Supermarket Memories: The Mac Fisheries Food Centre, Winchester.
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Images: Top left - the Mac Fisheries Food Centre in the motion picture Cop Out, 1967 (copyright ABC/De Grunwald/Selmur Productions). Top Right - Paul Bertoya strolling past the window of Mac Fisheries, Cop Out, 1967 (as above). Bottom left - The Mac Fisheries roundel (copyright Unilver/Gary Cook). Bottom Centre - Mac Fisheries Food Centre: a view of the mezzanine - circa 1964 - (copyright Wessex Film Sound Archive at Hampshire Archives & Local Studies.) Bottom left - Mac Fisheries Food Centre: Checkouts 1964 (as above). My first memory of a supermarket is of The Mac Fisheries Food Centre in my home city of Winchester, in the early 1970's. Impressions of this place are cast over my being as a wave of mutable feeling, as opposed to a firm, mental recollection - something that would indicate the likelihood of my being of very tender age. The brand was created in 1964 as a merger between the Unilver Mac Fisheries fishmonger chain and Premier Super Markets. The evolving entity became known as the Mac Fisheries Food Centre; Paul Gilam, the Mac Fisheries operations manager at the time, rejected the term 'super market' as being too brash (and presumably, a tad too American).
Prominent within the undertow of this sequential eruption is the brand identity - a circular navy blue logo with four fishes, intersected by a Scottish Saltire (bottom left). Whenever I saw this logo I felt an ever-so-slight apprehension for reasons that are not too clear. To my 5-year-old mind, the diagonal cross seemed to resemble a road sign, a negation of some kind: the fishes must be stopped, no fishes allowed. This visual proclamation was further promulgated on the bulging paper bags that were being lined up at the checkouts and in the 'all-seeing eye' version of the same motif, affixed to the chestnut wood paneling above the stairway to the mezzanine caff (bottom centre.)
The staircase was made from white marble-like stone, like ginormous piano keys, flanked by narrow iron balusters. It was palatially wide, of the kind that beckons to young children: climb me, climb me, see what wonders lie yonder! Sadly, I do not think that I ever managed to ascend to this higher echelon: all I could do was crane my neck towards that rarefied realm where I could make out old ladies in white gloves nattering over tea and iced buns. It would be remiss of me not to mention that the Mac Fisheries Food Centre chiseled its way onto the big screen, in what was to prove to be a wholly forgettable murder-thriller called Cop Out (1967). In it, there is an establishing shot of the Canadian actor Paul Bertoya scuttling, hands wedged firmly in his peacoat pockets, past the Food Centre's plate-glass window. It then goes to a medium close-up and we can see the various weekly promotions pasted thereabouts: Cash your 2/6d Mac Stamps today when you spend 30/- or more at any time. Mac Pure Creamery Butter 3/-lb Extra Low Price! Britvic Peach Halves & Slices Birds Eye Fish Fingers Mac Superfine Cooking Oil. As the cameras purr, I imagine myself in a crib, a mere 10-minute walk away in Cathedral View, burbling and a-babbling through a sizeable Farley's Rusk moustache.