My Mother knew Kilmacolm outside in, so I soon learned the geography and how to find my way around. Most days we would go to the shops so I got to know the people who worked in Struthers’ the Grocer (one being Auntie Annie), Sheridan’s the Butcher, Morrison’s the Baker, Wood’s the Newsagent, Campbell the Fruiterers and Crawford’s Dairy. Walking down to the shops was an adventure I enjoyed. We passed Auntie Kate’s house, the stables and Laird’s Garage, owned by brothers John and Alexander. Alec lived with his family in the flat below Kate and the property belonged to the Lairds. There was a cigarette machine outside the garage and when I was tall enough I was allowed to walk down and put the shilling in the slot and get the Woodbines out of the wee drawer. Of course, Dad would be standing at our entry watching over me.
There were some dwellings, then came Mr Ritchie the Painter’s shop. His son George was to be one of my class-mates. He was on the corner of Cuddy’s Close where the lady who washed our outside stair lived. She was a plump little person who had to work hard – the late twenties were not kind to the working classes. After the next corner was the Police Station. I think there were two constables and a Sergeant. The only name I remember is Fotheringham, probably because he had a son at school. There was virtually no crime and they were well-known and liked by most. There was a burn ran down between the P.S. and the wee old-fashioned building that was Crawford’s Dairy. It was a lovely bright shop and of course, very clean. I was fascinated by the apparatus for separating the cream. The bottles of milk we had delivered each morning had about 2 inches of cream on top. It was a treat to have some poured over a steamed pudding. For drinking or putting in tea the bottle was shaken to distribute the cream.
The road turned right towards the Cross and Wood’s was on the corner, a family business. They delivered our newspaper in the morning. Next was Barnshake Farm Dairy followed by Morrison’s the Bakers which was where the bread and rolls came from. Early in the morning warm rolls were brought to us in paper bags tied with string and hung on the doorknob. People lived above the shops so there were a couple of closes between them. Mr. Campbell stocked lots of fruit and vegetables. There was a very big bin full of potatoes which he would delve into with a big coal-scuttle and Mum would buy a quarter stone (about 2 kilos.) There were no fridges and most women shopped daily, so the meat and vegetables we ate were always fresh. Across from these shops was the Fish and Chip Shop. Sixpence (2.5 pence) would buy enough chips for three or four people. Along a bit was the Mail Sorting Office Then, on the corner, the Post Office.
The Co-op was (to a small child) a large shop with counters round three sides. Customers had a black book and a pink book. When you bought your messages they were listed in the black book with how much you owed. Then when you paid they did something with the pink book. I wasn’t very old when Mum sent me to pay the account with strict instructions to go straight up to the shop. Well, I met a friend from school and stopped to chat. When I was standing there I saw an envelope on the ground and when I picked it up it had money in it. Someone must have dropped it, and as we were right outside the Police Office I went in to tell the friendly policeman about it. When I got to the Co-op the assistant looked at the books then wrote a wee note and put it in the book and I ran off home. As soon as I got in I told Mum about this amazing find and how I’d given it to the Policeman. The she read the note from the Co-op lady and had a laugh! So I was sent off with a note to the officer who said he had thought I might be back. I had handed in my own money. I was too young to be embarrassed but I saw the funny side when I was older. The shop had wires all round and when you paid for something the lady reached up and unscrewed a wee container, put the cash in it and pulled a cord and the money travelled round the shop to the cashier who duly returned the change. This was a source of great amazement for children!
Back to the Post Office now where I’ll start next time.