Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just 70 years ago.

Seventy years ago.
Just seventy years ago this month Britain held the first of its wartime savings drives called “War Weapons Week.” Each area pledged to raise so much money in the sale of Saving Stamps, and fifteen shilling saving certificates.

Each, City, Town, and Village set themselves a target to reach to purchase something like a Tank in Cookham’s case. All week we had a Tank sitting under the trees by the war memorial. Where it came from I do not know, but the crew were well looked after by the village ladies with jugs of tea and sandwiches.

On the Saturday a mock battle was staged by the Home Guard who came from “The Pound” area in a homemade tank made of 2X2 and hessian sacking, painted to look like a German tank. The army tank moved to the village end of the Moor and let off a Thunder Flash. The Home Guard clambered out from under their tank, just before it burst into flames, much to the applause and cheers of the watching villagers.

Most of the savings drive money was raised by whist drives and dances, either at the Pinder Hall or the Moor Hall. These were not for just the one-week; it went on week by week.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Three of Chips & Six of Fish.

Three of Chips & Six of Fish.
The subject of having a Fish & Chip outlet in Cookham has been raised recently. Now it could be in the form of a fixed location or a mobile one, serving different housing estates on different days of the week.

I can remember after coming out of the Rialto cinema and before catching the number 20 Thames Valley back to Cookham, walking back to the Colonnade and just opposite where Nate Smiths shop use to be. One could buy six of fish and three of chips wrapped in newspaper from a small portable stall. Also there was a large saltshaker and a vinegar bottle for you to use.

The term six and three off, referred to six pennyworth of fish and three pennyworth of chips. That amount may seem very small to some people today but in those days it was a good-sized meal for any man.

Someone will most likely say where are the Mushy Peas? That dish along with Chips and Gravy were found more often in the Midlands and North of England.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The International Store.

World's Largest Grocer.
There are not many people living in Cookham now that know that Cookham had its own Supermarket: “THE INTERNATIONAL STORES.” Which occupied the whole space taken up now by The Cookham Arcade.

The first retail branch of ‘Kearley & Tonge’ was opened in Brentford, Middlesex in 1878. The business taking its name from two of its founders H E Kearley and G A Tonge.

Soon more branches followed and in 1895 the company changed its name to the International Tea Company’s Stores Limited.

In the early 1900’s the company dropped the wording Tea Company from its title to just International Stores, proudly proclaiming to be the World’s Largest Grocers with over 200 stores. Of course unlike supermarkets today, the customer was waited on by a member of the staff and making sure that all the customer’s needs were met.

Staff recruiting was usually taken on with boys and girls leaving school at 14, boys were given shop training and also delivered goods to customers on trades bicycles. The girls started out keeping the shop clean and tidy and trained in serving by a senior female member of the staff. There was a bookkeepers office at which the customers paid for their purchases. The large houses with staff usually were set up with a monthly billing account.

In 1972 the company was taken over by the British American Tobacco Company, which seemed to sell off a lot of the smaller stores including Cookham. In turn the company then became Gateway Stores, which then became Somerfield’s with its headquarters in Bristol.

So you see around a hundred years ago Cookhan did have its very own grocery chain store. With bulk supplies direct from the producer to the consumer with no fancy packaging.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Wire Cheese Cutter.

The Wire Cheese Cutter.
Going back over my memory bank and thinking back to when the village was very self supporting in many ways and served very well by the two very good grocery stores of The International and Budgens. I remember very well how Budgens assistant manager Mont Lacey use to cut and serve cheese from the wheel of cheese as it use to arrive in the store. Using a prepared beech cutting board and a fine wire cutter.

By eye he could cut cheese by size and weight to the customers request. Most people asked that the rind be left on, as they use to like it to use as bait in mouse and rattraps. Yes in those days there was no such person as a Rodent & Pest Control Officer. If you had pests, then you use to deal with them yourself.

Around that time cream processed cheese was being introduced for those who wanted something fancy, but still most people were set in their taste and ways for good English hard cheese.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Loose Biscuits in a Tin.

The Store Biscuit Tin.
This photo of an old Huntley & Palmer biscuit tin triggered some very happy memories of going into Budgens grocery store in the high street right after school and asking if they had any broken biscuits for sale. For tuppence one could get a good bagful, which could be a mixture of digestive, custard creams or even chocolate bon-bons.

When empty, the tins were returned to the factory to be refilled once more. Around Christmas time the factory would turn out biscuits in fancy tins. Though most homes bought the loose varieties from the shop and kept them a biscuit barrel, which was either made of wood or tin.

The day of fancy packages had not arrived in the 1930’s. Even today some supermarkets have a section where you can still serve yourself from bulk containers.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Have a cuppa Rosy Lea.

A Cup of Rosy Lea.
My guess today there are very few of these old Tea Caddy’s around, most likely to be found in an antique shop. I remember my mother had one that would hold a full pound of tea when full. It was mahogany with rosewood inlay, and was given to her when she and my father were married.

Today, one would have to go a long way to find those like myself that still insists on good loose tea like my favourite Queen Mary pekoe blend of tea. Tea Bags an American invention seems to lose the pure tea taste in the package and being ground up into a fine dust.

I can remember we had several different sizes of teapots, depending on how many cups were required. Also the count was a teaspoon full for each cup and one teaspoon full for the pot. Also to heat the pot first with boiling water before putting the tea in the pot. Then it had to Mask or Brew before pouring out. Of course one placed a Tea Cozy over the pot to keep the contents hot.

Besides tea coming in ¼, ½, and 1 pound packets. It used to arrive at the local grocers in large plywood tea chests with a silver foil lining. Here the grocer would package up and weigh the loose tea. Of course a great deal of this tea came from Ceylon, now named Sri Lanka. Of course of the blending of tea is quite an art, and very few blenders ever attained being in the top ranks, which of course was a very well paid profession.

There are a few places where you can still buy loose tea, most can be found on the internet. Now, as my Cockney friends would say, now is the time for a nice cup of “Rosy Lea.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Good Old Bacon Slicer.

The Bacon Slicer.
There was a time in Cookham when you could go to your local grocer, either Budgen’s, or the International Stores in the high street and buy your bacon sliced to the thickness that you required. Ah yes! The fragrant smell that arose from the bacon as it was being sliced, something that nowadays one does not get with prepackaged bacon.

Most of the bacon found in the south of England came from Harris bacon factory in Calne, Wiltshire. Though there was a smaller bacon factory that started up in Reading. Most grocery stores in those days had a small delicatessen section. Where you could buy your cheese, bacon, ham, eggs and pork pies. Of course the pork pies came from that Harris bacon factory as well.

Even my father in his butcher's shop in Maidenhead high street, had his own bacon slicer for slicing up his home-made ox tongue, which was a great favourite among his customers. All his equipment used in the shop was made by a company called “Hobart.” This included his mincing machine and sausage maker. The cleaning of which was done on a daily basis after use Using a very strong caustic solution in the process of washing up.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dean Luxury Coaches.

Dean Luxury Coaches.

It was in the early 1920’s after the First World War, that country folk got the urge to have a day by the sea. That was when Dean Luxury Coaches was born. I can remember them in their dark royal blue livery in the mid 1930’s. When in 1937 the pupils of Holy Trinity School had the chance to have a day by the seaside at Brighton.

The cost to each student was 3/6. Yes three shillings and six pence. I remember I was given a shilling by my father to bring back a stick of Brighton Rock, also a request from my aunt Amy Field to bring her back some seaweed that she could hang by the kitchen door at Widbrook to serve as a barometer.

We all took a sandwich lunch with us, but were treated to a fish and chip high tea before we left for home. I also remember that our head mistress at that time was Mrs. Adams, who suffered, when a gust of wind came up, blowing a ladder on her head. I remember her face was black and blue for quite a while after.

Shortly after the Second War had ended the Dean Coaches were taken over by Windsorian Coaches. Even they I believe have now gone.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cookham Police Station.

Cookham Police Station.
There was a time when the law of the land was administered right here in the village. Not only did it house the Sergeant and his growing family, two Police Constables as well. A third constable had a home up on Whyteladyes Lane. All of them including the Sergeant covered the whole of Cookham on bicycles. Not only did they know every family on their patch, especially the boys. There they would admonish in their own way, but if it was a little more serious than scrumping apples or plums, the culprit knew that his father would get to hear of it in due course, usually over a pint of beer or in the local allotments. You see they were also very keen gardeners. Whether they were on patrol or going to a fire, they always travelled at the same sedate speed. During the 1939-45 war they did have local assistance from Special Constables who walked various areas of the village, mostly at night. Every time I watch the TV serial “Heartbeat.” It reminds me so much of the police life in Cookham. Oh yes! We did have our Claude Greengrass’s, who I will not name, though most of them will have passed on by now. Gone are the Easton’s, Tocock’s, Hollumby’s and Tubb’s. Though some of their descendants still live in the village.