Review Number 78 – January 2017

A Village Shop 1950- 1973

The Stores was purchased by my father E.R. (Ted) Daniels in 1950.  We moved  in on a snowy January day to premises which comprised  the shop with  most of the rambling old house fronting The Street. At the rear, associated buildings extended along the western and northern boundaries.

The Stores, September 1972

For the first few years food rationing continued from World War ll. Our principal wholesalers were Ridleys of Bury St. Edmunds and Copemans of Norwich. As the economy improved and rationing ended, so the range and quantity of the stock increased and new lines were started. Some supplies were delivered by manufacturers and producers, such as still soft drinks from Doubledays. I well remember Corona starting with their popular fizzy drink range in returnable wire-topped bottles.

Sides of bacon inside a muslin-like covering were delivered by van from Elmswell bacon factory, together with pork pies. The surplus was served up for Saturday tea. Leaf tea was supplied by Brooke Bond tea in their distinctive Trojan vans. Fruit and vegetables were supplied by E. Pordage, with main-crop potatoes in returnable 1cwt. jute sacks which bore the merchant’s name. Early potatoes were in tubs, as were grapes which were packed with cork chips.

Egg supplies were augmented by hens kept in buildings at the rear. My sister, brother and I were tasked with keeping them watered from a pump in the run.

They were fed with meal which had to be tipped into metal hoppers, plus a measure of wheat each afternoon. Extracting an egg from a hen in a nest box could be rewarded with a sharp peck on the hand from a sitting hen!

Other lines included Carter’s seeds, Wall’s ice cream, Smedley’s frozen foods, Brock’s fireworks, Aladdin pink paraffin, hardware and stationery.

The bulk of groceries, together with tobacco products, were supplied by Ridleys from their warehouse then in Lower Baxter Street, Bury St Edmunds. Deliveries were made fortnightly on Thursday afternoon, with smaller items packed in returnable tea-chests, the order having been collected by their traveller a few days earlier. The delivery van driver and his mate  were sustained by cups of tea brewed by Mum as they carried the goods through the shop into the warehouse. Bulk sugar came in stitched thick paper 1cwt. bags which Dad would weigh into 1lb. blue paper bags.

Dried fruit came compressed in wooden boxes and had to be broken up by hand and tipped into drawers behind the counter. I didn’t mind breaking up raisins, but sultanas were so sticky! The empty boxes, together with fruit and vegetable crates, were chopped up for kindling for the house fires and for the occasional elderly customer.   Packaging waste was placed in a large cardboard box.  This was picked up by the Thedwastre District Council refuse lorry once a week when the dustbins were emptied.

Many of the customers had their regular times for doing the weekly shop and would come in and read out their order, which would be assembled on the counter by Dad. He would then tot up the bill in pencil on the grease-proof paper in which bacon rashers were wrapped.

Other orders were dropped in by hand or made by phone. The orders were  made up in cardboard boxes for delivery on Thursday or Friday morning. Dad would take the deliveries by car out to the countryside to isolated farms and cottages.

During school holidays we children would sometimes accompany him and I recall him free-wheeling the car down-hill from Folly Farm.

Invoice for groceries from E.R. Daniels, proprieter of The Stores, Walsham le Willows

When we were old enough to ride bikes (all supplied by Bert Death) we were occasionally required to make a delivery to a customer. Cycling to Sunnyside with a gallon metal container of ice-cream suspended from the handlebars was not a popular task. I remember taking a delivery to Major Whatman’s with the instruction:

“If you see Mrs Whatman, be sure to call her ‘Ma’am'”.

In order to avoid this situation I went to the kitchen at the back of the house where I knew I would see the cook, Mrs Grainger.

We also cooked hams which had to be brought to the boil in a large metal container and simmered for about 4 hours, depending on size. Then the water was allowed to cool before it was poured off and the rind easily removed for carving. Delicious!

However things were changing. First was the Abolition of Resale Price Maintenance. This removed the power of manufacturers to fix the price of goods they had produced wherever these were on sale to the public. This gave a significant trading advantage to supermarkets, together with the efficiency factors they enjoyed. These developments, together with increased car ownership, sucked retail activity out of the villages.

Then came the burden of VAT. Seeing the trend, my parents decided it  was  time for a rest. In September 1973 “the last of the white-aproned grocers” hung up his apron for the final time.

The Clamp family had The Stores from 1885. The names of two brothers from the Clamp family are on World War ll memorials in Walsham.

The Band of Hope passing The Stores c.1905
Paul Daniels