Whatever did we do before Amazon?
Online shopping delivered to your door is certainly big these days. But when you think about it, it’s far from a new thing.
When we were kids, there was always someone at the door dropping something off or plying a trade. Door-to-door salesman, the rag and bone man, the coal man. It’s a surprise mum ever got anything done!
Some who visited us were real characters - we gave them nicknames or just called them 'the Friday Man' if that was the day he came. And then there were those that frightened the life out of us as we hid behind our mothers’ skirts.
Groceries came from the local shop via delivery boys on their bicycles. While some of the bigger stores used vans or even had mobile shops. If your family shopped at the local Co-op, you can probably still recite your 'divvy' number today.
The Betterware man
He’d pop open his brown leather suitcase to reveal a host of brushes, dusters and those rubber tea towel holders. Mum was sometimes persuaded to add an order to his pad with a free sample of lavender-scented polish.
Before wheelie bins, dustmen would throw heavy metal bins on their shoulders and empty them into the cart. A protective leather waistcoat was the closest they ever came to health and safety.
French onion sellers
Remember the 'Onion Johnnies'? These beret-wearing, bicycle riding sellers arrived every summer to peddle their wares (literally). It was the first time many of us had met anyone from France, so hearing them speak was quite a novelty!
Rag and bone man
When you heard the cry 'any old iron' you'd gather up your old clothes or broken bits and see what you could swap them for. There was always one kid who got a good hiding for giving away their dad's jacket in return for a balloon or bouncy ball.
The coal man
Covered in soot from head to toe, he’d terrify kids everywhere. He'd lug a hundred weight of coal off the lorry and deliver it to your coal store. If he had to go through the house, you’ll remember your mum frantically laying down newspaper to save the carpet.
In the early days, milk was ladled from a big churn into your own jug. Then came milk bottles and the early morning sound of clinking crates and the hum of the electric float.
The man from the Pru
Suited and booted, he'd arrive at the doorstep and be invited in for a cup of tea before collecting the insurance money. He must have called at so many homes, but he never once forgot our names.
They travelled around in their horse-drawn caravans, sharpening knives or selling wooden pegs and 'lucky' heather. Some of us bought something just to get rid of them - rumour had it they'd put a curse on you if you didn't.
Fizzy pop deliveries
We’d jump with excitement when we heard the Corona or Alpine lorry rattling up the street. Mum would treat us to a spring-topped bottle of cherryade or dandelion and burdock with the stern warning: 'don't drink it all at once.'
What are your memories of doorstep sellers and deliveries? Are there any stories or colourful characters that stick in your mind? We’d love to hear them.
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