Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.

[65] Stand and Deliver!


Another miscellaneous blog about people who visited our house and our neighbourhood. As you know (if you have been paying attention) the postman generally made two deliveries a day and we had other regular deliveries.

I hope I haven’t disappointed any fans of Adam Ant with the title.


I have already looked at the post, which arrived about seven in the morning (sometimes with a second delivery later.) What I haven’t mentioned so far is that there was no junk mail. Hard to imagine now!

When you think about it, mass mailings to everyone can only be done in two ways.

For a personalized message, you need at least a lot of automated technology and a database of all the addresses. Junk mail now also has the ability to put our surnames on the outside and include first names inside in a chatty letter. Without computers, this technology just wasn’t there.

Sadly, even without a list of addresses, firms can now deliver in bulk to the post office and get them to post to every house in the area. I can’t say I like this but, as less and less people actually write letters, the Post Office has to get itself an income somehow. Back in the sixties, the postman just delivered personal letters and business letters to specific people.

(We also didn’t get the dozens of bits of paper that fall out of newspapers and other magazines. We also never had junk telephone calls! We had wrong numbers, but no automated calls about PPI, no scam calls about our computers, no calls starting: “I’m not trying to sell you anything but …”)


The milkman came with his slowly moving, electrically operated milk float. I am rather surprised that these still exist. The picture above, with plastic milk bottles, is way too modern!

We had six pints a day, in glass bottles, and twelve pints on Saturday (with no Sunday delivery.) Bottles were just rinsed and left on the doorstep for collection. You could also get eggs, milk and orange juice from the milkman. (Egg boxes were also returned and re-used.) About once a week the milkman would call for his money, settled in cash.

If you wanted more or less milk, you just put a note in the empty bottles left outside. I don’t think we ever had to buy milk from shops. That’s why I can’t remember which shops sold milk. Mansfield Dairies was a local dairy in Ilford. I am not sure whether it still exists. There were others.

The baker also delivered fresh bread, twice a week. This didn’t always cover everything so we did sometimes go to the baker’s shop at Beehive Lane.

Roving Trade

There was also a roving grocer, with a large van you could walk round inside. I don’t know how often he came or whether it was a regular occurrence.

Two more vans that moved round the streets were mobile libraries and ice-cream. I can’t claim any interest in the libraries but ice-cream was worth listening for. They came more often in the summer when it was hot, announcing their presence with recorded music blaring from the van. It would sound for a while, perhaps a street away but near enough to locate the sound. If we were lucky we could persuade Mum to send us on an errand.

There was little choice. A one-and-sixpenny block of vanilla ice-cream and a packet of wafers was enough for the family. The only other choices were a wafer sandwich made to order (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate or Neapolitan,) plain lollipops and choc-ices. (Yes, I may have mentioned ice-cream earlier.)


More visitors

There were still occasionally itinerant Rag-and-Bone men, with their horse-drawn carts. They didn’t knock on doors, just called out as they passed slowly. They wanted anything scrap, mostly metal.

According to Wikipedia, these traders still collected rags, furs and shoes in the late fifties and early sixties. Later they moved more towards specifically scrap metal, ‘Any Old Iron!’ as in the old Music Hall song, made famous by Peter Sellers:


“Any old iron, any old iron, any, any, any old iron?

You look neat, talk about a treat; You look so dapper from your napper to your feet;

Dressed in style, brand new tile; And your father’s old green tie on;

But I wouldn’t give you tuppence; For your old watch and chain;

Old iron, old iron.”

The very popular BBC television series of the sixties and seventies, Steptoe and Son, may have helped to keep this trade going but it had disappeared by the eighties. Lately, rising scrap metal prices have led to a resurgence, using vans instead of horse-drawn carts.

Gypsy visitors came occasionally selling wooden clothes pegs or ‘lucky’ pieces of heather.


We also sometimes had a knife grinder coming round the streets. Our kitchen only had a carving knife and one or two sharp knives. The man with his pedal driven equipment would take them and sharpen them for us. He also did lawn mowers. The economics of the time depended on the fact that labour costs were relatively cheap. We would never think of buying a new carving knife but we could afford whatever the knife grinder charged for his labours.

BRITTANY-ONION-JOHNNIES-1-cmp-300x225  Onions1


Finally, we really did have farmers coming on bicycles from Brittany selling onions. They had strings of onions hanging from the bicycle. I don’t think we ever bought any and I don’t know how they ever sold enough to pay their way from France all the way to Ilford and back! (They didn’t come through the Tunnel!)








Author: Alan

Retired, currently living in Cheltenham.

3 thoughts on “[65] Stand and Deliver!

  1. Yes! You did not miss a thing! I enjoyed the post!


  2. Loved the memories you rekindled. I remember the policeman who used to walk around our street about 10pm and when seeing my boyfriend and I one night talking at the gate, told us it was about time we said goodnight. I lived in Loughton from the late ’40’s to early ’60’s. Cheers, Joy

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: [98] ‘Evening, All’ | Remembrance of Things Past

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