‘20 Players and a strip of aspro, please.’ The Post Office
Leslie Ford was born in the village in 1916 and took over the running of the general store and post office from his father in 1947. His father, William Ford, ran the store from 1921-1947. His uncle, Ted Thorpe, the estate carpenter and wheel wright, probably took over the running of the shop, with his wife, from Joseph Ransdales in the 1910’s.
When William Ford died, Leslie returned to take care of the family business delivering a wide range of goods to Lackford, Higham, Flempton, Tuddenham and Cavenham. His stock included groceries, medicines, clothing, blankets and kitchenware. Leslie as the last shopkeeper in Cavenham recalls memories of the business:
“In those days supplies came from Ridleys in Bury St Edmunds or from travellers knocking on your door every day of the week though certain items were delivered direct....tea was hand delivered by Brook Bond and BP/ Shell petrol was delivered and sold in 2 gallon cans.... The shop sold carbide (gas fuel) in small tins for bicycle lamps and medical pills in twists of 4......One customer used to come in everyday for 20 players and a strip of 5 aspro.. every day.... Chewing tobacco was sold in long sticks which they often worked in the palms of the hands to put in their pipes”
Other items were collected on a weekly basis from Bury St Edmunds, with a charge of 6d for any specific items. Deliveries were made in a model T ford and later a Morris ‘ton’ van with drop down seats which doubled as both a delivery van and taxi service. This vehicle was requisitioned by the war department, converted to an ambulance and never seen again.
The taxi service and Post Office continued. Leslie remembers locals would send presents of unwrapped pheasant strung together to form a brace or rabbit with the minimum of wrapping, head and feet dangling visibly.
The general store had the first telephone in the village, Leslie recalls; “The number of our telephone was Cavenham 1. There was a little sign on the chestnut tree a blue and white sign saying you may telephone from here.”It wasn't a novelty because thats how you were brought up. We were the only car and telephone in the village and that was the norm. There were no tarmac roads, they were pure and simply flint and sand. The kids were playing in the streets. Tops and hoops up and down the street. All the dogs were running about free. It was mainly horse and cart then.”
Due to diminishing sales the shop was closed in the 1950’s though Leslie has kept many of the remaining items including some from the 2nd World War. The taxi service continued to run from both Cavenham and Lakenheath with The Post Office finally closing in 1999.
Oral Recollections by Les Ford
You were awarded an MBE
I didn't believe it. They notify you in November for the New Years Honours list and this letter came with P.M. office on the bottom of it and you look at it 3 times to make sure what it is. It says this is the only correspondence you will have so you never know. It also says strictly confidential so I didn't even tell the wife - this was in November and I didn't tell her. I had to keep it secret. Once you start it goes on and on so I thought I'd better say nothing, and I didn't say nothing until the day before when I said you've got to watch the news and things a bit.
“My father was the first person to have a car in the village other than the hall where General Brigadier Hume had one.
It was an open touring Singer. Celluloid screens on the side to keep out the wind. He started with a model T Ford van and before we had a bigger van it was converted so that he could do his grocery rounds. Then of course he transported people about - the cricket team.
The seats would drop down at the side and he'd take 10/12 people in it. Then war came and it was taken by the government as an ambulance. I don't know where it went after it left here.
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