I was informed by someone who is following the blog that the sweetshop across the road from the school was Ashworths and another reminded me of frozen Jubblies, so I thought I’d better delve into the wonderful world of sweets, or lollies, as they are called here in Perth, Western Australia.
The shop across from Harehills C.P. School was a treasure trove for a young boy with just a little bit of money to spend. The shop bell would sound as you entered into a world that childhood dreams were made of. In those days there was little that you could pick up and handle. Sweets were stored behind the counter in glass jars with screw tops. They offered a cornucopia of tantalizing tastes to young palates. The whole process of asking for two ounces of aniseed balls and then standing, whilst the shopkeeper found the correct jar, screwed the lid off, poured an amount into the silver pan of the scales, made adjustments and then poured the contents into a cone bag or later a square paper bag, was magical.
Just a little of the range were; Black Jacks, Fruit Salads, Licquorice Root, Flying Saucers, Hubba Bubba bubble gum, Little Imps, Cherry Lips, Love Hearts, Victory V Lozenges, aniseed balls, Sports Mixture, sweet cigarettes, Camel brand chocolate cigarettes, gob stoppers, sherbet dips, Lucky Bags. Riley’s Chocolate Toffee Rolls, Refreshers, parma violets, bananas, shrimps, sherbert fountains, walnut whips, cinder toffee, treacle toffee lollies in silver tart trays, toffee apples, Smith’s crisps with little blue twisted bags of salt, Sunpat raisins, pear drops, lemon drops, acid drops, cough candy, mint humbugs, rock, sherbet lemons, dolly mixtures, allsorts and jelly babies. I am sure that I have probably missed out your favourites. You left the shop with your little bag and all was right with the world. Apparently there was ether in the Victory V lozenges and there was an enforced change of recipe and they were never the same again. For those who are uninitiated, licquorice root was the actual root of a plant. It was a yellow colour and when chewed it gave off a strong licquorice taste mixed with woody splinters. It was definitely an acquired taste and the woody residue had to be spat into the bins.
The shop also sold comics and there were Superhero ones from the USA. I enjoyed the stories, but what always fascinated me were the adverts. I remember X-Ray glasses, sea monkeys. Apparently sea monkeys were some sort of brine shrimp that were in suspended animation when dried, but came back to life when poured into a jar of water. Of course the fact that we couldn’t buy what American children could, made them even more desirable. When you were really flush you may have left with lollies and a comic.
If for some reason the shop was closed there were a couple of coin operated dispensing machines. One would dispense mint chewing gum in packets and another bubble gum balls. You put your penny in, waited for it to drop, turned the handle and listened for the gum to drop. If you were really lucky, you may find two when you opened the door to the drawer. On those days your state of bliss knew no boundaries.
As I have said before, I was in Mr. Kelly’s Year 4 class and I am sure the class size was well into the forties. He was a middle aged man, though all teachers seemed ancient to me. He wasn’t particularly tall. I seem to remember Mr. Woods being tall though, and he had yellow stains on the fingers of his right hand. I remember him being asked whether it was from smoking and he denied this. He claimed it was from cutting apples at lunch time. We were naïve then, but I don’t think any of us fell for that. His class was very orderly and we sat in pairs in rows, all facing the front in a room with bare wooden floorboards and large windows down one side. The top windows could be opened only by using the long window pole that hooked onto a ring and allowed the top window to be pulled forward, hinged from the bottom, to let in air. Thick central heating pipes ran around the wall under the windows. Occasionally he would be frustrated and I well remember his catch phrase, ‘Angels and Ministers of Grace Defend Us!’ I can only assume that he was a catholic.
At this time we used dip pens, they were wooded, pencil shaped handles with a metal band that a nib would slide into. They were not decorative, but were functional. There was a small porcelain pot that fitted into a hole in the top of each desk and the pen could be dipped into the pot through the hole. The ink was in the pots and was a dried ink that had to be dissolved in water. There were ink monitors then, and it was their task to make sure that ink wells were kept topped up. Blotting paper was issued, but only in small squares. The paper would soak up excess ink on the page to avoid smudging when pages were turned or your hand brushed it. Some children had wonderful copybook writing, named after handwriting books where we would copy text from the line above. We had dotted third pages and used cursive handwriting. Stars were given for good work and we craved them and if the work was exceptional and gold star might be forthcoming. There were star charts and charts for spelling and tables.
The pens did have other uses and we loved to throw then like darts into the wooden floor. They would stick in and swing backwards and forwards on the long nib stuck into the floor. Of course we only did this when Mr. Kelly was out of the room. The other joy was soaking blotting paper in ink, rolling it into a soggy ball and flicking it at other children in the class. We were a horrible lot! Now I know people claim girls’ pigtails used to be dipped in ink wells, but I have no memory of that. I do remember a girl having gum in her hair and it having to be cut out, and I do remember one poor girl asking Mr. Kelly if she could go to the toilet. He said no and she had to wait for the break. Unfortunately she couldn’t, and a wet accident was the result. Mr. Kelly was quite upset and it did bring a more lenient ‘Loo’ policy from then on. There were also a fairly regular number of children sick and this was dealt with by the caretaker bringing a bucket with sawdust and eventually removing it.
Towards the end of this year there was a major change to school and that was the introduction of ball point pens. These were coloured plastic affairs, streamlined shaped to taper off at both ends and fatter in the middle. These made life simpler, but with the coming of progress something was lost.