Thursday, August 06, 2009

Old tools and toffee hammers

click photo to enlarge
Sweets, candy, confectionery, goodies - call them what you will - loom large in the eyes of children, though perhaps less so today as parents take on board the strictures about healthy eating. However, in the 1950s, after the deprivations of the war years, bob-bons, aniseed balls, sherbet dips, lucky bags, kali and the rest mopped up a chunk of the meagre pocket money that constituted our weekly allowance.

One of the sweets on offer was the slabs (or pieces) of hard, brown, sugary toffee, often wrapped in grease-proof paper printed with the manufacturer's name. I wasn't much of a fan of toffee, preferring to spend my money elsewhere. But, if offered a piece I'd often accept, then suck it until it became a swallowable sliver. Set against the other sweets of that decade toffee seemed very old fashioned, especially when dispensed by the shop-keeper from a large slab that had to be broken up with a special hammer. On a visit to a Lincolnshire country fete a while ago I came across a man displaying his collection of old tools. As I scanned the implements, recognising some, but being baffled by the purpose of others, my eye lighted on some old toffee hammers arranged in the shape of a fan. When I looked closely I noticed that many had the toffee maker's name on the handle. As I read them the memory of those childhood forays to the sweet shop came back to me. There was Mackintosh's, a Halifax firm that went on to join forces with Rowntree. Blue Bird and Walkers I remembered too. But Sharps, College, Williams's, Fillery's, and Battis (?) I don't recall. Interestingly there wasn't a hammer marked with McCowan's, makers of what seemed to be the most widely available toffee, the "Highland" brand that had packaging illustrated with a highland cow.

I had a chat with the owner of the tools and he enlightened me about the purpose of some of them, but I'm ashamed to say I've forgotten much of what he told me. However, to the right of the toffee hammers are can-openers made to look like fish, or with cow heads, presumably reflecting the contents of the cans they most frequently opened, and above is a selection of corkscrews.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/15
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On