Mr Rose’s shop

Mr Rose had a shop on Albany Highway that was a throwback to another age. An age before supermarkets and pre-packaged stuff. He ran a shop which bought everything in bulk and he dispensed it into brown paper bags to the orders of the customers. It was an old shop with little windows and an old wooden counter and an old Mr Rose behind the counter. As I remember it was just over the road from a small shop which I think was a real estate agency or something similar. In later years there was a sign that said: Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd.

I used to go shopping with my Mum and was fascinated by the shop. There was a long and high wooden counter, behind which Mr Rose presided over proceedings. On the counter was a pile of brown paper bags of different sizes, and brown paper wrapping paper. And there was a set of scales. From the rafters hung a dispenser from which Mr Rose pulled string when he wrapped the parcels he sold. Behind him against the wall was a row of bins in which there were bags of the various things that he sold – sugar, flour, oats, and so on. Each of them had a tin scoop of just the right size for that particular product. There were also shelves further into the shop that had a collection of goods that now would be in a museum. Tilly lanterns and mantles, hurricane lanterns, packets of DDT, bottles of methylated spirits, kerosene, wicks for wick stoves, bottles of fly spray and the tin sprayers …

Mum would come in and greet Mr Rose.

‘Good morning, Mr Rose’ in her Dutch English.

‘Morning Mrs Schultink.’

‘One pound of sugar, please’

Mr Rose would get the right size brown paper bag, open it up with a very practised hand, get the right scoop from the right bag and put two scoops of sugar in the bag. He would then thump the bag on counter a couple of times to settle the sugar, and put it on the scales. If he was out a little either way he would make adjustments, but as I remember he was pretty close. He knew the size of the scoops and had done it so many times. Then he would fold the top of the bag, again with a practiced hand, pull out just the right length of string, and with a neat little manoeuvre break the string at just the right point and wrap it round that bag of sugar so that it formed a cross, going both along the bag and across the bag. I was fascinated by how he did that and used to watch very carefully to learn how to break a piece of string like that. But his movement was too practised and quick and I never did work it out.

He would then hand the bag to Mum, who would put it in the pram.

‘Here you are, Mrs Schultink’

‘Thank you. Two pounds of flour, please’.

And the whole process would start again. Talking this over with mum years later she said that it was an interesting shop, but that the whole process was a painfully slow way of going shopping. She was very glad to see the advent of pre-packaged goods and supermarkets!

Once when I was bit older she sent me to the shop to buy some fly spray. Not the pressure packs you have now, but a bottle of fly spray you put in one of the tin fly sprayers that consisted of a reservoir with a venturi tube and a pump which blew air over the venturis which would cause the liquid to come out as a spray. For some reason the message got garbled somewhere and I came back with a packet of DDT! So mum had to take it back the next time she went shopping and change it for a bottle of fly spray. DDT is now, of course, banned.

© Copyright Willem Schultink