(November 1997) The Co-op

The CO-OP Shop in Sibford Gower in 1950 was not quite like a modern super-market. We shop assistants, fetched each item of a person‘s order, marked off the ration book if they had had rationed items, took the necessary number of points for points items, and when completed took the money, made out a ticket with their dividend number on, and gave them their change.

Prices of items had to be memorised but there were far fewer items than nowadays and the prices didn’t often change. There would be a list of prices for less usual items such as spices, which were sold by the ounce in a cone-shaped bag made (inexpertly if I was the assistant) out of a sheet of paper.

As there was still rationing everyone had to be registered with a specific shop for rationed goods, and they would then be entitled to any goods we might have on points, such as tinned or dried fruit. Some people might register for, say, fats and cheese at the Co-op and sugar and bacon at another, in the hope of getting the benefit of goods on points at both.

A messy job, which we didn’t particularly enjoy, especially in the winter when it was most likely to be in demand, was going outside to fill someone’s can with paraffin.

There was plenty to occupy our time when we weren’t serving in the shop. The 56lb cheeses had to be skinned (i.e. their muslin coating stripped off) and then they had to be cut with a cheese wire into manageable sizes for use in the shop. The cheeses and other stock were kept in the room and loft at the east end of the shop. Sides of bacon had to be boned ready for the hand-operated bacon slicer, sugar, dried fruit, butter, lard, etc. had to be weighed up, and orders had to be put up into boxes, ready for the roundsman, who delivered bread, to take out.

Collecting the orders was another of our jobs. On Mondays one of us went to either Brailes or Swalcliffe alternately, and on Saturdays to Epwell and Winderton. This was done on a bicycle or motor-bike and sidecar if the Manager, himself went.

Our customers were many and varied but I remember especially Katy Hanks’ wonderful laugh which would cheer up the dullest day, and, of course, Theodore standing at the door being served by the Manager.