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Camden News - by DAN CARRIER
Published: 26 June 2008

Pamela’s nieces Sue and Alison. Right, Pamela outside Palmers as she prepared to retire
Fond memories of ‘mini-zoo’ as ‘Princess Pam of Parkway’ dies

Family’s tributes to the woman who worked at exotic pet shop for more than 50 years

IT was a noisy place, with the cries and shrieks of exotic animals echoing down Parkway.
But the original Palmers pet shop has been silent for more than three years since it switched to a smaller store on the other side of the road and gave up selling animals.
And earlier this month, one of the last links to the original premises was lost with the death of Palmers director, Pamela Dearman, aged 76.
Described by fellow shopkeepers as the “Princess Pam of Parkway”, Pamela worked at Palmers for more than 50 years and her passing reveals just how much things have changed in the street over the years.
The Regent Bookshop, a traditional camera shop, Godfrey’s bakers, a greengrocer and a toy store have all gone in the past few years as the emphasis has switched to restaurants.
Pamela’s nieces, Alison Miller and Sue Pank, now run their own pet shop in Parkway and recall how before the advent of the markets, Palmers was one of the major attractions in Camden Town.
George Palmer set up the shop in 1918 and counted famous faces among his customers. When Winston Churchill wanted a cat to prowl the corridors of Number 10, he popped into Palmers and went back to Whitehall with a ginger kitten. Mr Palmer was given a cigar and a signed copy of the PM’s autobiography as a thank-you. Charlie Chaplin wrote to them from Switzerland and bought two Abyssinian kittens.
Alison and Sue recall working as Saturday girls with their aunt, and the host of exotic creatures they shared the shop with. Sue said: “It was like a mini-zoo back then. The pet trade 50 years ago was amazing – you could literally sell anything. They had parrots, baboons, chimpanzees and mongooses.”
They also offered more traditional pets and sold thousands of budgies, hamsters, mice and gerbils over the years.
Alison said: “I remember sitting in the front windows as a kid, surrounded by puppies.”
But Sue added that greater awareness of animal welfare has changed the pet trade.
She said: “Nowadays people watch TV programmes and see birds flying free in the wild. They understandably don’t want to keep them in cages.”
The original sign outside Palmers, offering to sell monkeys and parrots, survives as a reminder of days gone by. But whether it will remain is uncertain.
Alison said: “The old Palmers has now been sold and life has to go on. Whether the sign should be saved is an issue for the new owners. I’ll understand if it goes – the new people will be trying to make a success of their own business and they won’t want a sign from an old shop above the door.
“But it would be nice if there could be a plaque.”
Pamela, born in 1931, grew up in Torriano Avenue and went to Torriano junior school. She was evacuated to Wales during the war, but after she sent a tearful postcard, dad Roger collected her and they settled back in Camden Town.
She started working at Palmers in her early 20s.
Speaking to the New Journal on her retirement three years ago, Pamela said: “We were so well known we used to get letters addressed to ‘Palmers Pet Shop, London’.
“That was all they needed to get to us.
“I was only supposed to stay six months, but, 53 years later, I was still there.”

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