Through the 30’s habits started to change at a snail’s pace, but it was so smooth one wasn’t aware of it. In the bigger shops they had those lovely wooden balls containing money or receipts, rising the full height of the shop at a twitch of a string, then rolling gently along metal tracks, with points and stations, one of which was the cashier in a bird cage half way up the building. As a kid I hated shopping, but made an exception if we were going there. Progress spoilt it all, the vacuum pipe system was introduced and your cash set off for the cashier with a thump and a hurstle like an asthmatic. As for cards – where’s the glamour?
This was a period when the man in the street hadn’t discovered germs to any extent and not in the millions which are allegedly battering us today. We had carbolic soap which was an attractive red, and women wasted their money on scented stuff. We carried hot water upstairs to have a standing wash, went to the Public Baths for a swim or a bath as we chose, and the WC was either attached to the back of the house or down the garden, thankfully open to the breeze. Of course we were risking all sorts when we ate, we had bought food from Coster stalls, thoroughly handled, bread unwrapped and no tongs to lift it, and Sainsbury’s, in most high streets, handled everything, and to my endless joy, took butter out of a box in huge chunks, set it on the counter, cut it with wooden hand moulders, then proceeded to club ounces of water into it as it was moulded into pounds etc. The speed, precision and dedication the counter-hands portrayed with the patter and the water had to be seen to be believed. – how did we ever manage to stay so healthy?
Of course there was not the same amount of kissing that goes on today. We were the hangover from the stern Victorian era when one showed little emotion. Also we had to risk the odd bout of the trots, we had only a ‘safe’, no fridge, It was a wooden cupboard residing out doors, with a perforated zinc panel in the door, covered with a wet towel in summer in which perishables were stored, and the system was not fool proof, as this fool can testify.
What with riding like sardines in public transport, eating in unsupervised cafes, ice cream off pedalled carts, put together by the cyclist from a tub, muffins and crumpets carried on the head of a bell-ringing-vendor – they tasted marvellous toasted on a Sunday over a wood fire, and on and on.., I believe we built up an immune system second to none – nature’s way.