Shopping involved walking about one and a half miles to Mrs Cowley’s grocery shop where she was registered, you could only shop where you were registered for any goods that were rationed, she would then walk another half mile to reach Grandmas house. By that time she was already loaded down with the weeks groceries before she got to there and then had to cart it all from there the two miles home, how she managed that I will never know because physically she did not look up to it.
This trip was mainly to get the groceries; another trip would have been made to shop for other items such as meat and fish. Fish was not rationed but was often in short supply and it was shortages which caused the queues, not rationing, although you still had shortages of rationed goods. When I think back I realise just how true was the old adage ‘a woman’s work is never done.’ It certainly was never done in Mothers case. On top of all this hard work Mum would always ‘change’ her clothes every afternoon and unlike many women would never leave the house with her hair in curlers nor leave our premises with an her apron still on.
Other requirements were delivered to the door, milk was one and delivered everyday, up until the war the milkman carried a churn more often than not, without the lid on, ladles of different sizes were suspended inside the churn with hooks hung over the rim, the customers chose how much milk they wanted for the day, the measures ran from a gill up to a pint, having selected the quantity, the appropriate measure was dipped into the milk and poured into there own container, mainly a milk jug. Why milk was delivery daily was that very few people had a fridge or other method of keeping the milk cold and it would quickly ‘go off’ particularly in hot weather. Bread was another item that was delivered to the door with the baker’s man carrying the loaves and other baked goods in a large wickerwork basket. Greengroceries also, were often delivered to the door, with the rounds man coming to the door to collect your order based on what he had to offer, which back then was very seasonable.
For years milk and to a lesser extent bread, was delivered by horse and cart a practice that remained with some companies to well after the war, at some just before the war started our milk came from a dairy six doors away from home but they sold out to ‘James Hand’ a much bigger dairy in Eastleigh, their delivery vehicle was a three wheeler which was a glorified motor bike with handlebar steering and an open cab and sides, I was given a ride in it one day up to Cuckoo Bushes Lane when I was about six years old, but had to walk back home from there. Glass milk bottles by that time had replaced the churn and the empty bottles returned for washing and sterilizing before reuse the bottles were sealed by a cardboard top which had lots of uses for kids in play. Milk like so many stable foods was also often in short supply and products such as dried or powdered milk, died eggs and even powdered potatoes called ‘pom’ came about and were in common use even if they were pretty awful and did not taste anything like fresh milk, eggs or potatoes.
Until the outbreak of war all the door to door deliveries were carried out by men, by the end of the war it was done almost entirely by women. One thing that went missing with this change was ‘whistling’ which it seems every male delivery man seemed to do; I don’t mean ‘wolf whistling’ although there was plenty of that but whistling a familiar tune, the women didn’t do that.