It was all so different then. Now, when almost everyone has a car or can shop on line, Supermarkets reign and competition is fierce. But back then the unimaginatively named Main Street was our Shopping Mecca. No TV advertising to tempt us to buy what my mother would have called 'rubbish food'.
Mr Knott, the butcher, was at one end. Round, fat and rosy-cheeked - the epitome of what a butcher should look like - he stood behind the scrubbed wooden counter in his blue and white striped apron, the tools of his trade set out in front of him. A row of very sharp knives, a wooden mallet, a meat cleaver - all looked lethal to me. I hated having to go there and see the carcases of dead animals hanging on hooks; and worse still, at Christmas, rows of naked geese hanging, their beaks pointing floorwards, and their brothers and sisters outside, still alive in their wooden crates, awaiting their fate.
Further along was Applewhite's Post Office. Here Mrs. Applewhite would stand behind her wire screen, doling out penny stamps and postal orders, and ready to take my sixpence each week for my Post Office Savings Bank Book. I had a Post Office Set at home and on long Winter evenings my friend and I would play Post offices, so I was always on the look-out for things that Mrs. Applewhite did that I could add to my stock of ideas.
Houghton's shop was tiny and crammed with 'stuff'. Mr Houghton was a Potato Merchant so there was always an open sack of potatoes taking up a large part of the floor area. Then there were the shelves packed with tins of Bisto, Burdall's Gravy Salt, Colman's Mustard - these three were always put together as the tins were the same shape and they took up less room on the shelf. But,
'horror of horrors' Houghton's sold 'bought cake', a phrase coined by my mother and said in scathing terms. 'Bought cake' never crossed our threshold and I used to look longingly at the Lyon's Raspberry Jam Swiss Rolls in the window of the shop and try to imagine what they tasted like.
The Co-op was our shop. Mr Clipsham, the manager, would stand behind the counter in his khaki smock and take your order. I used to have to write our order out for my mother as she checked cupboard and shelves to see what we needed. It was always more or less the same and we only bought the staples - sugar, butter, margarine, lard, tea, coffee, cheese, bacon - the rest came from our own garden. My father grew vegetables and fruit, we had hens, we kept a pig, and when the hens stopped laying we were still alright for eggs because when they were laying well my mother would store any surplus in waterglass under the pantry shelf. They tasted absolutely awful and could never be fried with the Sunday morning bacon (cut from the flitch hanging from the larder ceiling) because they were given to exploding. Our bread and cakes were always home baked and you could smell the tempting smell long before you reached the kitchen door.
Mr Jackson lived on Main Street and he brought the milk round every morning in his pony and trap, 'wheeling' the churn down the drive to the back door and filling our jugs and basins with his pint and half pint measures. Any that went sour would be strained through muslin and made into cottage cheese.
But last of all on Main Street was old Mrs Reason, who made the most wonderful ice cream on hot days. How did she keep it cool?
Did she have what would then have been a very new fangled fridge? Was what she called ice cream merely just very cold custard? I don't know. But I do know that on hot sunny days she would suddenly put a table across her front door step, spread it with a white cloth, put a box of cornets on it and a handbell and retire to her kitchen. You had to ring the bell and wait for her to push her way through what Thomas Hardy called the 'penetralia' - a heavily beaded curtain to keep the flies out- with a box of golden-yellow ice cream in her hand. She would dip the spoon in it and fill your cone with the luscious stuff. Bliss in your hand and all for a penny.
But then everything was bliss, and a penny went a long way - at least it seemed to be so when you were seven. But now, seventy odd years later, memory serves to make it even more so.
** The photograph shows my parents with their friends Alf and Edna and also with Mr and Mrs Applewhite from the Post Office. They were all six on holiday together at the YMCA Holiday Camp at Skegness in Lincolnshire. I think the date would be 1946. Left to right: Mr Applewhite, my mother,
my father, Mrs Applewhite (in a hat!) Alf and Edna.