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  Nostalgia Corner
The recent unfortunate events in the news were not only disturbing but brought back a few memories. Tottenham where I was brought up was not exactly a smart neighbourhood, it had its good and its bad, some roads were wide open with big modern style houses, others leafy lanes and a few with old cottages but there were not many of the high rise flats that there seem to be so many of nowadays.
  As in other areas there were large department stores, a few privately owned and numerous specialist shops selling practically everything that the locals needed or could afford. Saturday morning was the day when the High Road, from Chestnut Road in the south , where the Police Station is situated, opposite the famous Tottenham Royal, along past Bruce Grove past Scotland Green to Lansdowne Road and further on to White Hart Lane in the north, was crowded with shoppers.

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Pictured Above: Corner Chesnut Road & High Road -1960s

  At one end there was a Sainsbury’s, one of those old fashioned white tiled stores, where every counter was separate. You had to queue at the cheese counter, then the butter counter (the butter would be cut from a block and paddled into shape and then wrapped in grease proof paper), the bacon counter and then the fresh meat counter.

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Pictured Above - Interior of typical post-war Sainsbury Store

At every stage your bill was scooted up a wire to the accounts office to be added up and finally when you reached the cashier’s desk the completed bill was scooted back down for you to pay, up went the money again and back down the wire came the change. A complete contrast to now where you shop quickly but pay slowly, then it was shop slowly pay quickly. 
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At the other end to the north was the Co-Op a large multi floored store that seemed to sell everything, from furniture to hardware, the butchers, greengrocers and milk depot were just across the road. Their system was a bit different as they had a vacuum tube to scoot the money etc to the cashier’s office. I guess the system first started many years before when not everyone could read and write and the tradition just continued on into the 20th century.
At some stage I think everyone in my family had worked there, my aunt was the accounts clerk in the butchers, my uncle the butcher; I suppose that’s how they met. I worked there in the menswear department on a Saturday for a brief period as did most of my friends. The rate if I remember was just 1/1d an hour (that’s about 5 new pence in today’s money) with a farthing in the pound commission on sales. With a pair of leather gloves at 1/10d (that’s one shilling and ten pence, nine new pence in today’s money) and only working 8 hours, I had to sell a few pairs to buy that Ganex raincoat I fancied.   co_op_building_lansdowne_road_1930.jpg (54030 bytes)
My mum on the other hand was practically management she worked in the dividend (divi) office. Every time you bought something at the Co-Op you gave your divi number over, that was sent to the central office and at the end of the month you got your card marked up with your points and you could use your accumulated divi to buy things in the local Co-Op shops. A bit like loyalty cards nowadays.

It was a bit of shock to see the old Co-Op (it had longed ceased to be and somewhere along the way it became a Carpetland) ransacked and burning on the news, it’s now been demolished, more flats I suppose in its place. 150 years of history gone in a few mad minutes.

PS Our divi number 11 35 4 45 can you remember yours?


Article reproduced with permission of Peter Smith from original story published in the American Express Retirees Magazine - September 2011

Alan Swain - December 2011


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