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This idea came to me when my brother Ernie and myself were talking about Barton as it was. Some of the characters of the 1920’s – 30’s that we knew came to mind and in particular some who made a living by various means, unknown today. Of course as soon as we started down that road we both said “Jim Sharpe” and the call ‘Now You Fish Buyers’. There is a photograph in a local publication which shows a white coated Jim in Soutergate selling fish from his handcart to Mrs Mitchell, ‘Taddy’ Mitchell’s mother. Jim was a cheerful man with a good line in chat and patter, Norah Mager, Cressey as was, remembers him telling her mother, in an almost apologetic tone of voice, “Sorry, Gertie, but it’s fourpence a pound today” Why apologetic? Because fourpence was fourpence and enough fish for a large family would cost, money was scarce and Jim knew it. I can remember him having his cart on the White Swan frontage on a Good Friday, he had a good sized halibut on it and did a fair trade. His fish came in on the train, as it did for ‘Fish’ Bennett’s shop in George Street, Ernest Goodhand at Beck Hill corner and probably the eleven fish and chip shops of that time.

Some of you may remember the Cadora in Burgate near Dr. Kirk’s and the Post Office.
Jim, his wife and two children lived in one of the largish houses on Butts Road, the big ones almost opposite Queens Avenue. These houses had, maybe still have, a cellar. This, one had a gas oven in it and Mrs Sharpe used to boil shellfish on the hobs. At the weekends she would boil mushy peas in a large pancheon and Jim, in spotless, short white jacket would load his carrier cycle with a container of peas, some saucers and spoons (no plastic cartons then) and do the rounds of the public houses. I don’t know what he charged, a penny or two maybe. The first round was the Market Place area, there were five public houses within a short compass, the George Hotel, Wheatsheaf, White Lion, Volunteers Arms and the Blue Bell. He had arranged for his daughter, Zena, assisted by Norah Cressey, to bring the pram with a further supply of peas, saucers etc. To the passage near Milson’s shop and there an exchange took place. Dirty container and pots back to wash and await the next call, this one and others at home since the Waterside and Fleetgate pubs, and the Red Lion were dealt with by cycle. By the way, Keith, his little lad, was in the pram on these ventures.

Another enterprise was that at Barton Fair Jim would rent space for a stall from the fair people and his chum, Norman ‘Bodge’ Hopper, wearing a top hat, would parade up and down behind a net barrier and the lucky punters would pay to throw coconut shy type wooden balls at the hat. Succeed and a coconut was the prize. The ’Kipper’ lady had a small front room shop in Fleetgate about where Clipsons hairdressers were situated. She always got her kippers on the train and customers had to wait until she fetched them and was good and ready to serve them.

Was she a Lawtey? I was at school with Bill Lawtey, 1925-30 and we always called him ‘Kipper’ Lawtey. Another fishy venture was that of George Mager who had a small boat, which he sailed to the Pall sands where he netted shrimps. These he boiled on his way back to Barrow Haven or to the creek at Spencer’s brickyard, the one used by Earles clayships. These were sold along
the banks and in Barton. His family was pressed into service here. My Grandmother used to send someone with sixpence and a large bowl and the fresh shrimps were much enjoyed.
Another man brought cockles and mussels around in a pony and trap. Householders would buy a ‘skep’ full, a largish round wooden container. Grandfather used to put them into a bucket with some pearl barley, which cleansed them if left overnight. Then into a well-used bucket and onto the kitchen fire to boil, not to everyone’s delight I can tell you! When he thought they were boiling nicely he would give them a good stir with the poker and when they opened up and were cooked to his satisfaction he would drain them, take the ‘fringe’ off and enjoy them. My wife’s father did the same with cockles from the same vendor. Phew! Wilf Welch had a vegetable round using a pony and cart and ‘Tatie’ Tom (West) could be relied on for a bag of spuds when needed. Little Jimmy Harrison ran errands from the Railway Station to the shops and the like. I wonder if he took fish from the trains to the fish and chip shops like Gertie West’s and the Miss Brown’s on Pasture Road. Occasionally, on a fine day, the very distinctive hurdy gurdy music could he heard. This came from what looked like a piano on large wheels, the operator turned a handle at the correct speed and music rolls inside provided the tune. This probably came from Hull where the machines could be hired and the chancer, because it was a chance whether he made a bob or two or not, would take it to the ferry dray it up the ramp and along the pier then maybe go to the villages or take the guards van to Barton. I suppose it all depended if he thought he would cover his costs and make a few shillings on the day.

Charles Watkinson

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