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You are here > Today message boards > Deleted > Supermarket Memories

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Supermarket Memories

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Message 1 - posted by Today-Editorial-Team (U6615985) , Aug 27, 2007

What was your supermarket like when you were a kid? Was it very different from the shops of today? Perhaps you have fond memories of wandering down the aisles and picking out particular products. Or perhaps there's a smaller local shop that has a place in your heart.

We want to build up a picture of what supermarket shopping used to be like and how things have changed. Share your memories with us here.
       

Message 2 - posted by MarianV (U9507037) , Aug 27, 2007

As a 67 year old, I really related to your item on the start of supermarkets. My mother used to shop at the Co-op and when I was sent on my own at the age of 8, there was one very important thing I had to remember as well as the list of shopping: my mother's Co-op 'divi number'. 60 years later, I still have this off pat: 31323. My husband, who is of a similar age, had to remember 146295!

We also find that other people of our generation who shopped at the C-op have a similar recall. We joke between ourselves that if we ever forget these numbers, then we really will have started our mental decline.

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Message 3 - posted by baz157 (U6670409) , Aug 27, 2007

I believe Sainsbury's opened their first supermarket in my nearest town, Croydon, in the 1950s. However, I have fond memories of helping my late mother do the shopping in their original stores. They had a long line of marble-topped counters down each side, where you'd have to queue several times in different places to buy your bacon (sliced while you wait), butter (weighed out individually for you), tinned goods etc. At the far end was a wooden fascia with a central clock.

This was Sainsbury's standard layout, gradually abolished as they converted to supermarkets. But I remember being surprised to find one still going strong in Peckham as late as the 1980s.

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Message 4 - posted by jimmeols (U8294812) , Aug 27, 2007

My mother worked for a lovely shop, Marshes Stores at Angmering Green in Sussex.
Her job was to drive to the homes of valued customers in places like Ferring and Rustington to take their order which was delivered the following day. Mum loved her job and met many interesting people. That was service!
It's many years since I've been back and wonder if Marshes still trades. Somehow I doubt it.

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Message 5 - posted by 14room101 (U9508156) , Aug 27, 2007

As a 61 year old shopper, my memories are of wonderful little, shops that were like Aladdin Caves. The Art Shop that I loved as a kid was full of crayons, water colour palettes, pens, pencils. The smell of the leather shop with saddles hanging outside, handbags, purses and leather goods inside. The butchers that usually chatted you up, recommended things, sold things cheap with a wink and a flash of white teeth.
The chemist with an array of brightly coloured bottles, drawers and drawers of herbs, liquorice wood, perfumes and powder with real assistants, that actually looked as though they wanted to help. And the fantastic haberdashery shops full of fabrics, buttons, lace and paper pattern books. Real Hardmonger shops where you could buy 2 or 3 of an item, not in plastic packing. Shops where they knew you by name, were pleased to see you, told you they would get something in for you if they couldn't find it!
Shops with real frontages that you could actually look in their windows, not windowless, claustrophobic, airless, frenetic, impersonal, overcrowded, overstuffed, enormous feet aching places. Where, if you have missed something on your list, you can't be bothered to go back because it is too far to walk. Where they dictate what you want to buy, and even if you absolutely love something they stop stocking it, because it doesn't fly off their shelves. I loathe supermarkets with their impersonal, dictatorial policies - they are the major contributor to the downfall of British Workmanship, they can buy it cheaper abroad - so they do!

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Message 6 - posted by rex-nhb (U9509007) , Aug 27, 2007

Re- The first Service Service Grocery Shop?

I am 74 years of age now and remember only too well when I was 7 0r 8 years old, dodging World War II Nazi Air Raids, (very exciting times for me), to go shopping with my mother to the London Co-Operative Society Ltd Grocery shop situated amongst other separate LCS shops, (Butchery, Fruit and Veg. and a large Departmental Store), in South Street Romford Essex. This would be late 1940 or early 1941. The reason I remember this is because I was fascinated that one could go around this shop taking what one required off the shelves and presenting the groceries at a large long wooden counter. There was also a hand worked bacon cutting machine where a lady assistant could cut ones bacon order, then totalled the prices in her head, wrote out a dividend ticket, (with a carbon copy), gave my mother a written bill complete with the 'divi' ticket. My Mother's 'divi' No. was 513281; I will never forget that No. as I used it for my Mother many many times over the years.

My Mother told me later that the reason for the 'self service' in the LCS was the fact that all the male shop staff had been called up for War Service and the company obviously were desperately short of staff. She also said that this particular Grocery Shop was in fact the very first Self Service Grocery Shop in the British Isles.

Another interesting fact about this shop was that one could order from the LCS, once a week, (via a yellow order book), all the groceries one required and it would be delivered two or three days later, by a young man, on a push bike with a large metal holder on the front within which was a large cardboard box containing ones complete order, together with the order book ready for the following week. This started I beleive in about 1944.

Can anyone out there verify the above? I would be very interested to know.

rex-nhb

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Message 7 - posted by baz157 (U6670409) , Aug 28, 2007

Since there haven't been many postings on this topic so far, I'll just come back again to ask a question. How many people (most of those who've already posted, I'll bet) remember the shops which used ingenious devices such as vacuum pipes and overhead-wire carriers to transport your payment from the counter you were at, to the cashier at some central point? I well remember waiting excitedly, as a child, for the the cylinder to plop out of the pipe, or the carrier to come whizzing back over your head, containing your change.

And they talk about modern technology....

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Message 8 - posted by GeoffW69 (U9516976) , Aug 28, 2007

We (at Southern Co-op) were not surprised to read the message from rex-nhb, and would confirm that he is partially correct in saying that LCS had the 'first self-service grocery store' in the UK.

Why partially correct?

Well, that is the point - because the LCS store was only partially self service. Only a section of the store was given over to self service. The Southsea store refered to in the programme was the first self service store of the type we have come to know.

Whether the LCS store was experimental or whether it was the large number of goods still on rationing which limited the area allowed for self service we are not sure. Perhapes someone can help explain this?

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Message 9 - posted by Janetroadporter (U9513944) , Aug 28, 2007

When I was growing up we didn't have a fridge till I was 11 years old, so meat, milk, etc daily produce was bought every other day and kept in the pantry, (sounds so Victorian) but this was 1968/69, in the summer my mother would stand the milk in a bucket of cold water for it to remain fresh that bit longer. In our local town we only had a co-operative, but i do remember the people being very friendly who worked there.

There was also many other small shops on the High Street selling fresh produce.

I think the community in those days was much happier, and i feel quite sad now that those days are long gone and we now live in the age of hurry, where manners, also are becoming a thing of the past

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Message 10 - posted by wozzawasp (U6815279) , Aug 28, 2007

rex-nhb referred to delivery by a young man on a bike. I was one of those young men in probably 1941. My mother, a war widow in need of a few more shilligs a week, arranged the job for me at Victor Value in Harrow. (later, I think, to become International Stores which was swallowed up by Tesco ?)

I got my first pair of long trousers for the job in order to disguise the fact that I was legally too young. I hated the job and as a puny youth found it very difficult to control the bike and the heavy load.

baz 157 reference to Sainsburys. Their Oxford store in the High St in the 60's was exactly as described, with black and white tiling and marble counters; almost a cathedral to grocery.

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Message 11 - posted by Fanshaw (U7607612) , Aug 29, 2007

I remember Tesco's before it became the giant retailer it is today. Our local shop had narrow aisles packed high with tins in boxes. The staff regarded shoppers with suspicion and were very unfriendly. I would not have liked to complain about anything I had bought. I used to go there to buy cheap tinned goods and get out quickly.
Surely only those too young to remember the dreary business of shopping for food before supermarkets were developed to the standard they are today would complain about how we shop now.

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Message 12 - posted by newscas (U7858566) , Aug 29, 2007

Most of my adult life has been lived within a city and as a result the supremarket reigned supreme. We retired to a small market town three years ago and the quality of our food has improved dramatically thanks to local farms and markets. I still use the supermarket for dry goods but would by choice always use the local producers now.
I shop for what I want and not by temptation of the latest offers at a supermarket and as a result my weekly spend is less even though the price of fresh food can sometimes be more expensive from the producers. The supermarket has it's place but we need to be more aware of it's manipulative powers.

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Message 13 - posted by Dai Bath (U2444609) , Aug 30, 2007

Geoff who mentions southern Co-op does probably not recall the drastic decline of that region between 1950 and now.

Every time a coop closed a Tesco opened.
Before the war2 Co-op had as much of the grocery trade as Tesco has today, about 40% of it.

Coop Manchester currently has 5000 stores round the country, and that does not include other large
cooperatives and the huge Farming enterprises....
but I digress.

My first memory of the excellence of Jack cohen's stores was a smallish chain called Greig's, mainly in South London, which was bought up by Cohen in about 1954-55.

This IS history. Tesco does have one, some if it more chequered than other, some much better than other SM stores.

I hasten to add that the best History of an SM chain is that of the John Lewis offshoot, Waitrose, a marvellous and inspirational story,
from a man who gave profound thought to shopping ethics, which will stand the employee partnership*
of all kinds in good stead for centuries or more to come.

* I am TOLD that quite a few, if not all, Waitrose stores have voted to REQUIRE their employees to become shareholders of Co-op Manchester by opening accounts with the co-op bank, which is the basis of member ownership of the cooperative Manchester today, only one account per person being allowed.

This means that the EMPLOYEE PARTNERS of one superstore are the EMPLOYERS of an excessively
large proportion of NON ENFRANCHISED EMPLOYEES of a completely DIFFERENT Co-operative.laughdevil

The Co-op Manchester employees (Geoff) have the reputation of being the most misused, overworked and underpaid, employees in the Shop workers Union. Historically that has been the case for many years, since before the war, and should be addressed by that organisation.

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Message 14 - posted by jonesy (U2704001) , Aug 30, 2007

I was born in 1965 and I seem to remember that Barkers in High Street Kensington had this system.

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Message 15 - posted by Dai Bath (U2444609) , Aug 30, 2007

The staff regarded shoppers with suspicion and were very unfriendly. I would not have liked to complain about anything I had bought

Quoted from this message




They still are unfriendly except that you do not notice it; Noticing the unfriendliness was a feature of Greig's until the shops became Tesco and bigger!

There is NO ethos of friendliness in a Tesco store; merely Mammon and money.

I actually measure UNFRIENDLINESS by the amount of CCTV useage the store management makes and how it tries to exploit the customer by such secretive measures. They wish to convert you to the TEsco religious ethos as well. It is possible that they
then become more friendly.

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Message 16 - posted by Dai Bath (U2444609) , Aug 30, 2007

The staff regarded shoppers with suspicion and were very unfriendly. I would not have liked to complain about anything I had bought

Quoted from this message




They still are unfriendly except that you do not notice it; Noticing the unfriendliness was a feature of Greig's until the shops became Tesco and bigger! It was their ambition for bigness that MADE them unfriendly like that! No space for the customer, only for the produce! They did not fail to make refunds though if produce was faulty, or bad.

There is NO ethos of friendliness in a Tesco store; merely Mammon and money.

I actually measure UNFRIENDLINESS by the amount of CCTV useage the store management makes and how it tries to exploit the customer by such secretive measures. They wish to convert you to the Tesco religious ethos as well. It is possible that they
then become more friendly. I shan't be trying it.

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Message 17 - posted by Tancredi (U1909213) , Sep 3, 2007

The main change for me is that when I was a child, children rarely went shopping. Mothers did that. Riding one's bike to the small general store for the forgotten item - sugar, for some reason - or, when I was nine, there was a baker that opened on Sunday, and I cycled back eating soft bits out of one of those square-shaped loaves that was broken into two upon coming out of the oven. Children generally were only taken shopping for coats and shoes.

When I was in a flat-share in my teens, I had to wait outside the butcher's shop while my older flatmate went inside, as I could not bear the sight of blood.

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Message 18 - posted by Dai Bath (U2444609) , Sep 4, 2007

I used to go in for a pack of 20 Player's Weights please,(not tipped) then the co-op closed down so there were no coupons, and the tobacconist next door was just as good.

I was 5, and had to cross the road to get there.
ciggies for the old dad, getting me in to sensible habits of smoking, and a quick chat with the news agent.

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Message 19 - posted by exuberantannemary (U2617684) , Sep 5, 2007

Could I just put in a word for the supermarkets? As a disabled person I could not shop anywhere else. Supermarkets have a few advantages for me.First everything is available in one place-I could not get in and out of old fashioned high streetshops in my wheel chair. Also most supermarkets have a disabled adapted toilet and since my illness makes frequent visits necessary(can`t last longer than an hour) I would not be able to shop at all. Also the much maligned customer services are allways very helpful. It would be nice to wander around old towns and markets but this is not possible for me so I am grateful that at least I can go to the supermarket. (and of course when I am too ill to go out they bring it to me)

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Message 20 - posted by earth4mum (U9577323) , Sep 6, 2007

When I first got married I shopped in Spar and Co-op in our village. I had to choose between Ajax and Vim for cleaning, and used Lux Soap Flakes for washing by hand (no washing machine). Now I have to choose between several rows of cleaning materials, each for specific purposes, and it takes ages. I also remember bread shortages and sugar shortages. That's when we gave up sugar in everything. I still don't use sugar unless I have to in baking. As a child my mum did all the shopping in the corner shop where everything was behind the counter and there was no shop lifting.

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