John James Sainsbury was born on 12th June 1844 and this was a man who transformed the grocery shopping experience. I can remember an old fashioned Sainsbury’s in Lewisham in South London where I would be taken by my grandmother when I was quite young when she carried out the weekly shop.
It wasn’t a Sainsbury’s that anyone would recognise now, it was white tiled from floor to ceiling in a Victorian sanatorium sort of way and had glass counters around the outside with shop assistants who served the customers one by one. Customers made a selection and then this was cut on a meat slicer or with a cheese wire and then meticulously weighed before being carefully wrapped and passed with care to the purchaser. There were meat slabs, cheese and dairy sections and a delicatessen, but what I remember most is the competing smells of the goods, you could almost taste the produce and I can still recall the distinctive atmosphere of the shop.
The other distinctive smell that I can remember is Mr Tucson’s mobile shop that used to call down our street daily and which had a smell of old vegetables – especially potatoes I seem to recall.
Shopping was completely different fifty years ago and wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today when one single car trip to Tesco is all that is needed. For a start we didn’t have a car so it really wasn’t possible to transport all of the weekly shopping home in one go. On market day mum would catch the Midland Red R76 into town to buy fresh vegetables and then later in the week she would go into town again to go to the butchers and the International Stores which until Fine Fare arrived was the only big food store in town.
She had to go shopping twice a week for the simple reason that we didn’t have a fridge so keeping food fresh was a bit of a problem, especially in the summer. If she forgot something or needed it urgently there was Verdigan’s (later Winter’s)village shop and a couple of times a week Mr Tucson’s mobile shop. The milk was delivered early in the morning by Anderson’s dairy, the baker came by in the Sunblest van a couple of times a week with bread and cakes and once a week the mobile fishmonger from Grimsby called by.
You don’t get service like that anymore, sometime in the 1960s Mr Tuscon stopped coming along with the baker and the Grimsby fishmonger and quite soon after that everyone got cars to go into town to shop and had fridges and freezers so only had to go once a week.