1950's - Going Shopping
Going to the Shops in the 1950's was an event
Strangely, I always liked going to the Shops. There were two types of going; a walk down to the Village Shops or a bus ride to town for bigger thing's like clothes etc.
Our situation was that most our things came by Van to the House. We think online shopping is new? Well, it isn't - then it was online, but on the telephone line.
Saying that, another similarity is that nowadays we ask "Do you have an email address?". Then you'd ask "Are you on the Phone?"
We'd phone the weekly shop through on the Monday and get it the next day.
Fishmongers, Greengrocers and Butchers came around the roads stopping at various places. You'd know what time they'd be there and they were never late and always appeared.
But there were things you would have to pop out for and I can even remember doing errands of walking down to the Village with the Ration Book (things we wished we had kept!).
Going to 'the big shops' in Sevenoaks (about 4 miles) was a really good treat because this meant a bus ride! See Transport.
The town centre then was pretty much the same set up as it is today. The only exception in Sevenoaks being the very large Department Stores and there were no Supermarkets!
One lasting memory was going into the Coffee Shop. The smell brought a whole new aroma and it's maybe the reason I only drink Coffee and not Tea.
There was a Restaurant above and a cake was always another treat of the day.
London of course had the huge Stores and that was usually the Christmas trip and if I was lucky, the summer one as well.
On Thursdays we'd go to Tonbridge to visit my Grandparents and they had a Store which had those money tubes. The Cashier Sales Assistant would place your cash in a little steel tube 'thingy' which was attached to a complex arrangement of wires going around the Store, through the ceilings and overhead, at great speed as well.
Once the other end, a Cashier would write the receipt, sort out the change and whiz it back down to you.
For a youngster this was fantastic to watch and you'd go home to try out your own version across the Bedroom and into the Hall!
Sevenoaks had a Timothy Whites and Boots (big competition), a Woolworth where you could buy cheap cover versions of records.
I used to like the old style Hardware Stores where they sold everything from a screw to a Kettle and they had draws upon draws of weird shaped 'things' which you didn't have a clue what they were for! The Assistants always wore Brown overalls and you'd NEVER find anyone without a shirt and tie
Another 'smell' which lingers on is that of the Cold Meat Shops. The combination of Ham, Tongue and Corned Beef all neatly laid out on the Counter with the swooshing noise manual cutter behind.which made your teeth go on edge with fear of the Chap taking off a finger!
The thing about very young kids today saying, after watching some old 50's film', "was it all in black and white then?", couldn't be further from the truth. I remember it in full technicolor. Again, I think an effect of post-war times wanting to be 'new' and 'escape' was rife wherever you looked. Colour was 'in', especially in the women's clothes where what they were wearing then became the flower patterns for 1960's wallpapers!
Needless to say, everyone had a Milkman then, it was part of the system and institution.
I recall at least three of them. Every morning you'd hear the Float pull up and "Milko" being called halfway up the drive. You got to know them very well and on Christmas morning they'd always get a 'wee dram' and a small monetary tip for their kindness through the year.
Newspaper Boys were the same, although they were early birds and really were boys. I can't remember any age limit and they would do a good couple of hours biking around before school during sun and snow!
In Chipstead, a little Village where I went to School then had a Hardware Shop, a Butcher's, a Post Office and two Sweet /Cigarette Shops. Now it has nothing, just two Pubs (and even then there were three!).
Shops and their Keepers were part of the Community as was the Station Master of a Railway Station and the Postman. Everyone knew each other and everyone would say Hello as they past each other by.
Walking along the Shops could take ages because you stopped to chat with so many people.
Shops were then really a Trade and the people in them were often there the whole of their working life's - a far cry from today's 'get whoever you can at six quid an hour' !