August 3rd01:30 Perambulators.
Perambulators, or to give them their normal name; ‘Prams,’ are really amazing things, they have such an extended life, I can’t think of another every-day item in most people’s homes that are used in so many different ways, as the humble pram.
You could tell how well off a family was by the size of the wheels on the pram, not only did they have very large wheels, the back wheels were bigger than the front ones, such as The Marmet, a very fine coach built affair and very expensive, or The Silver Cross, another brilliant design and very popular.
Large wheelers were for the people up Ruxbury Hill, or St Anne’s Road.
Sometimes one of theses desirable vehicles would find it’s way down to ‘Apache’ country, and be highly prized, as they were so easy to push. The large wheels also allowed a large tray to be fitted under the body, perfect for the shopping.
Chertsey was a baby factory, large families were the norm; at one time these family prams must have been new, but I can only remember old ones, a little past their best.
One pram could be used by several families, going backward and forward between them as new children arrived, no one seemed to own them, they were communal.
Eventually the plastic interior would start to crack and crumble, and they would start to smell—always like condensed milk for some unknown reason— and the pram would take on it’s next life, it was the perfect shape for logs, coke or anything heavy, that needed carrying any distance.
Once the coachwork had been worn beyond any safe use, it would have been stripped down for a trolley for the kids, the spring arms were perfect for holding on to when we were daring enough to hurtle down St Annes hill.
Then there was the commercial use, cheaper ones with a metal body, were prized by the muffin man, he could put a little pile of glowing coke in the bottom, to heat his muffins, it’s a wonder it didn’t go up in flames. He would be out for several hours in the evenings, around our streets, ringing his bell, in the same way as todays ice cream men do.
Another man would sell winkles and cockles, measured out in a pint jug, again from an old pram, not very hygienic, but no one seemed to be the worse for it, perhaps we were all immune to a bit of dirt in those days.
Of course, as these families did all their shopping in Chertsey, they were perfect, but when Staines or even Addlestone began to have a better variety of shops; The folding push chair such as the McLaren was king, but to us kids, no way near as useful.
Eventually, just the wheels and axles were used on a plank of wood with a bit of rope to steer; Such a simple fun making device, so much better than playing alone on some computer game.