'BINNS has been a constant in my life since the 1940s.

My first recollection of being inside its hallowed halls was when I was an infant, my nana took me to the portrait studio to have my photo taken. I howled the place down until she gave me her purse to hold and then I finally smiled.

A few years later, my aunt and uncle took me to see Father Christmas in his grotto. It was magical.

Aged around ten, I was a naughty little girl at St Augustine's Primary School and, instead of handing my dinner money in at school every Monday, I'd walk out of school and go into Binns. I would head upstairs to the Silver Service restaurant and sit down at an elegant table where one of the smart waitresses, dressed in black with a little white cap trimmed with lace on her head and a starched white apron around her waist, would come and take my order.

I'd order the cheapest thing on the menu and blow the whole of my dinner money for the week. Next day, I would ask my Mam if I could take jam sandwiches to school, claiming that school dinners were very small and I was still hungry after them.

When I was 17, I got a job in Binns advertising department. I loved it. It seemed so glamorous although it was actually rather like Grace Brothers, packed with wonderful characters.

Our office was on the top floor, along with the telephone exchange, the seamstresses’ workroom and the cash room, where all those little tubes full of money in the vacuum-powered communications system used to end up so the change could be put in them and sent back.

There was also the art department and the other big wigs’ offices. I had to take the adverts to the General Manager for approval once a week and it was terrifying. I'd have to wait outside with my folder full of sketches until he could see me. He’d usually grunt in approval and hand them back without a word. Then I'd scurry out and get The Northern Echo’s messenger to pick them up for publication.

Friday was payday and the office staff got half an hour off so that we could go down to the shop floors and make some purchases.

I'd left Binns to work at the GPO telephone exchange by the time I got engaged in 1962, but it was the place my mam and I went to in order to spend our “provvi” coupons on my wedding dress.

(“Provvi” coupons were issued by a provident building society and acted as a credit card in that you made the big ticket purchase and then paid for it on a regular basis.)

Later on, Mam used to meet me in my lunchtimes from work and we’d head for Binns for me to browse in the record department. She bought me Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence, Cream's Disraeli Gears and Jimi Hendrix's Greatest Hits during those times.

Eventually, my business, Guru Boutique, moved into premises which looked directly onto Binns and I thought I was in heaven. From my vantage point in Blackwellgate, I’d appreciate the fabulous window displays in Binns and its iconic building. I’d often take friends or business contacts over for a coffee in one of the cafes in there, and I even treated my husband to breakfasts in the upstairs cafe on special occasions.

I especially love Binns at Christmas when the windows are always so festive, glamorous and smart.

To say I will miss Binns is an understatement of great magnitude, and I feel so sorry for the friends who work there who will lose their jobs.

To be honest, I can't imagine Darlington without Binns. It will leave a huge hole in my heart.

IN recent weeks, we’ve been looking at old sitcoms, so while talking about Binns, it seems appropriate to remember Are You Being Served? which was set in the ladies’ and gents’ clothing departments of the fictional Grace Bros department store. As the cash register theme tune began:

Ground floor: perfumery, stationery, and leather goods, wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food. Going up...

First floor: telephones, gents ready made suits, shirts, suits, ties, hats, underwear, and shoes. Going up...

Second floor: carpets, travel goods, and bedding, materials, soft furnishings, restaurants, and ties. Going down...

It ran for 10 series and 69 episodes from 1972 until 1985. It may not ever have reached our screens had it not been for the massacre at the Munich Olympics on September 8, 1872. Suddenly faced by hours of empty schedules, the BBC threw on a pilot episode that probably wouldn’t otherwise have been screened and it got such a positive reaction that the first series was commissioned.

One of the stars was Wendy Richard, whose physique was more admired than her Cockney vowels. Despite her accent, she was born as Wendy Emerton in the Corporation Hotel in Middlesbrough in 1943, where her parents were briefly the licensees.

The Corporation was a remarkably large hotel on the corner of Corporation Road and Albert Road and was demolished in 1971 to make way for the Cleveland Centre shopping mall.

Ms Richard, who took her stage name from a chain of women’s fashion shops, became better known as the EastEnders matriarch Pauline Fowler. She died in 2009.

Are You Being Served? specialised in crude double entendres. Indeed, the hairs on Mrs Slocombe’s pussy would have stood on end had it realised the full implications of what Mr “I’m free” Inman was up to.

Was it any good? Unlike Kitten Kong in the Goodies, or “Don’t tell him, Pike” from Dad’s Army, or Fork Handles from the Two Ronnies, are there any stand-out moments from Are You Being Served?

Or do you just remember the crude gags that Mrs Slocombe’s pussy really did not careful handling?

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