll venture that sightings around Tottenham Court Road are probably the result of his instruments turning up for sale in that environment, carrying his name.

    I didn’t mention in the main text, but from what I’ve seen (and own) Frank branded (everything?) he sold, regardless of who actually made it.

    I have Bausch & Lomb binoculars (and other items) which carry stamped and engraved ‘Charles Frank’ branding on the metal bodies, similar to that placed by the manufacturer.

    I’ve always wondered he worked with any of them, or just had the facilities etc to have this added to surplus/items that passed through his shop(s).

    Like

    Comment by Apollo | September 17, 2018

  3. I like the period photograph of the shop front. I worked in Edinburgh from Easter to Sept. 1977. Had digs somewhere to the rear of Princess Street, reminds me of my walks down Dalry Road – had a fav. pie (Scotch) shop stop or square sausage sandwich. Spent a little time also in Glasgow – seemed to have more atmosphere.

    Like

    Comment by Tony | September 17, 2018


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