A life on the Tick
I thought I would share a few more of my memories with you.
Life on the ‘Tick’ or the ‘Never never’
When I was a lad in the fifties Whitsun was the second highest event after Christmas, I came from a large family but all of us who were at school would be kitted out with a new school uniform, when I say uniform this would consist of new trousers (short or long according to age) a new shirt and if the budget allowed new shoes, the budget never stretched to the posh blazers with the school badge on that some of my friends would wear, the girls would have new school Summer dresses and again, if funds allowed, new shoes.
To kit out at least six children (the others would be too young or too old) cost an arm and a leg, so my mum got vouchers from either the Provident or Shopacheck, this was a way of spreading the cost over a few months until perhaps November when she would do the same again for Christmas, it was a permanent roller coaster of debt.
Everything in those days was on the tick or the ‘Never never’, the grocery my Mum bought from Monday onwards was mostly bought on tick from Bagley’s in Baskerville road, I, or my siblings would be sent round with a note for twenty embassy tipped, this is why I sometimes get annoyed when I see old photos on Facebook, and people comment that they look poor but can still afford cigarettes, my mum never asked for anything, she fed us before herself and often went without herself, so cigarettes were her only vice, she needed them just to get through the week sometimes, they were my mums paracetamol of the day, as for selling them to kids, well, they weren’t so strict in those days, I reckon that’s why most kids were small back then, pulling on those park drive tipped down Steve Rowes entry before we went to school, or sharing one of my mums lipstick stained ‘dog-ends’.
Poor Mr Bagley never actually got his money, don’t get me wrong – My mother, like most families on the estate would make sure that every Friday night the tick was paid off, but come Monday morning it would start all over again, old Mr Bagley kept most of the kids on Sion hill fed , one way or another.
The TV was on the never never as well, Mum would rent it from Russell’s in Coventry street, to pay the rent there was a meter fitted to the back which took one shilling coins, in all fairness, when they came to empty it if there was more than the rent they would give the excess back, a bit of a bonus for mum!
In a way, the gas was also on the tick, My dear old mum, when hard pressed would get the coal hammer and a top off the sterilised milk, she would expertly flatten the top until the size of a shilling piece, then it just dropped into the meter perfectly, she only did this because a kind hearted chap from the estate would empty the meter for the Gas board, his name was Edgar Morris, he would give my mum a mild ticking off as he emptied the coins interspersed with milk bottle tops onto the table, but there was always a little bit over, ten shilling in those days would feed us all for a couple of days, the only thing she had to worry about was if Edgar was ill and someone else had to empty it. I can’t ever remember my mother trying the same trick with the electric though.
Most of our furniture came courtesy of the never never as well, there was a furniture store in Kidderminster called Noakes if I remember rightly, I think their shop was once in Blackwell street but then they moved to Worcester street, I can’t remember mum ever going anywhere else. We had a Formica table and chairs with a matching radiogram which took pride of place in our ‘best’ front room. My mum was so proud of that set, if anyone called she would accidently leave the lounge door wide open so the table and radiogram were in full view, if it was night-time she would accidently leave the light on lol!
Even our annual day trip came on the tick in a way, someone from the local tenants committee would come round every week starting just after Christmas, they would collect a few bob or more - depending on the size of the family- and it would go towards the daytrip in July or August to either Rhyl, Weston or Southport.
When that was out of the way it was time to join Mr Bagley’s Christmas club, this would ensure you got enough food over the festive period, he would issue the customer with a card and for every half-crown saved he would put a stamp in the square, you could then trade it in when the time was nearer, he wasn’t that daft though, this meant that he also got your trade over one of the busiest times of the year. The most expensive outlay of course was the turkey, for a family our size you needed at least a 20 pounder (10Kilo), I can’t remember where mum got ours from, but I do remember on xmas eve it would turn up from nowhere complete with feathers and sometimes the head!
When I left school in 1967 if I wanted to dress well then I had to have my suits made, there was a bespoke tailor who had a small shop in Bromsgrove street, his second name was Edwards, (same as my mum, but no relation), so, I would choose my material, he would measure me up, the suit would be ready in two or three weeks, that’s when I would start paying my half a crown or two bob a week. But it was the age of the Mod and Rocker, to be honest I was never either, I was sort of middle of the road, but I always liked to look smart so always had a collar and tie wherever I went, to get these I had to open an account at John Collier’s which was on the corner of High street and Vicar street, (where Pandora is now), I couldn’t get tick for shoes anywhere, so I had to pay cash for my winklepickers, I seem to remember a shoe shop in Worcester street called Wassel’s, but that may well be a figment of my imagination. I’m glad to say that I can’t remember ever having tick when I got married in 1973, except for the mortgage like a millstone around my neck of course.