Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Golden Days Of The Night Shelter... By JimThomas.

Back in the mid 80's, every night in the Warwick Avenue Shelter, was magic. The place was alive and full of characters.

Doing the knowledge was just the beginning, you learned more about the job from your colleagues in the shelters than any blue book. It was also where you learned about 'Cabby Etiquette'.

London Taxi drivers, icons, respected by the public, anything and everything was possible.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times:
But for the late night drivers in the Warwick Avenue shelter, night after night, it was always the greatest of times. Probably down to the respect felt between the drivers and staff members. There was never a click, everyone was welcome.

Many of the long standing friendships I've enjoyed over the years, stem from the hours spent in fantastic company in W9.

We had amazing parties, karaoke nights, heated debates mixed with the occasional visit from a celebrity such as Pat "Bomber" Roach, Paul McGann (before he became the doctor), Dennis "Minder" Waterman, Kenny 'Faces' Jones, Boy George's drummer John Moss, Kiki Dee and even Mad Frankie Fraser, all regulars at the window.

        Bomber              Goody               Kiki Dee

Many minor celebrities living in Maida Vale would stop at the window and get a sandwich on their way home from the theatre. 

We'd leave there just before 3am and then file over to the Victoria Casino which used to burst around 3. 

A maths teacher nicknamed Clive Sinclaire, a regular rider to Richmond, swore he had an unbeatable system, they all thought they had a system. Some nights you'd see a saddened familiar face and hear, "done all my dough tonight mate, will you take me home and I'll pay you tomorrow"....and we did, brownie points all round.

Another regular rider was Great Train Robber Gordon Goody. He used to go to East Dulwich. 
I remember saying to him once, "which way do you prefer to go Mr Goody?"
He came back menacingly "You can go whatever way you want son, but you're only getting 11 quid". 
He then sat back and read his paper.

The original hit squad was born in and ran from Warwick Ave shelter. We had regular hits on Hombres, Cranbourn Street and the Sports Cafe. 

We even had a mechanic (Norman) who used to do running repairs in the middle of the road outside. There were a few complaints from local residents (mainly from the vicarage on the corner) but most were happy to have us there, as burglaries in the area were rare.

It was a sad day when we got the news that the shelter had to close at night, but to our surprise, along came the original Royal Oak Cafe', waitress service, pool tables and a 24 hour shop, fuel pumps and a hand cab wash, the fun was to continue.

       Johnny Anderson, Mr Royal Oak.

We nicknamed the original Royal Oak "The Anderson Shelter" and I got the idea for my first ever blog after talking to John about promoting the trade on Twitter which was becoming popular.

Unfortunately, both the Royal Oak and the new Royal Oak are now sadly gone and the only 24 hour dedicated Cabbie eateries and rest stops are the Kings Cross Taxi Centre -in Bookers car park, Camley Street- and Great Southwark Street. 

It will be a shame to see our historical cab shelters disappear, but drivers seem to prefer the chains of coffee shops and fast food restaurants, so it's possible, they will eventually go. 

Remember, when the go, they go for good!