Thursday, 1 October 2009
The Corner Shop in the late 1950s
You will have to forgive me if this makes little sense as I am having an on-the-sofa day, full of another cold. Don't worry, I have tissues, knitting and the biggest pile of books you ever did see (and yes, I AM old enough to remember the Wooden Tops and dear old Spotty Dog . . .) Now, if you EVER return from that link to a wonderful 1950s tv site, I have been casting my memory back nearly 50 years, to the days of the Corner Shop on our road in Sholing, Southampton.
Actually, there was more than one corner shop. There was Haston's at the top of our road, and they had a dark brown pony which lived in a dark shed (rather than a "stable") in the back garden behind the shop. I should think it never saw grass, and soon after I remember it, they had it pts anyway because it had Navicular. This shop soon changed into a sort of mini-market, with lots of suspiciously highly-coloured jam tarts, Arctic Rolls, Fish Fingers, packets of cornflakes and rice crispies, and rows of sliced loaves in waxed paper. Cold meats, cheese and butter were displayed behind a glass-fronted cabinet if I remember rightly and magazines and little cookery booklets on a revolving stand just inside the door. I still have the little bread making booklet I bought there in the early 1970s and use it regularly as it has my favourite recipes. There was also Checkleys, down past the pub, but we didn't go in there very often.
Then there was the shop we used down the road a few hundred yards (mum shopped daily) and which was opposite my best friend's house. I damned if I can remember the name of it either, so I shall have to phone her tonight (I blame this cold . . .) At the front of the shop there was a little automatic dispensing machine where you could buy 10 fags (as we always called them) - probably Player's No. 10. They'd have been a cheap brand, not like the aloof gold packaging of Benson and Hedges. One shop at the top of Bunny's Hill would even sell them in 5s - a memory of teenage years, that . . . I think there was a machine which dispensed Bubblegum and/or? Gobstoppers. Probably a penny a time. You would suck the Gobstopper for ages and then take it out of your mouth to see which layer colour you had got to. The bubblegum was another lurid pink beastie and I was always hopeless at blowing bubbles with it.
There was also a chocolate vending machine. I think it was 5 boys chocolate and my memory says is was tuppence a bar (in old money of course).
Outside the shop would also be various fruit and vegetables for sale. These would all be locally sourced, for on the Parkgate and Fareham side of Southampton there was mile after mile of Market Gardens, and huge areas put down to strawberry growing. There would always be postcards in local shop windows come June when they wanted strawberry pickers, and they laid transport on to take local housewives there and back. On wet days the veg would be stacked to the right hand side of the shop, beneath the big glass window which had shelves across it with various sweets in jars.
At the back of the shop was a counter and in front of the counter was a triple row of glass-topped tins, which sold loose biscuits - bourbons, custard creams, digestives, and crackers. We nearly always went for the broken biscuits, because they were cheaper (never thinking they may have got broken on the factory floor!) Against the back wall was another counter, where the bacon cutter lived - a fearsome looking beast which was worked with a handle, and slivers of bacon or ham would fall off it onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Cheese was sold loose and cut with a cheesewire across an enamelled block with a gutter down the centre for the wire. Without a fridge, the cheese (always Cheddar, which I hated, as it was strong) always sweated on the larder shelf, and grew a hard outer shell.
This front counter was the business end of the shop as far as children were concerned as it had an array of sweets to tempt you to part with your sixpences. Jamboree Bags were thruppence, and good value as you got a selection of sweets inside and always a toffee on a stick. There were chocolate bars including the Fry's one which had different flavour cremes in each section, Fry's peppermint creme bars, Caramac bars, mars bars, Cadbury's chocolate with or without fruit and nuts. There were sherbert fountains, with a length of liquorice which you sucked the sherbert through. Sometimes you sucked too hard and the sherbert hit the tonsils a bit smartly and set off a paroxym of coughing and your friends got spattered with damp sherbert. There were Fizzer bars in garish colours including a really pretty greeny-blue one (or is my memory playing me up?) There were Lovehearts, Refreshers, Spangles, and do I remember an Old English square with a dimple cough sweet sort of Spangle too?, Fruit Gums and Fruit Pastilles, Parma Violets, Fruit Polos, Coconut Mushrooms, Rainbow Drops, Flying Saucers, 4-a-penny sweets (used to be a farthing each until "they" got rid of the pretty little be-robined farthing) such as Blackjacks and Fruit Salads, luridly pink Shrimps, and jellied sweets.
In glass jars around the shelves you could buy a quarter or even two ounces of sweets - usually boiled - glace fruits, Fox's glacier mints, mint humbugs, mint imperials, murray mints (the too good to hurry mints!), the sugared almonds beloved of old Mrs Presland, opposite, rhubarb and custard, blackberries and raspberries, toffees, toffee crunch, pineapple chunks, rosy apples, kola cubes (my favourites) and a selection of fierce sweets for the old people (those the age I am now!) such as Fisherman's Friend, Zubes (beloved of my mother), Coltstoot Rock, Clove Balls, Aniseed Balls (yuckety-yuck!) and extra strong mints. Even a mint polo was too strong for me. Me, who went on to tuck into Vindaloo curries with relish!
For those with deeper pockets than mine were the likes of the Walnut Whip (yuk!) or a quarter of a pound of Quality Street, which were 2 shillings and sixpence a quarter to the boiled sweeties at just sixpence a quarter.
When we were in funds, we would buy Cremola foam to drink - not sure how far into the 1960s that was but it was luscious! The poor child's alternative was a teaspoon of Andrews Liver Salts in a glass of squash . . .
Crisps - only one flavour, and that was plain with a little deep blue twisted wrapper with salt in it. Or Potato Puffs. I REALLY miss Potato Puffs. They were amazing . . .
Thankyou for indulging me as I step back to 1958 and the early 60s. For just a little while, I was really THERE you know . . .
The photographs by the way, come from Creative Commons Search and were all from Beamish Museum, up int' North . . . They pre-date the 1950s, but give a general idea. There weren't none of that old glass and gold lettering in OUR corner shop . . .