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.
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.
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.
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.