Memories of Calderdale

Home Deliveries


Geoffrey Siddall

Many people do not realise the extent of service available to the householder between the Wars.

These days we are lucky if we can get the post delivered during any part of the day. In fact it is comparatively recently when businesses complained about the mail not being delivered before the business opened for the day.

During the 1930s, in my experience, the mail was delivered before 8 am, with a second delivery sometimes during the afternoon.

Newspapers were delivered by schoolboys before they went to school in the morning.

Milk was delivered in our case with a pony and trap.

This in itself was interesting. There were, of course, no bottles or cartons; the milkman came to the door with a two gallon churn with a half-pint and a pint measure looped over the inside rim. He would knock on the door to be met by the housewife with her milk jug.

The milk man, on being informed, of the quantity required would dip the required measure in the churn, raise it and top it up with the other measure to make sure it was a full, then pour it into the housewife's jug.

This known as teeming and lading, was the origin of the term, now used mainly by accountants.

Weights and measures men were very keen on accurate full measures, and all measures were stamped.

Before telephones became common in houses, urgent messages were sent by telegraph where they were delivered by boys on bicycles.

It was common for school leavers to get a job as a telegram boy before starting as an apprentice.

Because urgent messages usually denoted bad news, most people used to worry when a telegram boy approached.

The telegram could be sent from any Post Office and would be transmitted electronically to a teleprinter in the nearest town. The message, on a ½-inch wide tape, would be stuck on the standard form, inserted in an envelope and delivered by the boy.

As telephones became more popular after World War II, the telegram gradually disappeared, and, although available for a long time, the telegram boy had also disappeared, and delivery was made the day after by the normal postman.

The urgency had died, and they were eventually stopped.

One on my earliest memories, was the gas-lighter man who lit the gas-lamps in the street. He used to run down the street with his pole with a burning torch on the top, and a hook at the side. He used to push up the pole under the light, by skill use the hook to turn on the gas, and the torch lit the mantle, a slight twist unhooked the pole and he ran to the next pole. I was very young at the time, and was fascinated with the performance, especially as he wore clogs, and could be heard some distance away, and sometimes seen, when his clog irons sparked. He always seemed to run, I presume to light all the lamps before it became very dark. I was always asleep when he came in the morning, so he may have had a more leisurely pace. Early in the 30s, the gas-lamps were fitted with a small pilot light and a clockwork time switch, which worked automatically. A man came every Friday Morning with a short ladder, wound the clock and did any maintenance required.

Another fascinating visitor was the magnificent Foden Steam Wagon belonging to Sowerby Bridge Urban District Council which collected the Ash cans, every week. I used to delight in watching it in operation. Sadly, it disappeared sometime in the 30s. With the emphasis on Recycling, Salvage etc, at the present day it would be strange to inspect the contents of the 30s dustbins. These were ashcans, in the fact that the principle contents were ashes from the open coal fires which were in every house. Packaging was not developed to a great extend up to the start of the 30s, and most items came to the shops in bulk. The butter in wooden boxes, which the staff opened and weighed out in pounds and then wrapped in greaseproof paper. Flour, yeast, and almost every commodity came in bulk and quantities were packed up when trade was quiet. The first item amongst the staple supplies, which came pre-packed, was sugar, usually in stout blue packets. I rather fancy that this was because of moisture caking the surface, if exposed to the air. Any packaging supplied to the housewife, was usually used to start the coal fire, and this consumed a lot of the waste food. The housewife was always careful with what was put in the bin, because, hot ashes could set fire to anything flammable. Apart from the very few tins used, almost all the bin would be ashes.

Tradesmen used to deliver their goods, groceries by the errand boy with his bicycle. The Co-operative Society, had a four wheeled horse drawn dray with open sides and a roof, festooned with as many of the household items needed by the busy housewife. Hard Soaps, Donkey Stones, Brushes of all types, tea cloths, rough aprons, even paraffin .

A man used to call on a Friday night, with a white towel over his arm and the Yorkshire oatcakes draped over this, these were flexible and were sold for coppers, and placed over the Clothes creel to dry.

Occasionally a man came with a peculiar contraption, which he wheeled into position, turned it over, and it became a treadle operated knife grinder. He would then sharpen any knives required.

One must not forget the spiritual side, Vicars, Priests, and Ministers, regularly visited their flocks, particularly if they were ill.

Up to the early 30s, radios were quite often home-made, even manufactured radios tended to be unreliable, so there came into being the Relay service, most streets were wired to a central depot in Sowerby Bridge centre, and anyone requiring the service was fitted with a five-position switch, usually at the side of a window where the wires came in. From there to a suitably placed speaker. For a couple of shillings a week, was provided three or more programmes depending on what could be received. Occasionally on a Sunday, they offered an hour or so of Radio Luxemburg, which was the only commercial advertising radio station at that time.

The houses in the street, were large enough to have a coal cellar which would take a ton of coal, which was delivered with a two wheeled horse and cart, from the staithes at Sowerby Bridge. However, this was never done on a Monday. Monday was the recognised Washing day, and the whole of the street would be filled with clothes hung out to dry, with detachable post in the centre of the street, and clothes lines going from the side of the house to these posts. The street was impassable and woe on any child who appeared with a ball to play with

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 10:26 / 30th May 2021 / 8416

Page Ref: M_16

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