I remember as children when we collected
matchbox labels and cigarette packets that were different. We
also looked for the 'Turf' cigarette packets because on the
drawer were pictures, one in a packet of ten, two in a packet
of twenty. We would glean these collectables from the upstairs
floors of the No. 176, 177, 54s and 53s, not forgetting the
177a buses, that all parked at the Woodman pub and bus terminal.
We used to sit on the old stone horse
trough that used to be situated there, along with the drinking
fountain with the chained cup attached, at the front of the
pub. Whist we waited there, between the arrivals and departures
of the buses, we would also collect car number plate numbers.
As each vehicle passed us we would add its number plate to the
list of numbers already collected. It was very popular with
kids in those days, when the volume of traffic was very light,
even on busier roads. Imagine kids doing this hobby nowadays;
they would need reams of paper and a very good grounding in
speed writing, plus a bucket of water to cool the pen down occasionally!
As each bus pulled in at the Woodman
the driver and conductor went off to the café. We then
hopped aboard and went upstairs, where smoking was allowed.
Swiftly, we'd scan the seats and floor, picking up any matchboxes
or book match packets and any unusual cigarette packets. We
used to find the occasional discarded daily newspaper and proudly
take them home for our parents to read.
We even found the odd coin, which was very quickly converted
into chewing gum from the penny Wrigley's chewing gum machine
that hung on the fence outside the little café, where
the buses turned around. We would check to see if the arrow
was pointing forward on the knob of the chewing gum machine
because, when it was, it would dispense TWO packets of gum for
the price of one penny. So, if the knob was near to pointing
to the front, we would wait, ever hopeful, until some one came
and bought some gum, thus turning the knob and the arrow in
This café was where the bus drivers
and their clippies went to have their cuppa, before they headed
off again on their return route, over again.
Incidently, this yellow Wrigley's machine
was found by me one morning whilst foraging down the 'ollow.
There it was, all bent and battered, and broken open, lying
in the long grass, minus the packets of chewing gum and the
money. I told my mum and dad, who contacted the police. Shortly
after a copper came and collected it. I remember him riding
off on his bicycle with the machine wedged sideways on his rear
carrier. Such were the thrills of the wee Common kids, yes indeed.