Long before anyone had access to the internet, the nearest thing to ordering online was commonly called mail order.
Quite simply, you ordered something by writing a letter and enclosing a postal order or cheque to pay for the goods. The Sunday newspapers were full of ‘mail order’ offers advertising anything from slacks for the modern man to hops for the discerning home brewer. Usually, it worked well although there was always the odd faux pas that many people would buy. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking tabletop cement mixer, you know, something that would be totally useless.
I’d Rather Forget
One incident which remains lodged in my memory, filed under ‘I would rather forget this moment’ category keeps rearing its head every few years. I must have been about 18 as were most of my friends at the time. Phil lived 4 doors down from me and I’d known him since we moved to the area about 6 years before. He was very shy and while always a regular member of our gang, he would never be the spokesperson, if you get my drift.
Out of the blue one day, Phil came to see me at my parents’ house, asking if I ‘could do him a big favour.’ No problem was my initial thought, after all, he was a ‘wall flower’ so whatever the favour was, it wasn’t going to be something illegal involving weird substances. Boy, was I surprised? It turns out Phil had got himself a girlfriend and was hoping things would get a little more involved than talking about her favourite Victoria sponge recipe.
Something for the weekend?
He wanted to buy some ‘Durex’, but there was no way he would purchase any over the counter from the chemists or even the barbers back then. He was far too embarrassed to do that. So, he had discovered mail order in one of the Sunday newspapers and sent his postal order off in return for 1,000 ‘Durex’ delivered in a plain brown cardboard box. His problem was he had nowhere to keep the box as he didn’t want his parents to know. It was all legal and he was 18, but the thought that his folks might find out he had ordered these things and using them was causing him too much stress.
Can I Help?
This is where I enter the story. Phil wanted me to take delivery of the ‘secret’ cardboard box, keep it at my folks’ house and give him a handful whenever he needed them. Of course, there was no problem on my side of things, I was always ordering bits and pieces for my guitars and I had a huge built-in wardrobe in my bedroom where I could keep the box hidden away from any prying eyes. All sorted then, the box arrived mid-week, I opened it up to check the contents and hid it in my wardrobe. I took a handful of the things out and passed them onto Phil. Job done.
Lo and behold, a couple of days later my parents’ house was burgled!! By the time I got home from work, my parents were already there with a couple of police officers. What a mess. The first thing that hit me as well as anyone else that came in the house was the almost 1,000 Durex packets all over the place. Believe me when I tell you, 1,000 of these things cover the landing, the stairs and the hallway!! The policewoman looked at me and asked if they were mine! What could I say? Both my parents were there! It’s probably the most embarrassing day of my whole life. As I tried to explain that they belonged to a friend, I realised just how ridiculous my story sounded. No matter how I tried to change the subject, nothing worked and the policewoman seemed preoccupied with the number of these little packages there were strewn about the place.
Hello, hello, hello….
The police were there for about an hour, asking questions and filling in forms and drinking tea. On their way out, the policeman turned to me and said, ‘I wouldn’t use them if I were you, son’ pointing at the gazillion Durex packets. ‘Burglars are known to put pinholes in the things!’ I thanked him for his concern and bid him well as I closed the door. I never said a word to Phil about what the policeman told me and as far as I know, he never had any problems. Come to think of it, I don’t think he used many of the things after the initial handful I gave him. I bet the box was still there long after I left home!
I usually place a link here to an informative website about the subject matter I have written. I just couldn’t think of anything suitable, so here’s a link to another post on my blog. Locked In.