A window into the past: Polwarth shop display unchanged in over 30 years

They say time stands still for no one, but it seems the old proverb does not readily apply to Polwarth window displays.

The shop display has been largely unchanged in over 30 years. Left image: 2018. Right Image: 1986 (Copyright Graham Macindoe)

Preserved, aspic-like, for at least a generation or two, the window display at 30 Merchiston Avenue appears to be frozen in time.

Polwarth’s window to the past, home to H Robertson, cobbler, is filled with vintage posters and advertisements associated with the shoe repair trade.

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The largest is an ad for Phillip’s Extra Light Stick-A-Soles, special adhesive rubber soles that provided extra grip for high heel shoes.

The shop display has been largely unchanged in over 30 years. Left image: 2018. Right Image: 1986 (Copyright Graham Macindoe)

Judging by the distinctive bob-cut sported by the lady in the ad, it likely dates from the early 1960s.

English-based rubber company Phillips (not to be confused with the Dutch tech firm) began producing Stick-A-Soles 30 years earlier.

Ripped, rotten and bleached by decades of sunlight and natural decay, the retro ads have seen better days, but what’s intriguing is the fact they managed to survive in situ for so long.

The rather unique oddity was brought to light when an image appeared online showing the shop in 1986. A comparison taken last week shows that the same items are on display.

H Robertson Boot Repairers

Albeit far less faded in the 1980s picture, the window adverts are unchanged – even their composition is eerily similar.

The 1986 image was snapped by New York-based photographer Graham Macindoe who posted it to the Lost Edinburgh group on Facebook following a chat with a friend.

“I showed it to a pal from Edinburgh recently and he said it looked exactly the same still and hadn’t changed,” said Graham, 55.

He revealed the display caught his eye in 1986 because it already looked antique.

The 1986 image by Graham Macindoe.

“I don’t have much recollection of taking the picture but I do remember thinking back then that it looked like it was a shop from the fifties.

“I’ll have to go by the next time I’m in Edinburgh.”

The lack of change was quickly confirmed once Graham, who is originally from West Lothian, posted the photo to Facebook.

One Lost Edinburgh follower who remembered the shop well was Eleane Tweedly.

Eleane lived on Merchiston Avenue in the 1970s and recalls that the display was exactly the same then too.

“I lived in the last stair at the bottom of Merchiston Avenue for six years from 1970 onwards, and I’m pretty sure that window looked more or less the same the whole time I was there,” explained Eleane.

She added: “I was also friendly with the lady who had a shop a couple of doors away and she said it had been like that for years”.

According to a nearby shopworker, who wished to remain anonymous, Mr Robertson, who is now aged 97, had not been present at his shop for a couple of months. They added that he previously cycled in every day.

A sign on the door of the shop confirms Mr Robertson is currently closed for business “due to ill health”.