Street Salesman

Commerce didn't only happen in the shops and factories of Longsight, there was quite a bit of buying, selling, trading and entertaining for profit going on in the streets, down back alleys and in garages.


The street salesperson I remember with the most affection was our ice-cream man. Long before Mr. Whippy started his rounds playing tunes we had Sivories and I'm old enough to remember their horse drawn cart. The cart was white and inside the driver/salesman had a big tub with a metal lid. In those days we may have discussed the size of the cornet but not the flavour of the ice-cream. Like Henry Ford and his black Model-T Fords you had a choice of vanilla or vanilla. Mind you you could choose sasparilla or not and there were plain cones or twists and you could take out a cup, mug or bowl and get him to fill it. I loved to get a cup full of ice cream with tons of sasparilla and mix it up to make pink ice-cream.

The best part though was Queenie, his horse, who must have been the fattest horse on the planet by the time retirement came around because at every stop kids came out with money and crusts or sugar lumps for Queenie. There was no canned music to attract the customers but the driver did have a hand bell and a voice to call people out if that was necessary.

Sivories are still trading in Longsight, as you can see below.


 Rag-Bone Men

This photograph is taken from Street Photographs: Manchester and Salford
by Shirley Baker (Bloodaxe Books 1989)
displayed here with the permission of the photographer

The ultimate street salesman in the 50's, the Rag-Bone man, introduced himself with his traditional cry modified somewhat to reflect their individual personalities. We had one who had a trumpet he blew, another whose call was reduced to "Bone!". There were those who had hand carts, those with ponies that looked barely up to the task of pulling the cart and its load let alone the man who hopped on for the trip between streets.

It was of course the wonderful gifts that you got in exchange for the old clothes or other household objects that drew the kids to the task of running out to trade. Mothers wanted boring things like donkey stones but for me it was the prospect of a bow and arrow or a gold fish that motivated me to run out to Morton Street with an armful of old clothes. The bow and arrows were made out of bamboo and were often broken soon after or got you into enormous trouble.

On one occasion the rag-bone man was giving away live chicks and I will never forget the one I got because it grew up to be a cat chasing rooster. We kept it in one corner of our backyard but as it grew bigger it was very hard to pen-in. It would attack my sister every time she went out to the outdoor lavie and my Dad would have to fend it off with a broom to get her across the yard. He used to flap up onto the yard wall each morning to crow and the local cats were afraid of him. I still remember the day my Dad decided that the neighbours had had enough of his crowing and took off after him with an axe. As I remember I was devastated but he was hard to catch and even harder to kill and, if I remember, those who ate him found him very tough.


 The Saturday Night Newspaper Men

On Saturday night a man would come around selling copies of a sporting newspaper that had all the football results in it. He cried out the name of the paper and people went out into the street to buy it. I can't remember if it was the Sporting Pink, but I think it was.


 Barrel Organ Players

From time to time I remember as a kid that a barrel organ player would show up to play on the streets. I don't know that I have a memory of him having a monkey with him but I suppose he would have. I do remember the music and the man cranking it out.