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Article by Paul Wright, January 2018
Osborne's Sports & Toys
Lego is 60

shop front frontage
The shop front
all clad with the Lego

Lego displays
"Jim Osborne" was born in the pretty midlands town of "Leamington Spa," and first came to Rushden and took over the shop we now know as Osborne's Sports and Toy shop in the 1950's.

Any anniversary is something to celebrate, but to be able to enjoy a diamond anniversary of Lego bricks, and Jim's was the first shop in the UK to sell their iconic item.

So Jim had the vision to see just how far those multi-coloured building bricks could go, that was back in 1960.

This must have been seen as quite a cheeky, and maybe quirky Scandinavian challenger to the sturdy red and green metal shapes being turned out by Meccano at the time!

I suppose we can only liken it to the arrival of the high tech motor bikes invading our shores from Japan; the likes of Honda were equipped with electric starter motors, meanwhile our boys were still giving their Triumphs, BSAs, Matchless and Royal Enfields etc. a kick start in the mid 1960s.

Just about every mum and dad in the area must have bought toys and electric model train sets from "Jim and Pamela" at the bottom of Rushden High Street over the many years.

Next door on the corner of Victoria Road was the shop belonging to "Billy Keller," they were greengrocers, and to the other side was "Clarks" record shop. They used to be the major TV and radio suppliers and repairers in Rushden. And they rather cleverly got the man who was challenging the Beatles in the mid 1960s hit parade to open their new shop selling pop records. [see also Music of the 1960s]

He was drummer Dave Clark, his Tottenham based group the "Dave Clark Five" were heading for number one with "Glad all over", No 1/64 for 2 weeks.

Dave came down the High Street in an open topped American car, and was hired for the princely sum of £50, and this included a meal at the Westward hotel in Shirley Road.

How many of us were keen as mustard to build a Lancaster bomber from the Airfix range? There was all those plastic parts that were meant to be removed from the framework that housed them in a certain order. But impatience crept in and common building sense went out of the window, and even fewer got to use the sable paint brush to add the camouflage colours at the end of the job.

On to the sporting types, there was always a good selection of cricket equipment etc in the windows, even the table tennis players were able to get their gear at Osborne's too.

It's interesting to mention that the so called big boys in the toy world are not enjoying the best of times at the moment; this is due to the fact that "Toy's R Us" are struggling in 2018. [see end of article for update]

I have visited one of their stores and must admit that they were massive "soul less" sorts of places that stack it high and let you find your way around this warehouse of would be Wendy houses.

So the sixty years have passed by, and to mark this sparkling diamond occasion Lego have given the front of the shop an eye catching focal point. In case you were wondering how long it took to do the Lego makeover? Well in total it was 600 hours of crafty creativity. And the size of it was 15 feet in height, and 50 feet wide, this all took 277,500 bricks to do.

When I visited on Saturday 27th January 2018, just before 9.00, I was lucky enough to have a lovely chat with Jim's son Will, it naturally drifted back to all those great treats that my late father bought for yours truly back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Dad bought me some lovely metal steam engines, they were the Duchess of Montrose, Sir Nigel Gresley, a tank engine in black (the classic British Railways colours), and a smaller tank shunting engine in a light green. I said steam, well to be accurate they were Hornby electric ones, and had the third pick up rail that powered the motor.

But one thing that has not changed is the enthusiasm and knowledge that is surely priceless, during my visit I  could have stayed in the shop for hours just having a "natter" (as you do).

The day before my visit it was the turn of the radio and film crews to descend on Rushden high street, this was Friday 26th January 2018.

Now up and down the country so many people got to see just where it all started in the now legendary world of Lego sales back in the swinging 60s, and in of all places "Rushden."

I have heard from people who have had a fantastic day out at Lego land seeing the eye watering displays which are created from this clever brick. Lego land is situated at Windsor in Berkshire if you wish to go? This opened up in 1996.

For a whole week-end Osborne's had the whole shop front decorated to tell everyone that Jim's vision nearly sixty years earlier to sell this fantastic plastic building brick, and is still going from strength to strength in 2018.

So many people were taking loads of pictures during my visit, and I could hear them saying to each other that they all had got so many gems from the shop in the past.

In a TV interview Pam said:

"It was on our honeymoon and we stayed in Brighton. We went to the toy fair when Lego was launched in England, and were the first to sign up for an order."

Pam & Will Osborne inside the shop

To make my visit complete Will's mum Pam came in to work, and to pass on her wealth of knowledge to the band of customers that have got pleasure for well over 60 years.

Jim a few years ago
Jim at a model weekend at Rushden Station 2010
In the shots I have included for the great shop makeover, Will with Pam his mum, and a bonus one of the man we that we all knew fondly as "Jim".This was a shot I was wanting to add, I took it some years ago of "Jim" just enjoying his self on a sunny day up at the model weekend at Rushden station. Here we see him standing by some Meccano in bright yellow.

So I trawled all through many thousands of shots, and managed to locate it. So I must say thanks to Will for giving me his approval to use the shot of his dad.

Sadly Jim passed away in the summer of 2015, and so many friends turned out along the high street to say bye for now to the man we all knew and loved.

So many have got a lot to thank "Jim, Pam and Will" and all of the staff over the years for letting us all be "big kids" at heart for so long.

Sunday 28th January 1958 was the actual anniversary day for the start of Lego, this was first produced at "Billund in Denmark".

Long may it carry on in every way, shape and form for many more years to come at "Osbornes Sports & Toys" at 116-118 High Street, Rushden.

Update 15.3.2018: It has been decided that all of the Toys R Us stores in the UK are to be closed in 2018, after the collapse of the chain, following being placed into administration. Attempts had been made to find a buyer, for their one hundred stores in this country, but this proved fruitless.
Twenty five stores have already shut in the week of Thursday 15th March, 2018, and more than 3,000 people will lose their jobs following a dismal trading period for the American owned firm. The nearest stores to us were in Northampton,one was at Weston Favell, and the original local one was at St James retail park in Northampton. Paul Wright 15.3.2018

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