A review of our September talk - by Beryl Plent

Our talk on 20th September by Bernard Brett was full of nostalgia and social history. His grandfather had run a grocery store in Lord Street, Southport, and his father carried on the trade at Bretts high class grocers in Birkdale. Over the entrance hung a model of a flitch of bacon, painted gold. Everything sold was fresh and there was always a tantalising smell of coffee or bacon.

The staff were no strangers to hard work - no tea breaks in those days - they had to work right through the day. Loose goods such as sugar, dried fruit, rice etc. came in sacks and had to be bagged and weighed. 4 or 8 oz. portions of lard and butter were cut from large blocks then weighed and wrapped. Tea was scooped from tea chests. The large round cheeses, wet and smelly, needed turning regularly. The linen-covered sides of bacon, hung up outside the shop, were first scrubbed with very hot soapy water. The family spent three evenings a week, during the war years, just counting the ration coupons. Carbon-copied customer accounts too had to be dealt with after closing time.

Bernard went on to explain the power of advertising, graphically illustrated in the early posters for 'Pears' and 'Lifebuoy' soap. This led to a discussion of packaging and brand names of goods still well known today, such as Coca-Cola, Oxo and Bovril. We learnt of the origins of commodities such as Smiths Crisps, Lea & Perrins sauce as well as the health food 'Ovaltine' which was invented in 1904.

This last item brought forth from the audience a rendition of the advertising jingle "We are the Ovaltineys". The array of items on display brought back memories, and I for one would still not like to be without my trusty bar of green Fairy soap!

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