I visited a modern store, and was quite surprised to see,
How the grocery trade has changed, from the way it used to be.
In Nineteen Thirty Seven, I was apprenticed to that trade.
There was such a lot to learn, before I made the grade.
I had to carry two hundredweight, of sugar on my back.
The trick, was to rest it on a box, and not to split the sack.
It was really much too heavy, for a little lad like me.
I was only fourteen, and not more than four foot three.
From the store room, to the shop, were three high steps to climb.
I'd stop to rest my trembling legs, on each step every time.
A wooden box was waiting, behind the counter near the scales.
That we only used when packing, not for grocery sales.
Once the sack was on the box, the contents had to be,
In one or two pound paper bags, weighed up carefully.
The tops were folded and tucked in, in a special way.
No sticky labels or sealing tape, as are used today.
Some things we didn't put in bags, we had to wrap them flat,
Rice, and fresh ground coffee, some more difficult than that.
To wrap some sugars in that way takes a bit of skill,
They shouldn't leak, but badly done, they obviously will.
Another job that took some practice was filling bags with tea.
A quarter pound would not go in, if not done properly.
Ground spices, such as cinnamon, and pepper, black or white,
Were packed in paper cones we made, they did the job all right.
With tail turned over and top tucked in, to form a leak proof lid,
You might expect the spice to spill,
in fact it seldom did.
I had to learn to blend and pack, many different sorts of tea.
Whilst blending, tea dust filled the air, so I could hardly see.
Every morning, coffee beans, I would blend and roast,
To weigh it up and grind it, was the job I liked the most.
The beautiful aroma would pervade the store,
And often tempt a passer -by, then I had to grind some more.
While it was being roasted, it smelt lovely in the town.
The smoking beans stung my eyes, and turned from green to brown.
Our coffee came from Kenya, Costa Rica, and Mysore,
They were the beans I used to blend, in the years before the war.
In a fixture reaching to the floor, polished neat and nice,
Was a row of little drawers, in each a different spice
I was weighing up some pepper, at a nearby set of scales,
My Boss's mother came along, (full of moans and wails),
She said " Baker!! I've told you before,
You must always close this drawer",
She gave the drawer a mighty kick,
And suddenly the air was thick,
With clouds of pepper dust, which caused,
Her to sneeze for minutes without pause
There was a bank of storage shelves, at the far end of the shop,
Where all the jellies used to be, up on the very top.
All sorts of makes and flavours, two dozen in each pack.
I saw the ones I wanted, at the bottom of a stack.
I piled the top ones. on the steps, one pack at a time,
Then brought down to the counter, a pack of Rowntree's lime.
Before I'd time to climb the steps, and stow the packs away,
The Boss's mum came fussing 'round, and had to have her say,
"Baker ! Have you done with these? Iíve told you before"
"You should never leave these steps standing near this door".
She gave them a push, then a loud shout,
As the boxes of jellies, came falling about.
She was standing, of course, in just the right spot,
So when they descended, she copped the whole lot,
Such happy times, alas too few,
We had a good laugh, well, wouldn't
you too ?
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