The Days of Bakery Vans!

Photo:Dad (and myself) in the van for Allan's Bakery in the early to mid 60's

Dad (and myself) in the van for Allan's Bakery in the early to mid 60's

Jean M Kerr

Photo:The later Derek's Bakery van of the late 60's. This was taken in Honiton Gardens. Note it was even before the lettering was applied to the outside of the van.

The later Derek's Bakery van of the late 60's. This was taken in Honiton Gardens. Note it was even before the lettering was applied to the outside of the van.

A Memory of the 60's

By Kenneth Kerr

The Corby of the 1960's was uniquely vibrant. It was a period of optimism, expansion, comradeship of displaced Scots, and... Bakery Vans!

"Bakery Vans?" I hear you ask, yes indeed dear reader! - and I wonder how many of you even remember them?

It was a time before health regulations for everything under the sun, a time before big hypermarkets seemed to sprout up everywhere in towns across the UK, and a time when service actually came to a person's doorstep.

My name is Kenneth J. Kerr, and although I have lived in Canada since 1988, I was born in the Barratt Maternity Hospital in Northampton in 1957, and was raised right in the heart of Corby, on Argyll Street in the town centre area. And why do I remember Bakery Vans? Because it was my Dad who operated them!

The first van I remember was a long-nosed Bedford. My Dad (Robert Kerr - known always as Bert) operated this van for local baker Bill Allan, who had a shop on George Street, just up from the Bowling Alley and near the original library. It was the early 60's, and Dad pioneered the concept of taking fresh baking to many of the streets of Corby in this van. Whether a person wanted bread, rolls, or fresh cream cakes, Dad made the rounds every day to take these provisions to the busy local housewives.

Later in the 60's, something happened and Allan's Bakery went through changes. I think the shop was eventually re-named the Katrina Patisserie, and the door-to-door deliveries ceased. One of Bill Allan's bakers decided to go independent too, and his name was Derek Gower. Derek asked Dad to join him and soon afterward Derek's Bakery was continuing the mobile bakery delivery service, with my dad at the wheel of a different van.

The van for Derek's Bakery was blue with white trim. It was a short-nosed vehicle, and I remember as a youngster going down to London with Dad (and maybe Derek too) to source it from somewhere in the Wembley area. I also remember helping paint the interior when they got it back to Corby, and the smell of paint almost making me sick.

I recall the van being kept in a garage behind some shops and a car dealership on the northern end of Rockingham Road (before the junction to Studfall Avenue) and I remember an alleyway going up to that garage. That's where we painted it.

While I did go out on the first van with Dad, I have far clearer memories of the second one as I was a little older, probably between 8 and 10 years old. I went on the van with Dad every Saturday, and often during holidays, and there are many great highlights of those days.

I remember that on any given day, Dad's route took in almost every street in the town. I remember going to the bakehouse on Weldon Road early in the morning, and while Dad was loading the van, I'd go and look at the chickens that someone kept behind the old houses along that road. I also remember the incredibly exquisite smell of the fresh baking, and the delicious taste of "Scotch Pies" when I was allowed to take one as they cooled down from the oven.

I also recall Dad always being friendly with people. He used to give people their bread "on a tab" when they could not pay for it, and sometimes I think he paid for their bread out of his wages. Those were happy days, and I probably knew the streets of Corby better than any other kid in town, probably better than many adults too.

From the older streets around Stevenson Way, to the newer development of Exeter Estate, and from the prefabs near Studfall shops, to the lunchtime stops at the gates of British Sealed Beams, York Trailers and Golden Wonder Crisps, Corby was MY town, and I knew it like the back of my hand before I was even 10 years old.

Sadly, those halcyon days came to an end in the late 60's. In February, 1968, my Mum Jean Kerr suffered a brain hemorrhage and spent a year in hospital. At the end of that year, Dad quit work to become a full-time caregiver to Mum. Most of his customers would not have known the reason for the change, and I think shortly thereafter Bakery Vans also became a thing of the past.

For the very few who may still remember my Dad on those vans, if indeed any are left who do, Dad never did go back to work. He looked after my Mum until his death in 2007, and Mum passed less than three weeks after he did. Yes, he devoted nearly 40 years to nursing his disabled wife, and left me with an example of family love and dedication that is almost beyond belief.

Today, as I write these words, I am approaching my 58th birthday, and the winter is beginning on the vast expanse of the Canadian prairies that surround me. But, as I look at the Corby of today on Google Earth, in my mind I am a little kid again, traveling round a Corby from a past era in the 1960's - remembering with indescribable fondness the days of the Bakery Vans!

- Kenneth J. Kerr, Saskatchewan, Canada.

This page was added by Kenneth Kerr on 23/11/2015.
Comments about this page

Well, I remember getting the bread delivered along with the milk...

Also the fish van on Thursdays, and the butcher's van (hmmm... wasn't he prosecuted for using horsemeat in his faggots?) and the horse and cart selling vegetables. And the knife grinder. So many services right to your door (or at least a step outside...)

By Keith F
On 28/11/2015

Thank you Kenneth for the very interesting information on something I remember very clearly from my childhood.    I recall Allen's van calling at James Watt Ave (bottom half) about the same time each weekday delivering those wonderful rolls and fresh cream cakes.   The driver (your father presumably) was very charismatic and always happy and cheerful.     That garage on Rockingham Road would have been Stockwood Motors which is now a fitness centre.     Nice to hear your fond memories of the town.   It is changing and growing by the day but there remains that "Corby spirit" which makes the town and the people so special.    Thank you again Kenneth and good luck.

By Robin Wright
On 07/01/2016

I grew up in the 50s and 60s in Corby.  I remember the clock with the whirling planets in the town centre.  I remember Phoenix taxis, always in trouble for bad driving, a young lad was knocked down by one with his friend as they walked back from a day out in Kettering, sadly.  I remember my route to Beanfield School.  I attended the primary, junior and senior of the school during the time it became the first comprehensive in the U.K.  I too am now a writer, strange how life pans out.  I also remember the vans: not only the bakery vans but the 'Green Van" as t'was known.  The Green Van sold almost anything and everything.  I used to hop up, put my sixpence on the counter and savour the first salty flavour of Golden Wonder, cheese and onion crisps.  Joy.   I felt like the only English lass on the Scottish horizon.

By Kathryn White
On 07/01/2016

Thank you for the memories of the bakers vans. These memories are very special as I'm the grand daughter of Bill and Jessie Allan.  Bill Allan passed away in the late seventies but Jessie is still with us and living in Corby and often talks about her days selling the scotch rolls in the van. 

By Jacki Bowman Icke
On 16/03/2016

I remember 2 " green vans". One was like a Luton type van but the other , the " big green van", was more like a large horse box or furniture removal van. You could buy anything from loose potatoes to , in my dad's case, a single razor blade ! Happy days.



By Norman Duncan
On 29/11/2016

Also remember the vans, the green vans, the bakers vans, the fish and chip vans, the ice cream vans. They even came to Greenhill Rise when it was on the very edge of town!! The United Counties buses turned around here. Was a paperboy at Greens when they opened and was transferred to Forbouys newsagents when they opened, became "head" paper boy there while attending Corby Grammar sporadically! My dad was a master at Beanfield Secondary Modern which became the comprehensive school.

By Philip Rowell
On 18/01/2017

wow! those were great memories, i recall many of those streets to; walked them and cycled them from late 50's through to mid 60's. I often was sent out to the bakery van when we lived on the corner of Kelvin Grove and then Pen Green. I spent some time to delivering sausages and cooked meats etc for Linnel grocers in Rockingham Road near the Odeon and that was in between newspaper deliveries for Murdoch's, gosh the things we can recall.

i also recognised the name Bowman from comments above and for a time dated a girl from Stanion of the same name and she was related by marriage to Allan family. 

Unfortunately we do not get Scotch Rolls here in Interlaken or indeed anything like them but it was good to read Kenneth's account of days in the van, lovely story and great to have shared it.

mike berry

On 08/08/2017

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