I was on an outing a couple of weeks ago with our community when I overheard a conversation about people who called to the door when you were young. So we took a trip back to the late fifties and early sixties to recount each persons experience when they were young, and what they could remember.
Of course, me being me I had to join in and give my five pence worth! All the women at the top end of the bus were reminiscing about when they were children and how different times are now.
The first person that was mentioned was of course the milkman. Every morning at 6.00 a.m. summer and winter hail rain and shine. We talked about the glass bottles and the foil lids and the way the birds would peck at the cream! The selection of milk too, jersey which was more expensive and given to children who were ‘delicate’, buttermilk, and full cream. No such thing as skimmed milk in those days!
Then of course the bread man was next, in his battery-operated little van. Some women remembered their mothers inviting him in for a cup of tea and a chat. Then at Christmas time, he would arrive with a cake for the courtesy of the cuppa, which was like a magical event. A cake at Christmas was quite expensive so a gift like that was so appreciated.
The paper man did the same, every evening the Herald or the Press was delivered to your door and the payment collected on Friday night.
The coal man too would have been very popular as there was no central heating in houses then, it was the coal fire in most households. It usually arrived on the back of a horse and cart, with the coal man putting the full sacks up on his back and emptying them in the coal house, which in most households was underneath the stairs.
Then the vegetable man got a mention, he would have the freshest of fruit and vegetables delivered to the door. Usually grown in his own garden. Well our one grew his own produce.
When I said the laundry man there was a great burst of laughter. You must have been very posh, one woman said!! The sheets and the tablecloths were all that were laundered from our household. He too had a battery-operated little van from the White Swan Laundry. I remember the order book and the docket given. He would then call back the following week with the sheets washed and pressed and wrapped in brown paper. I have no idea what the cost was, but it was obviously worth it when we didn't have a washing machine.
The postman of course still calls to the door to deliver our post. That service has been running since the late 1800s. Imagine! Everyone knew him and he knew everyone too.
You cannot leave out the umbrella man! Our street had a regular umbrella man who called to the house to fix the broken umbrellas. He would sit on the doorstep outside and work away. Nothing was thrown away then, everything was fixable!
Alongside him very often was the man who fixed the pots. He sold pots too, straight to the door where you would get service like it.
I am sure that everyone had the man from the Royal Liver, collecting the insurance money. We called him the “Society Man”. The little book with the squares in it was ticked off when payment was made to him. He was almost a family friend as he would be brought into our house for a cuppa too.
I remember the ice cream man. He came around with his horse and cart. It was one old penny for one wafer biscuit cut in two and a slice of ice cream or two old pennies for the full ice cream sandwich. My Nana and Grandad would order the four penny ones which to me as a child looked enormous!
The ragman was another regular caller. He used to come around in a horse and cart collecting old clothes and jam jars. When you gave him something that was no longer needed, you got a prize, like a yo-yo or a balloon. We used to think that was great!
How could you forget the slop man? He had a small farm. He collected all the potato peels and left over food, to feed his pigs. He would come around on a horse and cart too with big tin barrels on the back of it. You would go out to him with the slop bucket and he would tip it into the big barrel. Very often he would throw the two pence back into the end of the slop bucket and what a job that was trying to retrieve it!
But I suppose the way things were back in the fifties and early sixties, that in order to buy something for the family it was usually done by higher purchase. If that’s a nice name for it! Cost the families a fortune, but it was the only way it was done. I can remember my Dad laying down the law to my Mam about not getting involved with “those characters”!
Lots of families borrowed money to buy Christmas presents, First Communion outfits, and all sorts of other things that were not supported by the weekly wage.
Things were very different then. People, in general, had very little, certainly those I played with in the street and went to school with. We seemed much happier way back then for some strange reason, maybe not knowing what you could have was a better way of being. No internet, no phone, no TV so all you had was letter writing and word of mouth really and trust, to turn up for an appointment or a date. No non-stop texting that I see happening now.
However, we did have good social skills. We all played team games very well, with very little arguing and fighting. You knew from the off that if you wanted to be included in the game you had to play fair and get along with everybody. I don't see much of that today, such a pity. I’m glad I have happy memories of when I was a child. Lots of responsibility mind you, but happy just the same.
But in recalling all those people who called to the door, the oxytocin, endorphins and serotonin flowed, along with the laughter and for some a few tears.
We recycled, reused and re-created lots of things in those times, long before green and brown bins ever came into use.
So nowadays are we better off or worse off I ask that question?