Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 44 ............ the tally man calls

The story of one house in Peckham over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

1963 and those basketball boots courtesy of Don
I have to say I had pretty much forgotten the  words tally man and when I remembered them I could find no one who knew what they meant and so as you do I began to doubt it ever existed.

But it did or more accurately he did because he was the man who came round each week with the shinny catalogue which enabled you to buy on the never never.

Not that mother ever used the word never never or HP and certainly not credit.

So the tally man it was, which made perfect sense because Don kept a tally of what we had paid, what we still owed and always with the offer of more.

Now when I was going through my pompous phase I could get angry at a system which had you paying over the odds for goods which in many cases had worn out and been discarded long before the payments were finished.

But then that is pretty much true of all credit agreements and from my lofty moral high ground forgot that I was engaged for most of my adult life in paying for a mortgage which is the biggest of all credit deals.

All of this I was reminded of when Audrey reflected on, “where would our Families have been, without the Tally men?  

I remember some of them becoming  almost part of the family, ie...Goodes, the agent would give Mum vouchers, to be spent only in his warehouse, in Shoreditch, loved that journey....”

And so I hadn’t imagined the tally man.

Don and later I think it was Eric would turn up on a Friday evening in one of those Bedford vans.

Both of them had that easy chatty style, mixed business with a joke and even a risqué story and then with the money collected, the payment card filled in they were gone, with just a gentle reference to the latest offers in the catalogue.

Toys, shoes and blankets the tally man had the lot, 1956
And Audrey is dead right, the mid 1950s and early 60s were a prosperous time for most of us with new consumer goods available as never before but they were still relatively expensive and if you wanted to be part of that new shiny world it was by paying the deposit and the rest over twenty easy to manage instalments.

Nor were the items the luxury ones because budgeting for a household of kids who were heavy on clothes and out grew their shoes very quickly meant that  the tally man was a lifeline.

That said there  there was lots of pleasure in just looking through the catalogue.

I can still remember trawling through it for my first pair of Cuban heel shoes and yearning for a Beatles jacket.

And a full forty years on with three of my own the Next catalogue along with the Habitat one filled the hours and spread the cost.

So there you have it .......... a little bit of my past brought back out into the daylight, and I bet a lot of other peoples’ too.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road, 

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