Scrap Book Project – Shopping and Home Delivery

Rugby Town shopping

Shopping was completely different fifty years ago and wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today when one single car trip to the out of town supermarket  once a week is all that is needed to complete a full shop.

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 on Lower Street in the village and a couple of times a week Mr Tucson’s mobile shop used to call by.

mobile shop 1

mobile shop

This is obviously not Mr Tuscon – but you will get the general idea!

Mr Tucson’s mobile shop had a very distinctive earthy smell of decaying vegetables – especially potatoes I seem to recall which was especially strong in the summer.  He didn’t have a lot of stock on board, some boxes of wilting salad and vegetables, dusty boxes of cereal, some rusting tins of soup, spam, corned beef  and baked beans and a rack of 1960s teeth destroying sugary sweets.

The old clapped-out converted coach would pull up in the street and announce its arrival with several lusty blasts of the horn and then Mr Tuscon in his brown overall would stop the engine and move from the driver’s seat to the formica topped counter with a meat slicer and a set of shiny scales and assorted metal weights and wait a few moments for the customers to arrive.

I used to like Mr Tuscon’s mobile shop, I used to go to school with his daughter, Janice and I often wondered if she would one day grow up and take over the business.  Also in my class at school was my friend Dave Clark (not the one from the Dave Clark Five) and his dad had the best shop in Rugby at the top of Railway Terrace and was a sort of Marrakech souk where you could buy all sorts of useful household items.

Clarks - Railway Terrace

Mr Tuscon wasn’t the only delivery man who dropped by of course because getting things delivered was much more common in the 1960s.  I know that I can get things delivered direct from practically anyone these days but it really isn’t the same.

Newspapers for example. In the late 1960s  I had my first paper round and earned fifteen shillings (.75p) a week in return for getting up at six o’clock, six days a week, whatever the weather to lug a bag of newspapers around the village before going to school.  The papers were carried in a big canvas bag and as I was only small the newsagent had to tie a knot in the strap so that it didn’t drag on the floor.  I would be surprised if paper rounds exist anymore because to deliver to fifty houses or so would need a dumper truck to replace the old canvas bag on account of the size of the newspapers and the weight of all of the colour supplements.

paper round

This is obviously not me either – If I had had a mobile phone or a digital camera in 1966 then I would have taken a ‘selfie’.

The milk arrived on the doorstep early in the morning by Anderson’s Dairy who delivered the milk and the cream and the eggs in an electric float that purred around the streets in a sort of considerate way that didn’t wake every one up given the early hours of working.  You didn’t see the milkman except for once a week when he called on Friday night to collect the money and I was always fascinated by his leather wallet in which he stuck any notes, turned it inside out and it rearranged them by denominations as if by magic.  I have got one of those wallets now but I still can’t figure out exactly how it works.

The baker came by in the Sunblest van a couple of times a week with bread and cakes in a huge wicker basket and once a week the mobile fishmonger from Grimsby called by.  The Corona pop man would call every other week and leave lemonade, cherryade and orangeade and sometimes ginger beer, cream soda or dandelion and burdock.  There was never any Coke or Pepsi but I remember that he once started bringing Root Beer but I don’t think it proved very popular because in the UK we have never acquired a taste for this American favourite.  I didn’t like it that’s for sure and I still don’t.

A couple of times a year there was a delivery from the coalman in his leather jacket, flat cap and blackened face and he always seemed rather satanic and sinister to me so I generally kept well away.  Later the mobile chippy used to call down our road but I always thought that was rather dangerous, driving around the streets with a vat of boiling fat sloshing about as it drove round corners or made emergency stops!

What made me suddenly think of all this? Well, I am sitting in waiting for the postman to deliver me a couple of books that I have ordered from Amazon and I suddenly remembered that when I was a boy the postman used to deliver twice a day, once early morning and then a second time in the afternoon.  This was good at birthdays because if an expected card with two and six in it didn’t arrive in the morning then there was always a good chance that it would turn up later when some skinflint had only used the cheaper postal service for unsealed envelopes.

You don’t get service like that any more, sometime in the 1960s Mr Tuscon stopped coming along with the baker and the Grimsby fishmonger, people got gas central heating and didn’t need coal and milk became cheaper by the gallon in the supermarkets than in the pint glass bottles  and quite soon after that everyone got cars to go into town to shop and had fridges and freezers so only had to go shopping once a week.

Pop Delivery Lorry

22 responses to “Scrap Book Project – Shopping and Home Delivery

  1. Oh my god! the grocery van and corona delivery (particularly dandelion and burdock)…(.and throwing it up)……and waiting for the post which did come!!!!.Ah yes the post…
    .But things still come next day you know and they come when they say it will.For a replacement Sony TV control gismo from Curry’s ordered last night (on computer) it came just before breakfast today for 8.99 postage. Why did I do that?
    ( Perhaps too many vans called years back and I just got used to it!) 🙂 nice article by the way….
    Why did I do it though… pay 8.99 postage?!!!!……….?????!!!!.

  2. Pingback: Groceries and Home Delivery Service | Have Bag, Will Travel

  3. My 14 year old grandsons have both done recent stints as paper boys. They were issued with a trolley, because of the weight issue, but even so, didn’t last long.

  4. Do you remember the Matchbox Corona lorry? All the individual bottles were there and when you touched it with the tip of your finger it was prickly.
    We used to have an ice cream man called Jack come round on Sunday afternoon. It was 4d for your own cup filled to the top with ice cream and 3d for a cornet. We all used to call ice cream “oakey” in our village and it took me many years to discover that “occieri” is the Italian for ice cream. Presumable the very first ice cream was sold by an Italian who continued to call it by its Italian name.

  5. I don’t remember having most of this apart from milk deliveries, coal and maybe the pop bottles. We certainly had those vile mixtures but I can’t remember if they were delivered. I do remember the first self-service shop in our little town. Must have been 1962 or before. I probably wouldn’t have noticed but I remember my mum being amazed.

  6. Curiously, it was quite a bit like this in America in the 50’s, too! There was a small grocery at the end of the street in a basement. Milk was delivered at whatever frequency the customer needed, and the order was placed in an insulated box with the dairy’s logo on front as there were two or three competitors do the same work in our small town. A fellow came by periodically to sell a variety of wares and some groceries, the Jewel Tea man, representing a national company headquartered in Chicago. Safeway had it’s supermarket, and another company, Jack and Jill, had another. An independent businessman had his super market, too. Corner groceries were prevalent in the first years of the 1950s decade, but nearly extinct by the end as the owners died out mostly. Weird to recall, but my father used to give me a quarter to pick up a pack of Camel cigarettes at the basement grocery, enough for his cigarettes and a penny treat for me. Apparently Bob, the grocer, knew the cigarettes were for my father, who surely called before hand! These days, there are signs in stores that tell you the customer how old you must be to buy cigarettes (or alcohol in liquor stores) and the cigarettes are locked up. You have to find a store employee to free your purchase! (I’m glad I quit smoking in 1998! The brand I used to smoke costs over $5 a pack!)

  7. My parents had a corner shop and it was where I first learned arithmetic I think, as from a very early age I helped in the shop and there were no tills. To this day I still do mental arithmetic quicker than my fingers can work a calculator. No nonsense either about me not being allowed to sell ciggies. I remember we sold woodbines in twos to the really impoverished before payday! I also remember the bread van coming twice daily, and the coalman heaving heavy loads of coal to our outhouse. No one bought flowers in those days, at least none that we knew – apart from funerals or such like – but our house was always filled with wildflowers from the hedgerows. Don’t worry, the hedgerows flourished in those days and there was enough for everyone, hawthorn, mayblossom, cornflowers, poppies. Where did they all go?

    • Great memories, thanks for adding them to the post.
      I read that hedgerow flowers are making a come back because local authorities can no longer afford weed control. That is one positive out of austerity.

  8. Who knows, that might be something we get back. My late wife, Jessica’s, milk was delivered in a pram during her childhood. I remember two p[ostal deliveries, too.

  9. I worked as a breadman in the 70s and as a popman in the 80s. Never did the milk though! Although I did do a few months on the post in 1989. Then I discovered desk jobs. Much easier!

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