Tortoise v Matchbox

Simmonds the corn chandlers, suppliers of feeds for livestock and all manner of pet requisites. This was a magical place for a young lad, well for me at least. Along with bird tables, rabbit hutches and so much more, on the forecourt of the shop, there were often two cardboard boxes on display. These contained, in one, little tortoises, in the other were tortoises that were a bit bigger, the small ones were priced at half a crown (2s 6d) each. I vowed to get myself one of these, so began collecting every spare penny that I could get hold of. Once or twice I was even fortunate enough to acquire a threepenny bit towards my savings pot. My weakness was though, that every time my savings pot reached 1s 6p, I would take myself off up the High Road as far as Barratts the barbers. Not that I was keen to get my hair cut, but in his window were Matchbox toys and they were just 1s 6d each. I probably don’t need to tell you anymore, but I never did get a tortoise. 

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  • A comb and razor blade was the hi tec equipment you used!!

    Maybe that will jog your memory!

    By Jess Joy (27/09/2015)
  • Jess, don’t know whether it’s old age or selective memory kicking in, but I don’t remember the haircut you mention. Maybe for some reason you had more cause to remember it than I?

    By Donald Joy (25/09/2015)
  • I remember the barbers well Don. The tiered display of Matchbox vehicles was the only highlight of going to get a haircut. Better than the one that you gave me once !!!

    By Jess Joy (24/09/2015)
  • That’s a great story Don.  It made me think of when my dad started taking my younger brother to Barratts for his haircut when he started school in the mid-fifties.  Dad always enjoyed a good chat with Mr Barratt while having his hair cut and my brother Alan came home with a short back and sides (school cut) and a Matchbox toy.  It was a horse-drawn milk cart, beautifully made and detailed and in its own little ‘matchbox’ box.  This was No. 1 of a series (not sure which one).  Similarly Alan would save his pocket money and often buy one when having his hair cut every few weeks.  He eventually collected the whole of that series.  I liked the little vehicles too and we spend hours playing with them in the sand pit that dad made for us in the garden.

    We never bought a tortoise but we found one in our garden once.  Don’t know where it came from but it must have walked a long way as we lived down quite a long unmade road!    

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (18/09/2015)
  • It’s probably just as well that I never got a tortoise, as I would have had no idea how to look after it properly. It very likely would have met an untimely end, we didn’t have Google then. 

    Barratts the barbers, what an interesting place to be, with all the many old photographs of Laindon and Langdon Hills that adorned his wall. The wall was only a hardboard affair on a timber frame that separated his wife’s half of the shop from his. She sold wool and knitting patterns and other stuff that really was of no particular interest to a young boy. When getting my hair cut (short back and sides) Mr Barratt would lay a piece of board across the arms of his hairdressers chair for little boys to sit on, to be able to cut your hair without needing to bend down to your height (or lack of it). Then he would have you climb up on to said board, or if not capable of doing so you would be lifted, unceremoniously, up on to it. A little embarrassing! Maybe Nina’s brother remembers this and felt similarly embarrassed ?

    By Donald Joy (18/09/2015)
  • Yes, I remember the board, because I sat and waited with them on at least one occasion.

    I would add that it was the North Parade Post Office front window that fascinated me.  I saved my pocket money to buy things from there.  Books of paper dolls and pieces of clothing to cut out and dress them in.  Also a tin of ‘Lakeland’ colouring pencils which I absolutely loved. Oh, and magic painting books with a brush.  Dip the brush in water, paint the picture and the colours would show up.  Simple pleasures back then.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (18/09/2015)

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