Colourful street vendors
From Harry Foy's Book 'Growing up in Portadown in the Thirties and Forties'
The Horse drawn bread carts and coal carts were a daily sight in our street. The coalman, George McCann, with his giant Clydesdale and its sparkling harness and plaited mane and tail, was a sight to behold. He controlled the movements of the horse with whistles.
One of the most popular vendors was the bread man, Hugh Breen. You could hope to get a "snow top" or "gravy ring" if you were about when your mother was buying bread. The bread cart was a high-sided vehicle and the driver sat on top. Hence the saying, "Where you ever upstairs on a bread cart?"
Then there was a lady with a pony and trap who sold eggs and butter. The butters were all of different designs and different salty tastes so the housewife took some butter on a sixpence and tasted it before buying.
The ice cream man pushed a cart. Large chunks of ice kept the ice creams from melting and he sold pokes and sliders. One man the housewife had to be wary of was the "lino" man. Oilcloth or linoleum was carried round by these traders. They would open up a roll and bargain with the housewife for it. When he didn't get the price he was asking he usually said he might call back. He would then go to the next street and swap it for a smaller piece with the same pattern. Returning, he would bargain again with the housewife and then reluctantly take what was offered. When the housewife cleared the floor to lay her new buy she found that it didn't cover the floor but by this time the lino men were gone.
Every type of goods were brought to your door: vegetables, paraffin oil, chickens and turf, to name but a few. Turf was necessary in the early days for baking bread. Then there were the fishermen from Lough Neagh who sold pollens and herrings. We used to shout at them, "Herrings ahoy, fresh and stinking, come to the cart and see them winking". Still, with a couple of fresh herrings, a few floury spuds with butter and a mug of buttermilk and you wouldn't call the King your father.
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