Monday, September 22, 2008
The Postal Service
Back in the 50s the Postal Service was the cheapest form of long distance communication. Telephones were expensive and uncommon - a few minutes telephone conversation might cost four times the cost of sending a letter. Nowadays those relative costs have been reversed.
The General Post Office, built in the 1930s, has changed little externally. The main entrance led to a public area on the left with counter stations where one could buy stamps, postal orders, pay for parcels etc. The rest of the building was given over to a sorting office and administrative offices. I think there was a public call box inside the front door.
Until the creation of British Telecom the Post Office had charge of the telephone service. The telephone exchange may have been located here. I am not sure.
Telephones were rare in the 1950s. A few residences had them and people who provided services like doctors and plumbers. Not many retail businesses had a telephone. I don't suppose they saw the point. Shops were open during strictly enforced opening hours. Shoppers bought from the stock you had on hand. It would not have occurred to anyone to phone up and ask if they had such and such in stock and what was the price.
To give some idea of the general scarcity of telephones, Wolverton was in the Bedford Telephone Directory which was about 1cm thick in 1955 and covered Bedfordshire, North Bucks and North Hertfordshire. Public call boxes were also rare. Apart from the one at the General Post Office, I can only remember one other - at the works entrance by the Station. There may also have been another by Anson Road. Even if they wanted to use a phone Wolverton residents would have had to walk a long way for a call box.
There were still two daily postal deliveries in the early 50s. There was never as much in the "second post" as in the first one in the morning. At Christmas time delveries were constant.
Our postman was a man called Charlie Phillips whom we children regarded as rather strange. He used to call across the street to us phrases like "Ows yer mother off for soap?" To which there could be no reply because we did not understand what he meant - possibly something to do with rationing. He was regarded as quite harmless.