At one time, milk was delivered to our street by a milkman using a horse-drawn cart. On the cart were large steel cans, that held maybe 100 litres of milk each. People came
out from their home with a container - a jug, usually - and the milkman filled it using a "dipper" which was a steel can with a vertical handle. They were charged according
to how many dippers of milk they took.
Later, bottles were introduced, and these were delivered to the doorstep. Early ones had a cardboard stopper on top, but later this was changed to a thin aluminium cap.
If the horse happened to be "taken short" while in the street, my father or many others were always happy to take the droppings with a shovel and use them on the garden.
Ice cream cart
Ice cream was brought to our street by a small cart, similar to a tricycle but with two wheels at the front instead of the back. At the front was a large lidded box that held
the ice cream, and on a rack in front of this were his scoops and the cones for the ice creams.
Rag and bone man
The rag and bone man used to call regularly to our street with his horse and cart, collecting old rags (to sell to factories), bottles (for re-cycling) and bones (for glue
factories and the manufacture of bone handles and other things). His catch-cry was, "Any old bones, rags, bottles and bones". He also accepted papers, which he sold to fish and chip shops for wrapping.
He would occasionally pay cash for the goods, but often he would trade, perhaps a jar containing a gold fish, or a trinket or a polished stone.
The front door of most homes (in our part of England anyway) had two embellishments: a door-knocker, used by visitors to the home and by larrikins like me for playing "knock-a-door",
and a mail-flap through which the mail was delivered. The mailman (no, not sexist - it was always a man) travelled on foot carrying a canvas bag with the pre-sorted mail inside.
He'd drop the mail through the slot and, depending on the mailman, somtimes knock before moving on.
When we came to Australia, the mailmen used bicycles, with a basket on the front to carry the mail. I guess the reason for the bikes was that the distances travelled were larger than in England.
The homes each had a mailbox, usually on a stand near the gate, and the "postie" shoved the mail into this, then gave a short blast on a whistle before proceeding. The whistle I think was
to give residents warning so that they could rescue the mail before the snails ate it (now you know the other reason we refer to it as "snail-mail").
Nowadays the posties use petrol-powered scooters, and many mailboxes are brick constructions. Posties no longer use a whistle, so if you're not out there to gather your mail in the next few hours you
find the edges of the envelopes eaten. I've taken to putting a few grains of snail-bait in the bottom of the maibox to deter this.
Our fresh food was kept in an "ice-box" which was like a small version of today's refrigerator, but without electricity. At the top was a compartment to hold a block of ice,
about 600mm long by 300mm square that provided the cooling.
The blocks of ice were delivered in the ice van which called around once a week to replace the melted block.
Our home fires were fueled with coal, coke or wood. All of these left a residue of soot which had a high content of creosote in it. This built up inside the chimney, and if
not cleaned out occasionally could ignite, creating a fire inside the chimney which could spread to other parts of the house.
There were chimney sweep services who for a fee would send someone to clean your chimney. Previously these had often been children, as they could climb inside the narrow
chimney. This was unpleasant, unhealthy and unsafe and lead to many incidents of falling, becoming trapped or suffering respiratory problems. During my time however, the
cleaners were always adults, who used long-handled brooms and other implements and rarely needed to climb inside the chimney.
Night cart was the polite term for the "dunny-man's cart" that came around at regular times to empty the outdoor toilet can. Most houses at the time had an outdoor toilet, or
"outhouse" that was located against the back fence of their yard. The dunny-man would open a flap at the rear of the toilet and remove the can. Then he'd carry it to the cart
(they were horse-drawn but later a small truck was used) on his shoulder and empty the contents into the cart. He was given extra pay and time off if a can happened to break while being carried.
Each home had a galvanised bin which was placed on the verge once a week. The trucks were big and heavy with an open top and a shute at the back. The garbage collectors had to run alongside the truck, pick up the bin
and tip it into the shute at the back. The truck had a built in compacter which compacted the garbage as it went into the truck. Every so often one of the guys would climb into the back
of the truck to spread the garbage. The truck (which was in two ways, a tip-truck) then went to the tip to empty the rubbish then start again. The collectors needed to be fit as they were constantly
on the run to keep pace with the truck.
Most towns had a land-fill site where the collected rubbish was dumped. In our day these were open, and a great place for kids to go and salvage
parts for bikes etc. Many a kid in those days had a bike that their father had built from parts found at the tip. The tip was also a breeding place for rats, and we would sometimes go down
with our sling-shots and try to kill some of these.
These days, the trucks are automated, with robotic arms that lift and tip the bin then replace it on the verge. These trucks are massive, making the early ones look like matchbox toys in comparison,
typically weighing about 12 tonnes when empty. The tips are also much more controlled, with admission only by showing a pass ticket.
Go to the Emergency page to read about Emergency Services, or to the Child Care page to read about changes in Child Care.