Roads were places to play, not for cars

VISITING the car-clogged street in Ipswich where my mother lives reminded me of how much our roads have changed in the past 45 years.

Today in that road there is just room for one car to drive carefully between vehicles parked both sides, as long as those cars on one side park on the pavements.

The street is not alone in being choc-a-bloc with parked vehicles.

Every big town has hundreds of them – our reliance on cheap motoring is total.

But four decades ago, my mum’s street was so empty of cars and traffic we played cricket and football and cycle races in the road during the holidays.

Only three people in the street owned a car – the Druett’s and the French’s were kept in garages, a rarity in our street, and the third was owned by Colin Davey, who went to work all day, leaving the tarmac to the kids!

Of course, there were occasional visitors – an assortment of traders, most of them now vanished from our lives.

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The coalman was essential every week as no homes had central heating, milkman daily, occasionally a post van or excitingly an ice cream seller, the weekly dustcart, and the Co-op grocery van, an Aladdin’s cave of fruit, veg and other goods direct to your door.

Best of all though was the Corona man – a delivery of tasty fizzy pop. And you couldn’t get better than Corona, especially limeade and cherryade.

I was hooked on the stuff, until the day the van driver showed me the floor of the back of his vehicle, cracked, corroded, literally eaten away. “The Corona did that – think what it’s doing to your stomach,” said the man untruthfully – and lost a customer.

We used to collect the bottles to return them and get the cash back for the empties. In fact, we also used to hunt down discarded beer bottles. Each worth a couple of pennies.

I was sometimes sent to the corner shop as a child to take beer bottles back – and buy a fresh bottle. The shopkeeper used to wrap it in brown paper to disguise it and then told me to run home.

A work colleague remembered another street trader – a man who used to travel around Felixstowe on his bike sharpening people’s knives. My wife reckons he was still calling at homes in the town when we moved here 30 years ago.

While many of these people have disappeared, in some ways we have gone full circle – with no need to go shopping any more.

Asda, Tesco, and Co-op delivery vans, and the internet, can bring it all to your door – if they can find somewhere to park.