Cornering the market
UNTIL supermarkets changed our shopping habits most families had to make a daily visit to the local shops to buy fresh goods for the family meal. Until the 1960s few homes had a refrigerator let alone a deep freeze to store food.
UNTIL supermarkets changed our shopping habits most families had to make a daily visit to the local shops to buy fresh goods for the family meal. Until the 1960s few homes had a refrigerator let alone a deep freeze to store food. Meat was kept in a 'safe', a wooden box with a perforated zinc front. This did little more then keep the flies off!
The job of the daily shop usually fell to 'mum' or one of the children trusted with a list and money clutched tightly in a small hand.
Every housing development had its own selection of shops. As well as the butcher, baker and grocer you could get your shoes repaired, post a letter or buy a spare part for your bicycle. There are still some excellent small shops and services around, but many have closed not able to compete with the supermarkets.
Former Ipswich man Rod Cross, who lived in Clifford Road and now lives at Botley, near Southampton, recalls the shops he regularly visited in his childhood. Rod said, “In the 1950s, before the advent of out-of-town supermarkets and when the bicycle was most people's regular form of transport, entire communities relied upon their local shops to provide for all their daily needs. Serving an area that stretched from Back Hamlet to Fuchsia Lane, Ipswich and bordered by the Ipswich to Felixstowe railway line, was the shopping parade in Foxhall Road. It was typical of its day - both in the extensive range of shops and the characters who owned them”.
“The first shop in the parade, nearest to Grove Lane, was Allard's confectioners and tobacconists. Mr Allard always wore a white button-up jacket and had a somewhat curt manner. No doubt, more evident when small boys such as myself disturbed his lunch to spend a halfpenny on a gobstopper, a Trebor chew or two blackjacks!”
“Workmen purchasing their 'Woodbines' or 'Red Tenners' on their way to work down Back Hamlet were undoubtedly dealt with in a more affable manner! Next door was a greengrocery, and next to that a shoe repairer. Cyril Nears, the cobbler. He wasn't the tallest of men and one often had to search quite hard for him over a counter piled high with re-soled leather shoes, freshly-heeled stilettos, and work boots newly-tipped with 'blakeys'. It was only ten years since the Second World War and the throw-away society was not yet upon us. The fact that repairing shoes provided one man with full-time employment showed how people still adhered to the old war-time adage of “Make Do and Mend”.
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“The Foxhall Hairdressing Salons had a red and white striped barber's pole above the door. Whilst Barbara tended to the ladies upstairs, the twinkling feet of Ken Cuff performed the soft shoe shuffle downstairs providing the obligatory short, back and sides for young and old alike.”
“Corbett's outfitters and The Grove Photographic Studio was next, then Pamela's, second ladies hairdressers run by Pamela Baker, stood next to the well-used passage leading to Rosebery Road.”
“On the other side of the passage was Barker's fish and chip shop. Whilst Mr Barker did the frying, Mrs Barker served the customers. She had a blonde perm and always reminded me of one of those glamorous American film-stars of the 30s and 40s.
The next three businesses were all run by the same family. Boswell and Son who were printers; then there was a drapery run by Mrs Eva Boswell and finally, a watch-repairers and jewellers housed in a tiny little shop with a hidden doorway run by Mr Boswell.”
“At various times, there was also a dry cleaners, a café, a hardware shop and a baker's along this stretch, as well as another greengrocery owned by a Mr Reed. He was a mournful-looking man who wore a brown smock and to me, at the time, seemed very, very old. His daughter served in the shop with him.”
“A shop selling pet food, seeds and plants stood next to another baker's and then there was Taylor's news agency which, not surprisingly, always smelt of printing ink. This was where I bought my gun-caps, I-Spy books and caught up with Dan Dare in my weekly copy of The Eagle. The shop opened late on Saturdays during winter in order to sell the Green'Un. Those that were unsold when the shop closed were placed in a rack outside and late arrivals were entrusted to take their paper and post their 3d through the letterbox.”
“On the corner of Wellesley Road stood Doddington's 'Doddy's' cycle shop. Although they sold bicycles, mainly Raleigh and Hercules, most of their business came from repairs carried out in their workshop at the back. The two men who worked there may have been related. Both wore long brown coats and the younger man, who could well have been the original Granville in “Open All Hours”, seemed to do little else but carry out endless puncture repairs.”
“On the opposite corner was Rowden's which sold bread, cakes, confectionary and cigarettes. Gilbert Towden, the proprietor, was a dapper little man with a flashing smile beneath a neatly-trimmed moustache. At Christmas time, he did a roaring trade in boxes of chocolates and his window always featured lights and a nodding Santa.
The final shop before the housing began was Jones' wool shop run by two quite severe ladies of the twin-set and pearls type. A second wool shop stood opposite Alan Road, only two blocks away, reflecting a time when hand-knitted garments such as socks, gloves and hats were common-place and new clothes were relatively expensive to buy.”
“Further along Foxhall Road was the post office, whilst on the other side of the road were the Co-op grocery stores, Fowler's (later Chaplin's) off-license, a butcher's shop called Pallant and Ellis. This was always pronounced as a single word, 'Pallantanellis' and the appropriately named Stearn the chemist.”
“In total, there were some thirty different businesses in this stretch of Foxhall Road, eighteen of which were in the shopping parade itself. Today, at least six of the shops have been converted into houses; some stand empty and only two remain the same: The Grove (Photographic) Studio and the recently refurbished Co-op. Of the rest, only the newsagents still fulfils the same function. There are no bakers, butchers nor greengrocers; hardware store or drapery; and certainly nobody to mend your shoes, change your watchstrap nor fix the brakes on your bike!”
“Yet it is not all bad news for the area. You may not be able to buy good old English fish and chips, but you can treat yourself to a kebab, pizza or some southern fried chicken, that's if you haven't already opted for a Chinese takeaway or an exotic sandwich from the delicatessen! You can't buy a ball of wool for knitting a sweater to keep you warm, but should your tan need topping up with “mega hot 12000 watts of tanning power” you don't have far to go! When that's done, you could cross the road for a body exfoliation or some anti-cellulite treatment or maybe just pop along the block for a quick tattoo or body piercing! The newsagents now sell you beer, wine and spirits; a modern pharmacy has replaced the traditional chemists; whilst the barber's shop has become the much more funky-sounding Baba-z!”
“For those who remember this shopping parade as it was fifty years ago, the change is almost total, but it mirrors the way in which shopping habits have changed completely during this period. Gone are the days when the housewife would carry a list and a bag from shop to shop, selecting each item individually from shopkeepers who knew their products inside out. Now the weekly shopping is nearly all done under one roof. It may be more convenient, but the personal touch has gone - and with it, the characters who provided it.”
What memories do you have of local shops. The characters behind the counters and the service you received? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.
If you enjoy memories of the 1950s and 60s there is a new book on sale by me featuring hundreds of photographs of Ipswich in that period. The hardback book is published jointly by the Evening Star and At Heart Publishing. I have been invited to attend the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre's Christmas Tasting Day this Saturday (November 25) at St Stephens Church where they will have all their festive goodies on sale. So if you would like a signed copy of the book why not come and say hello between 11am and 2pm. The book is also on sale at the Star's offices in Ipswich, Felixstowe and Stowmarket for £14.99. Click the below link for more details on the book.