When I was a child I was regularly woken by the sound of the milkie. The clop, clop, clop of the horses hooves, the jingling of the harness, the rumble of the cart wheels on the road, the rattle of the billy cans, the milkie’s running steps on the gravel to our front door, the slop of milk into our billy can and the rattle as the lid was placed back on, the clang of his dipper as he put it back into his can, the slap of the reins on the horse’s back, ‘giddy up’ he called and then the same sounds receding as he made his way down the street to our neighbours.
There were other sounds of deliveries in our street. Our baker came during the middle of the day. He had a horse and cart so many sounds were the same as those made by our milkie, but when he came to the door we heard the hollow sound of the lid on our ceramic bread crock and the tinkle of coins as he placed the change into a jar. The fruit and veg man didn’t come every day, but when he did he came in a chugging Model T Ford and his calls echoed through the neighbourhood announcing his produce.
Our postman delivered the letters twice a day. He rode a bicycle so unless we were outside we didn’t hear him arrive but at every house as he placed the letters into the box he blew his Postman’s whistle. At school I was designated as ‘post girl’. Our class room was the nearest to the letterbox on the gate and whenever I heard the postman’s whistle, no matter what the class or teacher were doing I would leave, walk through the teacher’s only corridor to the front door and gate to get the mail. It was quite a privilege to be chosen as post girl.
There were other delivery people too – the ice man delivered the large blocks of ice to put in the ice chest and later, the icecream van with its continuous rendition of Greensleeves.
My mother decided the most glamorous thing I could do would be to work in an office. This meant I learned to type. In those days manual typewriters were the most modern equipment. How well I remember the click, clack of the keys hitting the roller, the ting of the bell as I came within 5 characters of the end of the line, the screech of the carriage as I returned it and the roller rolled up one line and that dreaded sound as two keys clacked and meshed together. Once I started work I used a Telex machine. Clack, clack, clack, clack as the tape was punched with holes and sent the Telex message over the wires. I’m not old enough to have used morse code but that’s another sound we don’t hear very often – dot, dot, dash, dot, dash, dash - the clicking of the key at the post office.
Our cars have changed too. The chugging engine of the Model T Ford, the flap of an indicator arm from an Austin A40 and the unique sound of a Volkswagen no longer dominate our streets. (BTW - that is me learning to drive my father's restored Model T Ford)
Sounds have the ability to evoke memories. They transport us to a time when we heard them but so many of these sounds are no longer heard either because they no longer exist or because we cannot hear them.
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