The way we shopped recalled by Reminiscence Group

THE Garioch Reminiscence and Reading Group held their March meeting at the Inverurie Community Centre on Friday (March 22).

The subject of the discussion was “Where have all the old shops gone?” which certainly stirred up a host of memories of the many different shops that once traded in the town, such as wee “Johnny Aathings” which sold everything from groceries to knitting patterns. There a housewife could take along her own jar to be filled with syrup or treacle, very often from a drum that stood alongside the paraffin drum in the back shop.

These wee shops, especially ones in country villages, were a cornucopia of delights where the shopkeeper sold the local paper, novels, comics, writing materials, wool, needles, alongside groceries and bakery, in fact anything that could be sold at a profit. They were the gathering place and gossip centre of the village. If the owner didn’t have what you wanted in stock, he would phone his wholesaler and have it delivered, that way they seldom lost a customer. Most had vans that toured the countryside selling to the farm and estate houses on a scheduled run so everyone new exactly when the grocer, baker or fishman was going to call. At times a barter system took place with the cottar wife exchanging eggs, potatoes and vegetables for flour and household goods. These “vanmen” also carried news of local events from place to place, a very useful services in the days before there was a phone in every house.

In the larger towns the shops were more sophisticated and upmarket with a wider customer base and greater range of goods. The largest shop in most towns was the Co-Op and was popular because twice a year it handed out a dividend to customers. Most people of a certain age can still remember their “co-op number”. In Inverurie the queue to receive this bonus stretched well down the street, and often divvy-day meant a new pair of shoes for one of the family or some other article of clothing which was always much needed and would enter the line of “hand-me-downs”.

These shops will never return, unable to match the buying power of the supermarkets, but memories of them will last forever. The next meeting will be on Friday, April 19.