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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Greengrocers and fruiterers in
1940s war-time and afterwards

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Signs outside shops

It was quite usual to have a sign or symbol outside the shop indicating to the passing public what the shopkeeper's trade was. At our greengrocers, Waltons, it was a large bunch of plaster bananas hanging at maybe 10 to 15 feet above the pavement. I had been told that these were bananas but of course I hadn't ever seen a real banana at that time. When I eventually did see one, I was very, very disappointed to find that it was only about 5 or 6 inches long rather than the two or three foot plaster version.

Richard Ouston

I only remember one green­grocers from when I was growing up in Edgware in the 1940s. It was called Waltons and was next to Edgware tube station. All I ever remember my mother buying there were potatoes, although I suppose she would have bought other seasonal vegetables and fruit. The potatoes were weighed out for each customer using the 'balance' type of scales with heavy weights on one side and a large dusty scoop on the other. The potatoes were then tipped into a brown paper bag.

The door of the greengrocers was always open and it was always draughty inside. It was also scruffy because the the potatoes, carrots and other vegetables came straight out of the ground unwashed and unbagged in rough wooden crates. Layers of dust seemed to cover everywhere.

North London greengrocers shop, probably late 1940s or possibly early 1950s

Greengrocers, probably late 1940s or possibly early 1950s: a special display for the Empire Window Dressing Competition. The shop was in Finsbury Park, north London and belonged to Roy Eustance. The photo is courtesy of his relative Viv Nunn.

Placard documeting the existence of the British Empire

Placard showing the purpose of the display, which helps with the dating of the photos. Detail from the above photo.

1940s placard on the streets of London advertising Canadian apples

Placard advertising Canadian apples carries reminiscences of the Canadian merchant seamen who risked their lives bringing in apples for children during World War II. Detail from the above photo.

This display is worth examining in some detail because it is so different from anything that I ever saw in wartime. In fact that is how it can be dated to after the war when the seas had become safe for merchant seamen to bring in more than our basic necessities. Yet it would not have been very much after the war because the British Empire was gradually dismantled after that.

The imported goods that would never have been seen on display in wartime Britain are the grapes and bananas. Nevertheless, the display show the continuing shortages in that so much of it is made up of British seasonal goods, particularly apples and pears.

The display prices are clearly marked in the old money of pounds, shillings and pence.

1940s London greengrocers display showing the propensity of seasonal goods and the shillings and pence prices

Another detail from the above photo, showing the propensity of apples and pears, ie home grown produce with prices marked in the old money of shillings and pence. Another indication of the general shortages is the notice suggesting that customers simply need to ask in order to buy bananas. Only the bananas at the back and the grapes are imported.

Gas lamp outside a London shop in the 1940s, a left-over from former times

The old gas lamps outside the shop are still in evidence from the above photo. They were almost certainly there in the early 1900s photograph of the same shop but were then obscured by blinds.

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.