Who remembers Harry Dew delivering milk from his horse and cart in post-war Corsham? It was a very different world in the 1950's when Farmer Dew and Blackie delivered milk door to door, with far less traffic in those days for a horse to worry about. A real treat for me as a lad was to be allowed to ride on the cart as it made its way along Corsham High Street, Blackie knowing just where to stop for the milk to be delivered. Farmer Dew would ladle the milk from the churn into waiting jugs, covering the top afterwards with the little bead-edged muslin nets that people provided for that purpose. I'm sure that the Health & Safety folk would have a fit if anyone delivered milk these days in the same manner! Back then it was perfectly normal, and I wouldn't think that anyones' health was the worse for it. It always fascinated me that the horse knew exactly where to stop, missing out the houses which Harry didn't supply.
There are many things like this from the childhood years that are now only distant memories, for the world we live in, with supermarkets and hyper-markets supplying most of the things that the combination of shops and suppliers provided back then. To me these vast food emporiums are a sign of the way in which w have lost the art of leisurely shopping, and with it a way of life that will probably never return. To some extent I suppose that a remnant of that way of life still exists in villages lucky enough to retain a Village Store, but those are few and far between these days, the successful ones being gobbled up by one of the small cooperative food chains with their look-alike livery, or else closed down one day to open a short time later as a 'Tesco Extra'.
Gone are the days when the womenfolk, (okay, maybe a few menfolk as well!), walked along Corsham High Street filling their wicker baskets with the assortment of 'needs' for that day. Most homes didn't have refrigerators back then, although many, like us, had a larder with a cold slab of marble, which was very efficient. I wonder how many people still remember the open window at Shergold's with the wet fish display tempting the passer-by, or the wonderful fragrance of newly baked bread from Joe Damond's bakery or Johnson's bakery which was just up from the Post Office, near to Neate's the shoe repairers. And what about Hobb's Cycle shop with its permanent smell of oil and metal, where old Mr Hobbs would repair broken bicycles for a shilling or two? Saturday mornings, at a time when food coupons were still the norm, this small boy would skeeter down to Watt's Sweet Shop at the bottom end of the High Street, near the junction with Church Street, and purchase a couple of ounces of dolly mixtures or some other sweet delight, usually for the grand sum of a penny ha'penny.
At the top end of the High Street you turned into Pickwick Road where another line of shops supplied the town with much needed merchandise or services. Pickwick Papers were a good place to find small toys that pocket money could be used up by, whilst further up the road was Bulson's, the television & radio shop. Still further along, past the Greengrocers, was the Clarke's Shoe Shop, competition for Ken Davies' shoe shop in the High Street, and also William Hardwell's at number 27 Pickwick Road, where many a child was photographed.
All of these shops bring to mind the people of the day who either ran them or shopped in them, now mostly passed on and the way of life with them. Is it a good thing, this change that has come about over the last few decades? Well, to answer that I guess that you need to look long and hard at the society in which we live. Whilst there is much to praise and to be grateful for nowadays, there is also much that can be missed about the old days.
Back then children did pretty well what they were told for fear of being disciplined by their parents. Nowadays it's almost the reverse, with parents doing pretty well what is demanded by their children, for fear of what might happen if the children decide to report them to the authorities. From the 1960's an era of freedom was ushered in that has ultimately removed the word 'respect' from most people's vocabulary, and with it the idea of responsibility.
Perhaps, after all, those days of wicker baskets were able to offer much more than we ever realised.