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PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS: Childhood Memories of a Couthy Neighbourhood c1930s

By Julia Campbell [ms Crombie] b. Elie 1922

There were certain days and time for the tradesmen to call and everything was so orderly. I cannot recall exactly now who came and when but here are a few interesting memories.

Monday the dustman came to collect the rubbish. Any container, be it a cardboard box which was the norm, was used (no plastic bags) and everything was thrown in it. Then we were all given a metal bin by the Council and that did tidy things up. Mr Pearson and Mr Thomson were on the dust cart for many years.

The coalman came once a fortnight and filled the coal bunker. Mother was very frugal with the coal she used and many a time I felt really cold. The small fire did not give out a lot of heat. A strange thing we did we opened the oven door and put our slippers in to warm them up. No central heating and hot water was limited. We were allowed just one bath a week and hair washing on a Friday. No hairdryer so we sat in front of the fire to get it dry. The two bedrooms upstairs had a fireplace in each room and the only time we had the fire lit was when we were ill. Our bed was warmed with hot water bottles and one stone one which we called a pig. Not such a thing as an electric blanket and this was the 1930s.

The majority of the tradesmen arrived once a week. The fish van from Pittenweem came every week. There was competition from the van arriving from St Monance. Both did very well and the fish was so fresh out of the sea to your door. The fish shop in the village was also well patronized.

I cannot remember the name of the vegetable man from Colinsburgh. He had horse-drawn cart and Paddy the horse was quite a character. He got to know the neighbourhood and who gave him a piece so he would be up on the pavement waiting. The vegetables were picked from the garden and none came from foreign parts. Nothing exotic.

We had a regular postal delivery one in the morning and afternoon. Very dependable for times.

The Co-operative van arrived from Leven once a week. The Bread Van – nothing wrapped in plastic -and the Grocers Van. My mother got a dividend for the goods she bought weekly and I do remember her special number, which was 4508. Nearly every neighbour supported the Co-op. Although the local shops did very well and survived for years. There was no sell-by date or use-by date on groceries or the bakery goods. Not a lot of hygiene either. I don’t remember anyone taking ill buying goods from the vans. Message boys would deliver groceries from the shops in the village.

Janetta’s from Methil came to Elie in the summer with their ice cream van. They had a permanent position at the Breakwater. Everyone was friendly with them. The same Italians came all the time and their extended family have an excellent shop in St Andrews. They made the very best ice cream. Long ago there was only one flavour – vanilla – and the cones and wafers cost 1d, 3d or 6d (old pennies).

We did have a chip van doing the round but did not last long as Brattisani had his chip shop in the High Street and very popular it was.

Winter time came and an so called ‘Onion Johnny’ came round the doors selling onions. Mother always bought some and they were hung in the shed. He came all the way from France and he had a bicycle.

Sometimes an Arab appeared with a very large suitcase selling ladies and gents clothing. They were very persistent with their selling techniques and seemed to persuade my Mother to buy something. As a child I wasn’t sure about them at all dressed in Arab attire. The clothes were cheaper to buy than in the village.

The Tinkers were always knocking on doors selling clothes pegs and wanting to tell you your horoscope by reading the lines in your hand. Eventually they would get a piece and occasionally a few old clothes.

Changing the subject, once or twice a year The Houndsmen with the hounds went through the village from the Baird Estate Elie House.

 Julia Campbell (Cupar, September 2010)

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