Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sepia Saturday 92 : Brown Paper Parcels Tied Up With String


I am staying with the Family Stash, but by chance I seem to have almost managed to get on theme this week. The theme was a railway parcel office and here we have a photograph of my Uncle John and Auntie Doris carrying brown paper parcels. I suppose the photograph was taken in either the 1940s or the 1950s : and back in those days people did seem to walk around and awful lot with brown paper parcels tied up with string under their arms. What on earth was in hidden away in there?

John Arthur Burnett was born  in 1899. He joined the West Riding Regiment in 1916 and was eventually transferred to the Western Front. In June 1918 he was posted missing but it later emerged that he had been taken a prisoner of war. In 1922 he married Susannah Cooper and they had, I believe, two children - cousins who I have never met. A few years later, John and Susannah were divorced and all contact with his first family was lost. In 1948 he married for a second time to Doris Metcalfe - Auntie Doris.

There is a host of stories I could tell about Uncle John and Auntie Doris - they were both characters in their own way. But those stories will have to wait : for the moment let us just wonder what might have been in those brown paper parcels.

There are lots of splendid things tied up in the digital brown paper parcel that is called Sepia Saturday. To untie the string, just go along to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

32 comments:

  1. I've no doubt those parcels were holding some of their 'favourite things'.

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  2. Dammit Martin beat me to it! Perhaps they were Christmas presents? The one held by Auntie Doris appears to have seams, but I don’t think they did jiffy bags in those days - did they?

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  3. I also wonder how this excellent photograph came about. It's certainly not one of the seaside snaps that you've recently featured. Ali, are you sure you were not around taking photos in those days?

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  4. Uncle John is most certainly sporting a very dapper MCC tie - despite being a Yorkshireman. His parcel is obviously his cricket whites (he's on the way to a match), and aunty Doris has the scones for tea in her parcel.

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  5. Brown Paper and string, don't half take you back.

    My parents had tons of the stuff - it was a crime to throw it away before the paper had been used umpteen times and become all crinkled and the string all frayed.

    No worries about recycling - in fact recycling would probably have been considered going over the same route again.

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  6. Darn, too late again! Everybody beat me to the Sound of Music references. Being on the other side of The Pond has its disadvantages.

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  7. The way she's carrying her parcel makes me think there is food in it. I don't remember paper tied with string so either it was before my time or bags came in earlier in the USA

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  8. Auntie Doris is obviously carrying something that could spill. It could well be cakes. I can remember my grandmother selling cakes loose like that. She used to sell sugar loose ,too, in cones she fashioned from a bag.

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  9. I've wrapped up a couple of parcels with brown paper and string recently and I just couldn't help feeling as if I was doing an old country craft. So satisfying.

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  10. I like the idea of bringing back this tradition of brown paper packages and string, although I suppose it's not as practical as a bag.

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  11. I go with the food idea in Doris' parcel as well. Brown paper I still see occasionally but string has been replaced by parcel tape; and of course there would be bubble-wrap inside.

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  12. So many questions.. what's in the parcels? Why on earth did someone (obviously someone they knew) photograph them in the street carrying parcels? And what on earth is she hiding in those huge square shoulders in her coat? Were they spies?

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  13. We have a small hardware store in our nearby town that still ties up purchases in brown paper and string. So much nicer than the ubiquitous plastic bags!

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  14. He's wearing glasses. They're obviously members of the intelligentsia, on their way to a super secret meeting. He has the incriminating papers wrapped in plain brown wrapper and she has important documents hidden inside those scones.

    Auntie Doris was a spy. Obviously.

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  15. I thought that anything in a "plain brown wrapper" back in those days was something pornographic, but I'd hate to cast aspersions on your kin... so forget I said anything. In fact, I may not even leave this comment, sensitive soul that I am.

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  16. Whatever is in their parcels they are looking mighty pleased with their shopping. Aunt Doris' parcel looks like a modern day take-away meal!
    Wonderful photo.

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  17. Charming photo--they do both seem as if they could be characters indeed!

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  18. I remember butchers wrapping meat in paper (small package?) and I think clean laundry too(large package?)

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  19. I don't know about the brown paper except that my father used to get his clean shirts that way, but the scarves the women wore in those days is what is interesting to me. I like them so much that I wish they would come back into fashion today. Not only are the scarves stylish but they're also so totally practical.

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  20. I remember going to a department store, "Stothart's" in my hometown when I was a little girl. They wrapped purchases if brown paper and the twine used to travel all the way from upstairs on a giant spindle. Takes me back...........

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  21. Anonymous3:28 PM

    What a great candid shot of an ordinary part of life! Who was walking in front of them to get the shot?

    Dee @Shakin' the Family Tree

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  22. Well, now I'm wondering what they are carrying too. I love the looks on their faces; what a great couple. You are right, there are tons of stories that you could write about them.

    Thanks so much for your visit,

    Kathy M.

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  23. I often wish these old photos could talk. Then I think twice about it as I realize that they are, in fact, doing just that.

    What a remarkable glimpse into the past you've shared here. I need to find my mom's shoeboxes...I'm sure there are more treasures there, too.

    As for what's in the wraps...I'm thinking din :)

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  24. It was the only way to buy and carry things home in the days of world war two over here. The stores did not have shopping bags so they wrapped things up in kraft paper. Each sales counter in a department store would have a 3 or 4 foot wide roll under the counter and the salesman would tear off a strip and roll your purchase up or fold it up and then tie it with string. I wish I had a stash of old pictures like you do.

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  25. Great picture. The plastic carrier bag really did revolutionise shopping.

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  26. I hate to say this, but I think they were packages, not parcels. As recently as 15 years ago we used to have a huge roll of brown paper, which was useful for all sorts of things. Sadly, I wouldn't even know where to buy one nowadays.

    It looks like another "walkie" - anything on the back to hint at who took it?

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  27. Those wonderful photographer-on-the-street shots are found in so many family collections. They're always fun to look at because there's a lot going on in the subjects mind as the shot is being taken. Some people look annoyed, some pleased, others just startled. Most definitely a category to be collected.

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  28. Ah, now I know the origin of the line in the song.... Never knew things were ever wrapped up that way.

    I will be humming that tune all day now! It was a favorite of my son's. He played the music box that had it over-and-over again.

    Great photo.

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  29. A curious snapshot. I thought initially it was a press photo of random public citizens. Such an action shot doesn't look posed, just as if they "happened" to walk into the photographer's viewframe. A short tale to invent for this one, Alan.

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  30. Well I am late catching up on the Sepia readings this week so all of what I'd have said about the brown paper packages has been said in spades. This post made me think about how it suddenly seemed to happen here in the states that we were no longer allowed to tie packages with string for posting in the mails. It seemed to me that the change was made catching most of us unaware. I recall taking a pkg. to the Post Office and being told to cut off the strings for mailing. I suppose it got caught on equipment. What a loss; today we no longer use string nor have those huge balls of string in kitchen cupboards to use. Nostalgia. All from you post..you tied it up and in very well.

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  31. Your Aunt is carrying something rather heavy but fragile..she seems to be grasping it so it won't slip from her fingers. Your Uncle..shirts..all washed and pressed. Way cool photo:)

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  32. in the '60s, when i was just a little kid, when i carried a brown parcel tied up with rope, it meant i just came back from the local butcher for my mom. i even remember the name of the place: "Salaison Belair". you would have asked me yesterday that i wouldn't have remembered. but your post triggered that memory, and voila!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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