Sunday, July 15, 2012


In the forties and fifties, our equivalent of a supermarket was the Coop, or, in full, the Cooperative Wholesale Society (CWS). It was just across the road from our house, and my mum used to go there once a week for her staple groceries. A bonus for her was the "divi", a percentage of the cost of sales given back to the customer at regular intervals. That divi bought for me, for example, my first grammar school blazer.
I often went with my mum to the Co op, partly to help carry the stuff home, but mostly to enjoy the "Cash Railway System", a mechanical marvel, suspended from the ceiling. It worked (I think) like this: the customer's money was put into the container, the shop assistant pulled the handle and the container shot along the rail and out of sight through a hole in the wall. Moments later it came back again with the customer's change.
Not only was it a spectacular piece of kit, the sort of mechanical gizmo that made a boy want to upgrade his Meccano set, but it also made a most satisfying whirring noise. My fascination with the cash railway machine (now, alas, long gone) was eventually replaced by a fascination with girls (now, alas, equally long gone). At least girls are still around, and if you know how to pull the chain, you can still get a result (they tell me). Look at this picture. Did you ever see anything quite so sexy?


Anonymous said...

In "Under Milk Wood", the author Dylan Thomas has Mr Mog Edwards, a shopkeeper, propose to his beloved Myfanwy Price with the following words,"Come to my emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires".
Obviously Mog was unable to completely discard his fascination with this mechanical marvel on subsequently discovering an alternative.

Jake Allsop said...

Thank you for this.