The Shop Where Mother Worked

I’d like to share some recollections of working at Stoke Shop and Post Office in Hampshire, where my mother was employed some 60 years or so ago.

The business belonged to Mr. and Mrs. A. Rose, and the staff at the time comprised Miss Marjory Knight, Mr. and Mrs. Rose, Mr. Baker and myself. Mr H. Swatton was in the bakehouse and Mr. Jack Skinner was roundsman. In the following year the staff increased and included Mr. Hams (baker) and Harold and Ellis Knight. The premises weren’t large, and every space was taken up in the shop and storeroom.

Mr. Rose had a large bread and cake round covering Stoke, Binley, St. Mary Bourne and several outlying areas. One of their specialities was lardy cakes, and we had lorry drivers who called in regularly for them.

In those days the bakehouse ovens were heated by ‘puffs’ , ‘fagots’ or ‘bavins’ which, if the wood was damp, could mean trouble, but afterwards steam ovens were installed.

On Monday our job was to cut up and weigh 561b. blocks of butter into lib. portions and two whole cheeses each of which, after removing the cloth, we cut into three sections with cheese wire and then reduced to smaller pieces for the shop.

Sides of green and smoked bacon came from Kinghams & Venners of Reading, and we had to saw down middle and remove the bones as at the time all the rashers were cut by hand (I still have scars on my hand where the knife slipped.) Incidentally, in those days there were no freezers or fridges, so we had to make sure that the bacon was covered completely. Before I left we had a bacon-slicing machine installed, which was a great improvement.

The advent of electricity made life much easier, for instead of having to fill the lamps every day and cook on an oil stove, all we had to do was switch on the light or a cooker.

We had a room upstairs where all makes of lamp glasses were stored for safety, and customers used to bring their oil cans and bottles for their half-gallons and gallons of paraffin. As electricity hadn’t yet arrived in homes, people were still dependent on paraffin for lighting, heating and cooking, so this meant a journey to the shed and measuring off the required amount in all weathers, and frequent hand-washing.

Demerara and piece sugar was kept in wooden tubs, weighed on the scales and packed by hand. Currants and sultanas were cleaned in a large sieve in the bakehouse and weighed. Beecham’s Pills were sold, four for a penny, and Carter’s Cough Mix was sixpence a bottle. Vinegar was sold from the barrel. Bread was sold at l/6d. a gallon (4 XA d a loaf) and biscuits were sold loose from the tins.

There was also the Post Office, where postage stamps cost Id for postcards, 1 M for letters and ‘Ad for Christmas cards. Old age pensions were 10/- a week and a few old pensioners signed their books with an X as they were unable to write,

Mrs. Eileen Newport (nee Jones)