Outside a Butcher’s shop about 50 yards from our store, there’s an old Butchers boys delivery bicycle. Takes me back to when I was 12 and worked after school, and all day Saturdays, delivering peoples grocery orders on such a bike.
The firm was called Scholes, and it annoyed Wetherfields and other grocers by displaying a sign saying ‘WE SELL FOR LESS’. They also paid the staff less. I worked every day after school, from 4pm to 6pm and all day Saturday for six shillings per week (about 30p in todays money).
Of the dozens of customers I delivered to, only two ever gave me a tip, usually tuppence. One Saturday when I arrived at the shop, the manager, Mr Robinson said “You’ve only one call today Roy. Our delivery van has used up the petrol allowance, so go to the warehouse at Prestwich, and bring some bits back, then you can go home”.
Seemed a good deal to me, although Prestwich was a good few miles away. So I pedalled from Irlams o’th Height up Bolton Rd, turned right down the steep Agecroft Brew, then flat for about two miles to the monster 1 in 6 Raincer Brew. Had to push the bike up that one. At the top about another mile to cross Bury New Rd, turned left at the Friendship Inn, another mile and left again on to Bury Old Rd. Two more miles brought me to the house Scholes used as their warehouse.
I went in and they began to bring the ‘few bits’ out to the bike. There was only a few, i.e. one 56lb Cheese. One carton of 48 cans of ‘Cow’ brand condensed milk (ask your Gran) and twenty brown 1lb bags of sugar. I had to climb onto the bike whilst two men held it, then they ran a few paces to get me started, and I wobbled away.
The return trip was level at first, until I reached Raincer Brew. I had to slow the bike with the brakes, and this went well for the first 100 yards, until the substitute wartime ‘rubber’ brake blocks wore completely out and I was virtually flying down the hill. I managed to keep upright until I reached the sharp right turn at the bottom. In spite of my banking, the front wheel hit the kerb on the canal bridge and the bike went one way and me another. I saw the cheese rolling down the road and the tins of milk scattered everywhere.
I chased the cheese and rolled it back and into the bike carrier. A passerby helped to get the bike upright, we collected the milk and sugar and he gave me a push off. I struggled to push the bike up Agecroft Brew, then it was downhill to the shop.
I was glad to get back, and about to leave to go home when ‘Robbo’ said there were only eight customer orders to deliver. He denied ever saying I could finish early, so by the time I finally reached home it was 5.30pm. A whole half hour early.