The good old days of the butcher, the baker and the local grocer

When my mum, who is now in her 90’s, married and moved into the house she lived in for 70 years; the street was bustling.

The bus came past her house, the butcher’s shop was at one end of the street alongside a sweet shop and a hairdressers. Up the other end, still within short walking distance, there was a grocery store, a little like the IGA’s nowadays. It carried all the general essentials, bread, milk, custard powder, toilet paper, washing powder.

Mum would leave a list with the grocer and once a week he would deliver them in his van, come inside and unpack them onto the cupboard for her.

The milkman came in the back door in the mornings and put the bottles on the sink for our breakfast. (He may have even put them in the fridge, but I can’t be sure). This was before we woke up and many times I would be greeted by the milkie as I was taking an early morning toilet trip. We were very trusting in those days.

The bread was delivered back when I was little by a horse and cart, and nothing was better than getting home from school and being able to plunge my fingers into the still warm bread and savour the softness within.

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For fresh fruit and vegetables, they would grow them in the backyard or barter the almonds from their trees, or eggs from their chickens for veggies from the neighbours.

When I was older, I was allowed to walk up to the butcher’s to get the chops or mince for tea. The butcher knew my name, and while I was waiting for him to choose a lump of meat and saw up the chops, I would scuffle my feet in the sawdust on the floor and munch on my bit of bung fritz, which was always on the counter for the local kids.

Fast forward to around the 1970s and by then the buses were no longer coming past the house, or even up the corner, they were quite a long walk away up on the main roads.

The sweet shop was gone, the butcher’s shop demolished and in its place a small park dedicated to a local identity. The milkman and Baker no longer delivered.

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By the time my children went down to their nanna’s to visit,
all the shops at one end of the street were derelict, and a few years later a big mansion was built, filling up the entire block.

The grocery store was now just a normal deli where you could get ice cream and bread and milk. My kids when they were big enough were allowed to walk down to the shop to get a pie or pasty for lunch and maybe a sticky bun. Mum would get her paper and magazines there, and she could still post a letter at the post box.

In the last few years that my mum lived in the street, the deli had closed, and even the post box was moved so far away that she could no longer walk to post her letters.

Mum was isolated in the middle of suburbia. She had to get a taxi to the hairdressers and the doctors, and we had to buy her groceries for her. If she ran out of anything during the week, she had to make do.

The big supermarkets have decimated the number of general and convenience stores in the suburbs, and unless you have a car, life must be very hard for some people, especially the elderly.

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We are very lucky in that we live in a small country town not far from the city. We have a general store and takeaway, baker, hairdresser, church, pub and post office all within walking distance to our house. A little bit like the olden days when we were kids living in suburban Adelaide.

Although the bus service is non-existent, we have no mains water or street lights; we still feel more connected to our community than most people who live 30 minutes away in the city.

Do you remember those safe, trusting and friendly days? Are you still lucky enough to live in a suburb like that?