What are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime? So asked my 9-year-old grandson.
As I thought of the question the local Green Grocer came to mind. Because that is what the greatest change in shopping in my life is.
That was the first place to start with the question of what are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime.
Our local greengrocer was the most important change in shopping in my lifetime. Beside him were our butcher, a hairdresser and a chemist.
Looking back, we were well catered for as we had quite a few in our suburb. And yes, the greatest changes in shopping in my lifetime were with the small family-owned businesses.
Entertainment While Shopping Has Changed
Buying butter was an entertainment in itself.
My sister and I often had to go to a favourite family grocer close by. We were always polite as we asked for a pound or two of butter and other small items.
Out came a big block of wet butter wrapped in grease-proof paper. Brought from the back of the shop, placed on a huge countertop and included two grooved pates.
That was a big change in our shopping in my lifetime…you don’t come across butter bashing nowadays.
Our old friendly Mr Mahon with the moustache would cut a square of butter. Lift it to another piece of greaseproof paper with his pates. On it went to the weighing scales, a bit sliced off or added here and there.
Our old grocer would then bash it with gusto, turning it over and over. Upside down and sideways it went so that it had grooves from the pates, splashes going everywhere, including our faces.
My sister and I thought this was great fun and it always cracked us up. We loved it, as we loved Mahon’s, on the corner, our very favourite grocery shop.
Further afield, we often had to go to another of my mother’s favourite, not so local, greengrocer’s. Mr McKessie, ( spelt phonetically) would take our list, gather the groceries and put them all in a big cardboard box.
And because we were good customers he always delivered them to our house free of charge. But he wasn’t nearly as much fun as old Mr Mahon. Even so, he was a nice man.
All Things Fresh
So there were very many common services such as home deliveries like:
• Farm eggs
• Fresh vegetables
• Cow’s milk
• Freshly baked bread
• Coal for our open fires
A man used to come to our house a couple of times a week with farm fresh eggs.
Another used to come every day with fresh vegetables, although my father loved growing his own.
Our milk, topped with beautiful cream, was delivered to our doorstep every single morning.
Unbelievably, come think of it now, our bread came to us in a huge van driven by our “bread-man” named Jerry who became a family friend.
My parents always invited Jerry and his wife to their parties, and there were many during the summer months. Kids and adults all thoroughly enjoyed these times. Alcohol was never included, my parents were teetotallers. Lemonade was a treat, with homemade sandwiches and cakes.
The coal-man was another who delivered bags of coal for our open fires. I can still see his sooty face under his tweed cap but I can’t remember his name. We knew them all by name but most of them escape me now.
Mr Higgins, a serviceman from the Hoover Company always came to our house to replace our old vacuum cleaner with an updated model.
Our insurance company even sent a man to collect the weekly premium.
Pounds Shillings And Pence
Another very big change for us in Ireland was the loss of our currency £sd, Lsd was the shortened version of pounds, shillings and pence. And the decimal system made an appearance in February 1971. So pounds, shillings and pence are also a thing of the past.
People then only paid for their shopping with cash. This in itself has been a huge change in shopping in my lifetime.
In some department stores, there was a system whereby the money from the cash registers was transported in a small cylinder on a moving wire track to the central office.
Some Of The Bigger Changes
Some of the bigger changes in shopping were the opening of supermarkets.
• Supermarkets replaced many individual smaller grocery shops. Cash and bank cheques have given way to credit and key cards.
• Internet shopping…the latest trend, but in many minds, doing more harm, to book shops.
• Not many written shopping lists, because mobile phones have taken over.
On a more optimistic note, I hear that book shops are popular again after a decline.
Personal Service Has Most Definitely Changed
So, no one really has to leave home, to purchase almost anything, technology makes it so easy to do online.
And we have a much bigger range of products now, to choose from, and credit cards have given us the greatest ease of payment.
We have longer shopping hours, and weekend shopping. But we have lost the personal service that we oldies had taken for granted and also appreciated.
Because of their frenetic lifestyles, I have heard people say they find shopping very stressful, that is grocery shopping. I’m sure it is when you have to dash home and cook dinner after a days work. I often think there has to be a better, less stressful way.
My mother had the best of both worlds, in the services she had at her disposal. With a full-time job looking after 9 people, 7 children plus her and my dad, she was very lucky. Lucky too that she did not have 2 jobs.
We were not rich but we were happy kids and so grateful with any little treats that came our way.
And even now, not only do we love each other, we like each other too. Although scattered around the world, we’re always in touch.
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