The Way We Were by Colin Ella

I HAVE not tried any internet shopping myself but it has now become a very common sight to see the various vans turning up with the web orders.

In a way it is a bit like seeing history repeated and it takes me back to boyhood years when numerous tradesmen brought almost everything you needed for daily life right to your doorstep.

In those days, amongst the callers, there were many tramps around and there were several who were regular visitors in the Doncaster area.

They would knock at the door seeking a crust or a copper.

Like the gypsies they knew that in the main they would get a friendly reception, but in the case of the latter, if you did not buy a few pegs or trinkets you would be left with the ‘gypsy’s curse’.

But it is the many trades people I best recall and there were dozens of these selling foods, clothes, fuels, tools and much else.

The milkman arrived with his horse and cart and ladled out a gill or two from his bucket, right in our kitchen.

The knife grinder and scissor and shears sharpener called frequently, a much needed service in those days when so much more home cooking and gardening took place.

All we needed in the way of nourishment was brought to the front gate or back door.

The General and Green Grocers called three or four times a week.

What they managed to pack on their drays was amazing and it was rare indeed for them to have to say, ‘Sorry Missis. We haven’t got any.’

Of course there were also many local folk, often near neighbours, who would sell their home grown produce.

From these we often bought raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb or Victoria plums.

The butcher or his lad popped in almost every day with a few sausages, chops or a joint.

Young lads turned up trying to earn a bit of cash by selling firewood or horse manure.

Massarella’s gay and colourful ice cream cart was a most welcome sight in the summer months.

There were so many salesfolk you were never quite sure what sort of visitor might arrive.

Maybe a turbanned Oriental would appear and open his bulky suitcase to reveal a treasure house of handy items; knicker elastic, multifarious buttons, safety pins, needles and hairgrips.

My favourite visitor was Mr Wharton, the paraffin man, and especially after he began to use a motor vehicle.

I loved its general aroma and it was a fascinating chamber of hardware of all descriptions; buckets, baths, bowls, kettles, pans, chamber pots, jugs, tubs, poshers, brushes, tools, firelighters, soap, soda, candles, china and so on.

Various taps on tanks at the rear of the vehicle supplied oil, paraffin or methylated spirits.

Nowadays and sadly we are so very aware of tricksters and conmen and the like coming to our doors and this is all a far cry from those wonderful days of trust and companionship.

So, after all, getting everything delivered by the internet is perhaps no bad thing for some folk.

Next week Part 30 - Nature’s Old Cures.