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The Day Before Yesterday: 20 – The Gaily Painted Cart

Gladys Schofield recalls the arrival of the icecream men.

To read earlier chapters of Gladys’s autobiography please click on The Day Before Yesterday in the menu on this page.

There were plenty of newspapers with new ones starting up all the time. We only got one on Saturdays and Sundays as we couldn't afford them all week.

But once again an advertisement came through the letterbox. A newspaper was starting up, and as a gimmick to draw customers you could send in up to three of your children's names and if any one of these names were published on any day, they received a present. All you did was cut the published name out of the paper and your address.

We asked Dad if he would please take the paper and send our names in. In the end he said, "I will take it for a month and if none of your names are published in that time, we will cancel it.” Names were in the paper daily but never ours, and at the end of the month Dad kept to his word and cancelled.

The very next day as I called on a friend on my way to school, her mum said, "Have you chosen your present Love? Your name was in the paper today."

"Oh no,” I said, "Dad cancelled it yesterday.”

"Take ours," her mum said, "you can't miss out now."

So I did this and got a lovely chubby umbrella with a carving of a dog's head for a handle. It was almost as big as a grown-up’s. In fact Dorothy borrowed it one stormy day, and the wind blew it inside out and ruined it.

I would be eleven when we were told at school to assemble in the playground. All the pupils crowded there and I thought there must be a fire drill, but no, we were told to look at the sky. Travelling in front of us was a large airship. R101 was printed on the side. It crashed and all were killed just one week later somewhere on the continent.

Another interesting thing in my life happened on my way home from school one day. We saw a gaily painted cart ahead. It could not be the milkman as we couldn't see churns sitting there. This cart was pulled by a horse, and we thought it would look more at home in a carnival than on its own heading up to a row of houses, winding around the top of this road. Four red-and-white posts held a roof over this contraption.

So curiosity got the better of us and we followed him. He stopped his cart when he reached the first group of houses and ringing a bell shouted, "Ice cream."

We were surprised when we saw what he did next. He was filling small cones with his ice cream and they cost one half penny for a small one and one penny for a large cone. Adults bought big wafers for tuppence, and only the one type of ice cream was sold at first with no added flavourings.

It was a novelty to get this anyway, so who wanted anything else? The ice cream men were mainly Italian.

Not long after this another one started up. He had a cart, hand-pulled or pushed whichever was easier. It had big shafts, quite a deep body and three to four feet long. On one side was written the words in yellow paint 'Stop me and buy one'.

He usually came just after tea and sold an earlier version of the ice on a stick, only this had no stick. The fruity flavoured ice was wrapped in cellophane. You opened the end and sucked the fruity mixture through this way. This method didn't last long, they were improving all the time now.

Baked beans found their way onto the shop shelves also. Dorothy was game to try these although they were quite expensive at first. The smallest tin was half the size of the smallest today and cost five pennies. A taste was all we got at that price. They soon had to charge less.

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