In the Soviet Union, propaganda posters would routinely show industrial and agricultural workers pointing decisively into the radiant future of International Communism. The British version, seen here at the height of the Cold War in the early sixties, featured an affluent married couple, one of whom casually waves his pipe at a (presumably equally radiant) something-or-other inside Pearson’s Department Store.
Pearson Brothers stood on Long Row from 1899, when Frederick Pearson took over an ironmonger’s, formerly known as Wrigglesworths, and employed his own sons to assist him in transforming it. The store remained both operational and something of a local landmark until the site’s freeholders bought out the shop’s lease from the Pearsons’ descendants in 1988.
The history of those not-quite 100 years of trading included such developments as the rise of electrical goods and gas appliances during the twenties; the embrace of Scandinavian modernism following a 1966 redesign of the Georgian-fronted building; and the much-publicised display of the Mona Lisa – or a copy of it, at least – on one of the floors at some point between 1978 and 1981.
This isn’t even to mention such trivia quiz gold as the fact that the patent for the first practical and safe electric blanket was reputedly filed by Frederick’s grandson, Laurie Pearson, during the thirties. One to add to the illustrious roster of Ibuprofen, Tarmac and the MRI scanner on lists of familiar inventions with origins in Nottingham.
So who knows what the tweed-clad husband is gesturing at with his pipe in this 1961 advert? Like those Soviet workers, it’s likely that the question of what he’s actually pointing at is intended to be as vague and open-ended as possible. After all, the nature of both propaganda and advertising is to stir a sense of purpose and aspiration that too specific a point can only, usually, undermine.
Better that we imagine for ourselves what the source of this couple’s high-level shopping enjoyment might have been. Especially when Pearson Bros itself was noted for its many departments, covering everything from gramophone records to oil heaters, lighting fixtures, settees, a cafe and all the latest fashions. In other words, your guess is as good as mine.
That said, many of those who experienced the place at its sixties and seventies peak often talk with a sense of awe about the store’s lift, first installed in the thirties and operated in its later years by a man named Les, who was said to keep it looking “like new” at all times. Perhaps that was more than enough to warrant a bit of enthusiastic gesticulation with a briar pipe, whichever side of the Iron Curtain you happened to have wandered in from.