Thursday 18 June 2020

The Little Shop on The Corner

This is the latest of the Gibson Jigsaws from Richard and Mary which I have completed. Called simply "The Corner Shop" it shows a sweet shop of the 1930s, in the winter time.
I love the posh lady's cloche hat, and all the nostalgic advertising slogans - Cadbury's and Fry's Chocolates, but also Ovaltine Tablets, Oxo and Bovril. So I think this shop sold more than just sweets
Of course Cadbury's and Fry's were the famous Quaker sweet manufacturers. Ovaltine, now still known as a milky drink in powder form, was sold in the first half of the twentieth century as tablets. They were included in RAF ration packs during WW2 - the eggs, milk and malt being concentrated energy "to build up the body and brain"
We used to live not far from the wonderful  Arts and Craft style factory in Kings Langley [now fredeveloped as luxury flats] where the Ovaltine was produced using barley, and fresh produce from local farms.
Oxo was developed around 1840, and called Liebig's Extract of Meat - a rich beef tea - but by 1899 it was too expensive for the ordinary family. So the cheaper 'one penny Oxo Cube' was produced - and we've been crumbling them into drinks, gravies and stews ever since. 
Bovril came along in 1870, developed by a Scotsman, James Johnston, living in Canada - to satisfy the order from Napoleon III for one million cans of beef to feed his armies. It is not easy to process and ship that amount of meat. So the canny Canadian developed Johnston's Fluid Beef - later known as Bovril - to satisfy the French Emperor. Bovril then became a staple military food in WW1. A viscous brown liquid, its name reflects the Latin bovinus, i.e. cow.[in 2004 Unilever removed all beef from it, citing BSE, vegetarianism and religious dietary requirements as a reason for falling sales. In 2006 they reversed their decision] Most people stir it into liquids- although some use Bovril in sandwiches [I prefer Marmite]
Bovril, Ovaltine and Oxo were all considered healthy, nourishing products - and in the 1930s were on everyone's shopping list. There was an Ovaltineys Chrildrens Club on the radio from 1935 through to the 1960s.

In the past few weeks, Corner Shops have come into their own again, as people have avoided the big supermarkets, and preferred the small local outlet. Often they have had goods in stock when Tesco et al have displayed empty shelves and apology signs. 
I enjoyed the recent series "Back in Time for the Corner Shop" with Sara Cox and the Ardern Family. I have a food friend who runs a small open-all-hours store. I hope that after the pandemic, the new customers who have discovered his shop will continue to support the business. He and his family work incredibly hard.
Have you been using Corner Shops lately?
Do you remember the days when chocolates were in cardboard boxes and paper wrappers? Much more eco friendly!
Did you have an Ovaltiney Mug with that strange sleepy face on the side?


  1. I DO wish chocolate came in card and paper wrappers and I wish it did still. I wrote to Cadbury's to cite my disdain for their plastic metal wrappers and they gave me some spiel about being committee to reducing food waate. It strikes me that they are making too much if it can get to a situation where it might go out of date.

  2. One of my favourite treats from our village shop when I was little (but old enough to go there by myself) was a packet of Horlicks tablets.
    We have always used our current corner shop for lots of bits and pieces. It had a mountain of toilet rolls when every supermarket had sold out!
    I have enjoyed all of the "Back in Time for" series. The "Back in Time for the Weekend" was repeated on the TV recently.

  3. How interesting! All things I grew up with and still have OXO cubes and Bovril in the pantry. I occasionally see Ovaltine and I used to find it a relaxing drink at night - must see if I can find some again to put into the pantry for winter. I'm also going to check out the "Back in time" link - I've been watching the 1940's House again on Youtube.

  4. When someone is off-colour in a Bronte sister novel and loses their appetite they might manage a little weak beef tea to keep their strength up.

  5. Cadbury's, Bovril, Oxo, Ovaltine - all names of products I grew up with. I loved Cadbury's chocolates, but, didn't care for Bovril, Marmite, or Ovaltine! LOL.

    When I bought my house, there was an independently owned grocery store at the corner, but, it went out of business. My current "corner shop" is actually a convenience store, one of a chain of well known convenience stores. I have occasionally bought one or two items from them, but, not during the pandemic, because I don't venture out to shop (only curbside pick up).


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