Sticky Lice and other unusual treats


In the same way we once had a pub on every corner, we also had a sweetshop, so what was your most unusual treat as a kid? One of the most famous shops was the Tin Hat on Breck Road pictured here. If you look at the image carefully you will see a WW1 tin helmet nailed to the top left of the door. My mother’s friend Audrey Carson had this shop in the 1950s and I would often be taken there. What a treat. Jean Ellis intrigued me when she contacted my Echo Lost Tribes column to say: “During WW2 and just after, we would buy sticks of liquorice from a chemist on Heyworth Street in Everton. These were kept in a tall glass jar at the front of the counter and while I didn’t like the taste, it was a replacement for sweets during rationing.
“A grocer on the corner of Copeland Street did a roaring trade with Heyworth Street School children, mixing cocoa and sugar in a paper bag. You would dip a wet finger in and, if you returned the bag, you were given an extra teaspoonful of cocoa and sugar in the palm of your hand. I always glance at the vast assortment of sweets today’s children can choose from and recall those horrid black sticks of liquorice.”
It sounds like cocoa and sugar gets a thumbs up, Jean, and I’m intrigued on two counts. My late father Harry Rogers was a 1930s Heyworth Street School pupil and lived in Copeland Street. I wonder if your cocoa and sugar mix was also available in his day. I can imagine him poking his finger into the mix you describe and then dutifully returning the bag. It could be argued that the decades you highlight inspired the original era of recycling, although people in those days were certainly not visionary ‘Eco Warriors’. It was all to do with shortages of just about everything.
Even in the late 1950s I would be amongst an army of kids that regularly knocked on doors to ask for empty jam jars. These would earn us a few pence when taken to the nearest scrapyard. Every penny counted, especially if we wanted to buy a treat at one of the sweet shops that seemed to be on every terraced street corner.
It would be something basic like four Walkers toffees or a Penny Arrow Bar. An alternative was those chewy ‘Black Jacks’ that coloured your tongue. Cherry Lips did exactly what they said on the bag although the boys around our way steered well clear of the latter for fear of a playground ribbing.
Regarding Jean’s liquorice stick memory, I recall something we called sticky lice, a liquorice root that seemed to last forever. It was like biting on a twig, the end becoming frayed and soggy. A half-eaten stick would be hidden in a pocket, the chewing ritual continuing at playtime.
Thank you, Jean, for sparking some very sweet memories that many readers will relate to. What were your favourite sweets? I could just fancy a Sherbet Dab or a couple of Flying Saucers!