Shopping

The shops

There were no Supermarkets; the nearest thing to these was the "Co-op", the local co-operative group's offering. Here you could spend your "coupons" to buy tea, sugar or whatever was on the list at the time, as well as other non-restricted things like sweets and biscuits. The coupon list was a legacy from the war, which made some goods scarce.

The grocers were smaller and had less goods, but were the usual place to buy all your groceries as there were more of these than co-ops. You could buy food items by weight - a pound of sugar, for instance - including some of the couponed goods. Biscuits were sold by the bag. As children we could get broken ones for free sometimes. We'd often go in and say "any broken biscuits, mister?" and receive a small bag or twist of paper with some in.

There were small sweet shops dotted around the streets where you could buy your halfpenny-worth (hap'orth) of sweets. They were served in a twisted tissue shaped like a funnel, and were quite substantial amounts in most cases. But to get value it was good strategy if you wanted a penn'orth, to ask for two separate halfpenny lots, as when they were weighed you got two lots of the extra balance needed to tip the scale, as each was a little more than the required weight, if you catch my drift.

Picture of Nipits, a sweets favourite from The Olden DaysThere were individual delicacies too, like a stick of "spanish" (sort of salted liquorice), a stick of liquorice (a piece of liquorice plant root that you could chew on). or a penny ice cream (cone or wafer). Two of our favourite sweets were "nipits" (small salty liquorice diamonds, bought in small packs or by the penn'orth) and "kali" (pronounce kay-lie) - fizzy sherbet powder.

The fish and chip shop sold fish and chips (surprise!) and these were served on a sheet of tissue paper which was then wrapped in newspaper. The shop would buy bundles of newspaper from you if they were clean. (?)
They also bought them from local Rag-And-Bone dealers.

Petrol stations, or garages, were less common in those days, usually with only one in each neighbourhood. Their service was much better though, and customers could expect the operator to fill the fuel tank, check their tyres, water and oil, and clean the windscreen. Later, the name "Petrol Station" was changed to "Service Station" although they provided much less service, and "Petrol Station" was probably a more accurate description.

Picture of a shoe last

Shoe-repair shops sold small sheets of leather and rubber, as well as steel plates for re-inforcing the sole and heel of shoes, and small shoe-tacks for securing these. My dad kept a supply of these at home for repairing our shoes.

The goods

Picture of early comic

Comics were very popular and I think there was a much greater variety back then. Some popular ones were the Dandy and Beano, the Eagle, the Star, and Captain Marvel. Characters like Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan and the Catzenjammer Kids became part of our lives.

Fish and chips were always wrapped in newspaper (with tissue paper inside) and three penn'orth of chips was sufficient for a decent meal for a growing lad.The "extras" we buy there now, like potato-cakes, scallops and fish-fingers, were never heard of. I don't think fish had fingers in those days.

Many sweets were able to be bought singly or by twos. A ha'penny stick of spanish (salty liquorice) or a penn'orth of sherbet were both regular items for us. A bag of "nippets" (small diamonds of spanish) could be bought for a penny, as could an ice-cream cone.

Picture of Blackpool rock candy

Several seaside resorts in England had their own trademark stick of rock candy, with the name of the resort in colour through its centre. Blackpool rock was probably the most famous.

Much of the cooking used dripping, and this was sold in the grocers, and by some butchers. It was also spread on bread to create "dripping butties", which my father loved.

Meat came from the butcher, and included various sheep and cow cuts, liver, tripe (cows' stomach lining) and in some shops, rabbits. There wasn't much else to choose from, or requested, at least in my area.

We spread butter on our sandwiches (or "butties") back then; margarine always "tasted funny" and smelled like butter that was rancid. Now, the roles are reversed, with margarine being the popular spread and butter mainly for cooking.

Advertising is essential for any kind of continued sales, whether this is by word-of-mouth or other media.
Cigarettes, tobacco and smoking equipment were once openly advertised, and sold at hairdressers and several other places. There was no limit on age of purchasers, and many cigarettes had no filter, so were particularly dangerous.
Nowadays, there are mandatary warnings about health hazards on every pack, bans on selling to minors, and restrictions on where and how advertising can be done.
Although there is now a nominated "watchdog" for the accuracy and honesty of advertisements, this seems to be, at least in Australia, a toothless-tiger. I watched with some bemusement an ad. on television for a device that "removes hair, permanently, from any part of the body". The ad mentioned several areas such as face, underarms, bikini-line etc. and stressed repeatedly that it was permanent. Then it finished by inviting a free trial for 6 weeks! Presumably, if it works, you'll continue to buy it, just out of gratitude, or if it doesn't, maybe you get double your hair back?
Advertising for underwear and "intimate apparel" was once very low-key or non-existent. But now, there is very little control of graphic pictures and details of underwear or hygiene-related items.

About October, the shops started to sell fireworks for Guy Fawkes night which was 5th of November.
There were squibs, penny-bangers, rip-raps (jumping-jacks), rockets and lots of special colour-producing ones like snowdrops, mount vesuvius and others.
There were lots of noise-making fireworks too, from the tiny "Tom Thumb" which could be held in the hand to demonstrate how brave you were, to the big "Thrupenny Bunger" that would be heard from the next township and could demolish a mailbox.


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