'That Reminds Me' - Shopping For Memories

What do you remember about first going to the shops as a child?
What’s the betting it has got to do with sweets?!

Let’s start with WHERE you went shopping and WHO you went shopping with. For now we will concentrate on the everyday rather than special shopping trips for things like clothes (that will come later!)

Most people’s earliest memories of going shopping will be in the company of an adult or an older sibling. If you were sent on your own, perhaps you can remember how old (or young) you were?

Before the advent of out-of-town supermarkets, you would find a line-up of different shops in most localities.  A butcher, a baker, a grocer, a (separate) greengrocer, and if you were lucky, a fishmonger with a fish and chip shop.  In all likelihood there would also be a chemist, a newsagent’s, a post-office and one of those hardware shops where you could buy individual nails and screws!  There may have been a hairdresser’s and a shoe-mender too.

How many of these old shops and their names can you recall? Did you have a favourite? What was it and why?

If you didn’t live conveniently close to a local High Street or shopping parade, perhaps you remember a corner shop – the kind that sold pretty much everything? Or perhaps you were visited by a travelling shop – a big old van on wheels. If you shopped at the Co-op (or got your milk delivered by their dairy) you might have had a dividend number and chances are you still remember it!

Before the advent of self-service stores, fewer goods were pre-packed and customers had to wait in a queue for cheese, bacon and even tea and sugar to be weighed out.  Do you remember other things being sold loose?

There was no such thing as on-line shopping of course. But you could sometimes place a weekly order with a local grocery store, which you either collected yourself or possibly had delivered.

Perhaps there was a shop on your way to or from school where you would go to buy sweets? Can you remember which your favourites were and how much they cost? How much pocket money did you have to spend? Was there something else you looked forward to buying – a comic perhaps? Did you return empty bottles and get some money back?

For further fun and games: Compile a shopping list with some of the old brand names you remember. If you are playing with someone see you can compare and see whether you know what the products are (or were).
This can be quite a test if you are from different age groups or different parts of the country!

YOUR CHALLENGE (Should you choose to accept it…)

Is to turn one of your shopping memories into a simple cartoon strip (or a single cartoon if you prefer).  It’s not an art competition, so stick people are fine!

If you are working with someone else you might want to have a go at drawing their story, following their instructions as you go and perhaps they can do the same for you. It’s a good exercise in listening to and describing detail.

Don’t forget to add the end result to your scrapbooks or memory boxes.

Here’s is an example of a shopping story cartoon – can you guess the story behind it?

“At the end of every working week my dad would splash some of his hard-earned cash on some cigarettes for himself and a box of chocolates for my mum. One Saturday my older brother was entrusted with the job of going to the shop to fetch these and I went with him.  On the way he decided to show off and amuse me by tossing dad’s money in the air to see which side it came down. (I think it was a two shilling piece.)  At first I didn’t believe him when he said it had disappeared. But then we saw the drain and we knew we were in trouble!   I can still remember exactly where it happened.”
Provided by Ruth Gillan.

If you have anything you’d like to share with us, and are happy for us to post onto this page, and our social media pages – please email them over to sam@activlives.org.uk.

We’d love to hear from you, and make this a fun community activity with loads of people taking part and sharing their stories, photos, comics – and anything else!


  1. Which famous cigarette brand was once manufactured in Ipswich?
  2. What is the name of the TV comedy series starring Ronnie Barker that is set in a corner shop?
  3. When did decimal coinage replace £sd?
  4. How many sides did the old three-penny bit have?
  5. Once upon a time the name of Corona stood for something much more popular than it is ever going to again. What was it? (Not beer in this instance.)
  6. Which tea company first added collectable picture cards to its packs (in 1954)?
  7. Word search: How many sweets can you find in the text below?

It had been a lovely sunny weekend. Mum was opening a tin of fruit salad to go with the Wall’s ice-cream for tea when she caught sight of the cat creeping towards the (bright pink) shrimp-paste sandwiches. “Oi” she cried, flicking a tea towel at the offending moggy, which was all black. “Jack, come and get that animal out of here! And then take the tea and milk tray through to the sitting room please.” Jack, aged 12, was more interested in the cola bottle he was trying to open. He thought tea was for girls. “Go and call the others please,” mum said. Reluctantly, Jack put down his comic and stopped reading about flying saucers. Dad was outside showing off the new family car to Jack’s Aunty Betty. “It’s got everything that wagon” he was saying, “wheels have got special trims.” “Tea’s ready” Jack told them. Knowing his wife wouldn’t want to be kept waiting, Dad took his sister-in-law’s arm and began to usher Bet inside…”

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