Life in Brixham in the late 1960’s was a wonderful time of my life as a young lad, aged 10, most of the summer school holidays I spent with my Mothers dear Sister, Doreen, her husband Les and their two children, David 13 and Sandra 11, Simon their poodle and my dog Penny, she was a mutt and a half, always by my side, my parents were struggling over many things including who would look after me whilst my Dad worked a twelve hour night shift and Mum split hours between being milk woman, part time shop keeper and waitress at the Fish & Chip Takeaway & Eat in Cafe down toward the town, living in Drew Street was certainly lively, the street constantly appeared to be on the move, cars would always park on the pavement and a steady stream of customers would make the shop door bell ting, the street was the main vehicular artery direct from the Brixham fishing port and town centre, on wards up into St Marys square, consisting of a small hub of retailers which included the Post Office, Newsagent, General “Spar” store, Ironmongers, Sweet shop, two public houses, each as different as chalk and cheese, as of the punters, a Butchers and the renowned St Marys Bakery. Each of these establishments owned by a character charming or otherwise, made of their own means and others’, all working under the shadow of the Norman built Church of St Mary The Virgin which still stands and rings today when the bells are tolled, proudly she dominates the square, facing west where the road then furthers on toward the affluent area of Hill Head and down to Kingswear and the River Dart beyond.
Drew street its self was a tiny community, it was my stomping ground, as were the limits of my paper round, down to the end of Greenswood road and up toward Milton street, this included the public house “The Three Elms”, Lears Coal delivery, Mr & Mrs Reeves’ small family cottage industry which baked bread, made fancy cakes and pastries and just a few doors up on the right was number 37, “Drew Street Dairy” my summer home, it held so many memories, some good, some not so.
The shop itself had a double frontage similar to Arkwrights, as featured on BBC TV, a large counter stood inside to the right of the door, at eye level I had to stand on toes to see over, it dominated the shop space, and the floor behind was raised so that who ever was actually keeping shop looked down onto the customer, the whole floor space was no bigger than your average sitting room, nothing but a hairs width between stalls and shelves, every available space was covered with items for sale, as the shop was originally a dairy, items such as were a main seller, but, as with time and progress, fruit and veg, sweets, cigarettes and even firelighters were sold, and much to the annoyance of Mrs Lear, Smokeless coal, an element far safer for the environment then, steadily available in 28 & 56lb bags, they stood by the side of the entrance, much cheaper of course and with delivery available, gone now were the days of Paraffin and oil heaters and having to take your own steel containers down to Mr Kendrick to be refilled.
Adjacent to the shop stood a small piece of rough ground, access was between a pair of tall stone pillars and the ground was of scrub and stone, often we played King against the back wall or just booted about an old semi inflated ball for hours on end, taking care not to damage the two family cars, one a Ford Anglia, banana yellow and white and a red Triumph Herald, both had, in this day an age, registrations probably worth a mint, many a time during the day someone would shout out “if you hit one of those cars, your Dad will “have you”” (yeah yeah right)! off to the side, was the gate to the rear of the dairy store and the entrance to the family home was off the other side through the lean too kitchen, both ways accessed off a concrete yard which often reeked of strong bleach, this cleansing routine was frequent, it was to remove the stains of many a heavy foot traipsing through milk and and the weathered grime and damp with milk crates stacked high, to the left was a side lean, stacks of Corona Soft fizzy drinks bottles, each one with a golden thru’pence deposit on it, (many a time I took them back round to the shop and got my monies worth), off to the right stood a stone barn with a twisted door in a rotten wooden frame, the inside, we were led to believe was haunted, well, as a child ones mind and psyche could be and was easily scarred, and admission to the barn was only if escorted by a n other, looking back, I do believe now it was probably for safety reasons as the first floor was off limits, (or so *they* thought, as we spent many a happy hour leaping over the rotting boards).
Much of the stored produce was of worth and freshness was paramount, we had to pass the large crates of fresh eggs and cream and wire milk crates piled high, tip toeing toward the darkened end of the barn, off to the right was a small dark alcove which stank of aged damp, where we, that is my cousins and myself would set up camp, a small candle on a saucer was the only source of light, quite a dangerous item if not careful, we were young, fear was not on our agenda, we sat on wet cushions and ate white bread and tomato sauce sandwiches and yesterdays cakes from “Ma” Reeves, previously having loitered outside the shop peering into the window and over the small gingham curtain waiting for a “curled” finger to beckon us in and let us pick our choice of the days end products which had not sold, we hid behind an old blanket hanging from the beams making plans of our adventures which extended daily way out into the countryside and down to a secluded beach called Mansands, “our world” at the time consisted of nothing greater than a radius of two miles, we were the luckiest kids alive.
Fresh air and walking miles kept us fit, and bought us home early many an evening to a fully cooked meal, even in the height of summer. Of course, my Mum was here, there and about, either behind the counter with her sister, or delivering the milk on what was known as “number two round”, carting about each crate holding twenty glass pint bottles, climbing the many flights of steps to properties down around the harbour area, and of course collecting money. I would see Dad occasionally, but, only if I had returned from playing early before he headed off to the factory. Three evenings a week Mum came home stinking of cooking fat, but, often with the added bonus of a newspaper full of chips, oh the excitement of a surprise late night supper.
We as kids were self maintaining, doing exactly what we said we were going to do or go where we intended, and return at the time we said we would, we were then living in an innocent era where parents would not worry too much about us. Number 37 was always a hive of industry, a young girl who lived opposite the shop was employed part time to fill shelves or do the dishes after we were fed, Les would often return home from The Long Bar in town with his sorrows erred and slightly squiffy after losing Euchre to the landlady, *she* was a bone of contention, Doreen was a tough cookie, she had to be, to be married to Les, but, and many times felt threatened by this larger than life “Mid West Saloon” character, we would often sit *tight lipped* whilst the two of them argued or watch her throw his dinner into the bin, funniest thing I remember, was him being crowned with half a dozen fresh eggs, and in a drunken stupor replying, “oh duck, look what you have gone and done now”. Hard earned money being squandered over a pack of cards was bound to cause problems, yet, this was all part and parcel of the day to day running of the household, (I remember in later years hearing my Aunt shouting to him “you should not have married me if you knew that I would steal the lose change out of your drunken pockets”) we just sat around the fully dressed dinner table and got on with it, even with all this drama we still all ate as a family.
Uncle Les was up before the crack of dawn every morning, often he would awaken empty stomached, four and five a.m. starts he got into his old red wagon, and headed toward the milk distribution depot, passing the bakery en-route, always noticing a dim light burning at the rear of the property, there too were other people up early ready to make a living, life was hard, but, you never heard anyone complain, they just got on with it, first port of call on his rounds was the Pontins “Dolphin” holiday camp kitchen, milk safely delivered and in the cooler and empty crates on his wagon, he would then reward himself a smile as he munched into his fully loaded bacon and egg sandwich, butter steadily oozing from the soaked bread and swigging the finest Guernsey milk from a *Goldtop* bottle.
To be continued …