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Shopping at the Co-op

There was a wire to cut the cheese and a slicing machine for the bacon

I was born in Bay Square off Camden Lane, which is where Wilkinson’s is now, but we moved away from there eventually.

When I was little my mother did all the shopping in Marina Avenue on the Ridges Estate.  There was everything you needed there, including a Thompson’s Red Stamp Store.  During the war, they’d sometimes run a special ‘alphabet’ offer.  If it was, for example, a ‘D’ day and your name began with ‘D’ then you’d get something extra in your rations, maybe a ham shank or some oranges.  Word soon went round about that.

I started work for Thompson’s Red Stamp Stores when I was about 15. I got paid £1. 3/2 in old money about £1.17p today. I was there for six or seven months then I went to work for the Co-op.

There were many departments in the Co-op including a savings bank.

I remember the grocery department; there were two counters, one for dry goods and the other for things like bacon and butter. The people had to stand in a queue for their dry goods and then queue again for their rations (as we called bacon, butter etc ) There was a cheese wire to cut the cheese and a slicing machine for the bacon, the sugar was delivered in brown hessian bags, we had to weigh the sugar out into small blue bags, the women would then ask for the hessian bags and take them home to use to make mats from old clothes, they would set up a mat frame which consisted of two long wooden sides and two shorter ones with pegs in them to adjust to whatever size mat you wanted to make.

In order to keep things cool, the shop counters were made of marble. The floor was covered with sawdust and at the end of the day, we had to sprinkle water on it before we swept it up. If a lady was pregnant, she was issued with a green ration book and this allowed her certain extra rations and also entitled her to go to the front of the queue.

The shop I remember best was Rowell’s.  It was a lovely shop if you could afford it.  I also remember Fleetwing Dry Cleaning in Rudyerd Street opposite Hadaway’s fresh fish shop, Taws for ladies clothes and Baker’s the Pork Shop.

Margaret Todd, born 18th September 1933

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