Elie & Earlsferry Childhood Memories and a Couthy Neighbourhood
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 by the Council a metal bin 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 1930’s.
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 who gave him a piece and 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 Bakers goods. Not a lot of hygene either. I don’t remember anyone taking ill buying goods from the vans. Message boys would deliver groceries from the shops in the village.
Janettas 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. Their extended family have an excellent shop in St Andrews. The very best Ice Cream. Long ago there was only one flavour , Vanilla and the cones and wafers cost 1p, 3p or 6p.
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 Onion Johnny so called 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 [ms Crombie], b. Elie 1922
Cupar. September 2010.
Memories of how the Post Office [Elie] operated in the 1930’s onward.
The time was September 1939 and what we had all feared, we were at war with Germany everything was to change for us all. After leaving school at age 14 and having worked in John Menzie’s Bookstall at the local Station in Elie for 1 year I decided to have a change of work so I applied for a vacancy in Elie Post Office. Enjoying book keeping at school I decided this would be more of a challenge and so it turned out to be.
The duties were Counter & Sorting Office.
I was told to begin with I would have to pass an exam at the Head Office in Leven later.
The office opened at 8.30am but we had to be there roughly 15 mins before the door opened. There were quite a few things to do before 8.30. First of all we had to check and count the money from the safe. Postal Orders to count from the price of 6d to £1- 1/-. Probably 20 of each denomination they had to be correctly counted as you would never balance at the end of your duty. People came in with Family Allowance Books to be cashed every week also the Weekly OAP pension. This wasn’t all of course. There was another the Stamp Drawer to Balance too. Insurance stamps as well as Postage Stamps and this drawer to balance exactly. No calculators. We were allowed 3 claims in a year for any shortages balancing all these books every day. Finishing at 1pm we handed over the main balance over to the next member of staff who’s duty lasted until 4.30pm.
She had to do the whole thing over again before handing over for the evening girl who had a duty till 6.30pm and balancing once again. This wasn’t the end of balancing everything. Next came the Big Cash Book. All 3 counter transactions for the day were put together for the Postmistress. Correct to a ½d. This was completed every night. Had to be completed in ink actually everything was.
Counter duties serving the Public were interesting. Difficult sometimes as we dealt with Savings and all kinds of Licenses, Foreign postage & various questions on the foreign prospective. But a lot of this was cancelled in Wartime.
The Polish Army arrived and we had to do our best to understand the language. They cashed money every now and again at the office. Our own soldiers at Kincraig collected their mail every day. Telegrams were sent and received by phone. Some very sad war news ones had to be delivered by the Telegram Messenger to relatives and friends (Blackout Civil Sce no call up till 1946). The phone boxes were cleared every month with their cash counted and sent to Leven Head Office.
Elie was a Crown Office and we had a Postmistress in charge. I served under 8 Postmistresses but the Head Office had a Postmaster and we were accountable to Head Office. Sorting Office duties were interesting too. We had 3 postmen. The first delivery of mail arrived at the Office from the station at 7.30am and wheeled by a postman on a barrow. The Clerk in charge saw that the letter and parcel bags were opened and a form to check inside. Register letters were also checked written into a delivery book given to the postman and signed. Very important it was to do that. the counter clerk also received cash from H.O. this way which had to be counted and signed for. Probably £500 etc. All that done by the clerk in charge, we had to get the mail out. Boxes cleared of letters sorted and stamped by hand then they were put back in appropriate boxes all over the country and abroad for despatch. When completed they were tied in their correct bundles and bagged. The postman had the next duty to put parcel and letter bags on to his barrow and trudge to the station 15 mins allowed to catch the train returning with empty barrow for the next despatch of mail, 3 a day. The stamp for stamping the letters changed for every despatch stating the time and date. That was more or less our S.O. duties.
To add to this part of the things we had to do a heavy delivery of letters from the post boxes in the village plus the one at the Office itself meant quite a rush especially at Xmas. However despite being overwhelmed at times we always managed to get the postman on his way to catch the train in “time”. Great fun too.
H.O. Duties. Once I was fully established and passed one exam and made a S.C.&T.O. we had to take up duties when they were short of staff at H.O. in Leven. The first time this happened to myself I was in digs as the duties were awkward and demanding. This was where I had the unpleasant encounter of an Air Raid Shelter. There was an Air Raid warning one night luckily no bombs were dropped but it was still a scary experience.
back to work and counter duties were hard. It was a town and industrial. We never ever stopped all day and balancing was difficult and still no computers or adding machines. The other Office for extra duties was Methil also a very busy Office with a postmistress in charge. When the convoy ships came in a t the docks we had a rush as the sailors got forms to cash probably some payment or other. can’t remember that but they certainly kept us busy. On Sunday at Methil we did 4 hours each two of us taking down coded messages all numbers on special paper to hand to the Admiralty. Very important that was and you had to concentrate and be accurate.
Back to Elie for another spell but in 1948 I decided I wanted to move somewhere else and I was able to get a years transfer to Kilmacolm Office on the west coast. The Office was very like the Elie Office and the postmistress from there came from Islay. The staff and myself all jelled well together and I made good friends in a busy office. Duties were similar to Elie but much more money to handle and more responsibility. The year passed very quickly. Came back to Elie but could not settle so I applied for a Permanent position somewhere else. It all happened very quickly and I found myself in Cupar Angus.
Once again similar Office with a Postmistress. There, was asked to take charge when the Postmistress was on holiday but before I could do that I went on a course to Edinburgh for a week. The Office was a busy one with 4 or 5 postmen on rural duties. However when the time came to take over for the holidays I managed and the staff not a problem. Duties were the same again but very busy.
That was until 1951 when I got married and left. However I had 3 months in Cupar Office, later Markinch and returning to Cupar in 1963 a spell in the West port sub Office there. (After the war foreign work was introduced again)
Observing how so much easier working in the Post Office is in 2010 with calculators etc the girls and boys I worked with had more of a responsible outlook on the work we had to do especially with the very accurate balancing of the Books.
Hard work with a lot of responsibility and wartime to contend with which has set us up well for our future.
Small Shops, Elie 1930’s
High Street from Station
Menzies – Bookstall at the Station
Shoe Shop – Terris
Butchers Shop – McCallum then Hughes
Greigs – Garage Shop
Graham – Bakers
Drapers – Miss Betts two sisters owned this shop
Fruit & Veg – Miss Kings
Fruit & Veg- Oddies
Grocer – Melville’s
Shoe Shop – Nan Graham’s
Brattasani – Chip Shop
Grocers – Dewars
Stationers- Mr & Miss Mackie
Bruce – Plumbers
Cummings – Drapers
Harris – Barbers
Adamson – Bakers
2 x Pubs and 2 x Banks
Hudsons – Dairy Lows - Grocers
Brattasani Cummings - Grocers
Stationers Later Boulet- Bakers
Bruce – Grocer Thomson – China Shop
Donaldsons – Painters Hairdresser later 30’s
The medication we were given in the 1920’s and 1930’s and even later makes interesting reading considering what we are having to take in this century.
When my sister and I had a cold my mother made us a hot blackcurrant drink with her home made jam. There was nothing else to take perhaps hot lemon if you could buy a fresh lemon. If our colds went down to our chest and we had a cough camphorated oil or Vic was warmed and rubbed on our chest. I remember my grandmother wore a square of camphor on a ribbon round her neck to ward off colds in the winter. For a pick me up we had to take a malt called Virol. Quite pleasant but not Emulsion which looked like salad cream and it was dreadful very oily.
Now and again we would have a stomach upset and out would come Gregory’s mixture. A pink coloured powder which we had to take mixed with any kind of jam available. Casteroil a liquid which was terrible to take. A square of rather pale chocolate was easier to get down and preferable to the other two nastier. Recovering from any illness my mother would make Beef tea and it was just the gravy from a nice piece of beef. Either that or Bovril which is still on supermarket shelves today. Home made Chicken Broth was an excellent recovery soup.
If we had an accident while playing outside and got a bad graze a bread and sugar poultice was applied to draw out any poison that dirt would cause. Going to the Doctor if the poison was bad it was only a medicated bandage he would put on and we would have to make a return visit.
We did not drink water the way we all do now. I do remember Ribena and Lemon Barley Water and of course milk, Horlicks and Ovaltine
Remember certain things as I go along. Friars Balsam was good for a head cold and sinus problems. A little in a bowl with very hot water. We covered our head with a towel over the bowl and inhaled the steam. There was no nasal sprays at all then. No pill to take either to get us better quickly.
For toothache cloves gave us a certain amount of relief. The Dentist was to be avoided at all costs. Earache was eased with a warm hot water bottle to lay on the sore ear. When I broke my arm a very thick plaster was applied and it wasn’t removed for quite sometime. Other people would write their names on it. Eventually it was cut off. Medication has definitely moved on to better things especially getting cured more quickly but we all survived in those days not knowing any better. I will mention Hospitals. I only had one experience as a twelve year old with a broken arm. Matron at the Hospital had no patience for youngsters. She complained about the clothes I had on (too many) and as I recovered from the anaesthetic I was sick and she got annoyed about that. This was not a good experience regards hospitals for me. Matron at this hospital had quite a reputation for her manner. On the other hand you felt safe. That was my only visit to a hospital until the 1950s and even then another strange experience there being left on my own and not told what was happening when my daughter was born. The reason for the mention is the comparison with what takes place now.
I’m finished now with that 1950s story.
Entertainment in the Village
Interesting too especially from the 19th century. After all there was only a population of roughly 500 residents.
Where to begin, at home I suppose. We weren’t entertained it was a case of make your own and we did especially at home. No TV a very small Radio with few channels to surface. However I loved the big bands that played and the singles Geraldo, Billy Cotton and others Vera Lynn, Joan Regan, Alma Cogan and male singers Mario Lanza, Richard Tauber Scottish Robert Wilson, Kenneth McKellar, Ian Morrison that is only some of many others. For myself I loved the music and had piano lessons from a teacher who travelled over from Edinburgh once a week by train. Dancing lessons came next from a teacher from Leven.
We had fun at home playing cards, dominoes, a dart board and table tennis on the room table. Exercises on the floor to keep fit. Sewing and knitting although not entertainment made up ma few hours of our time. Doing all these things together at home was relaxing and happy.
Entertainment outside home.
After school there was always a group of us skipping, playing rounders, pavement games, different ball games and riding around on our bicycles no traffic to contend with. For the adults in the Town hall, whist drives were popular, dancing and the Pictures there during war time. Amateur Dramatics with a show once a year. All local talent. The Church Soiree was an event too in the Church Hall. Church members had their own table, own china and home baking while being entertained by local church members. On Sundays families went for a walk in the afternoon and on summer evenings everyone seemed to be out.
Simple pleasures which I’m glad to have been part of. I am concerned about the very young in this century. We had guide lines to be obeyed. Much healthier.
Julia Campbell [ms Crombie]. b. Elie 1922
Cupar. September 2010