Sunday, 13 Jun 2021

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Before the advent of supermarkets, the Co-op was the place where many families did their shopping. You could buy anything at the co-op from the weekly groceries to a bike to go to work on or have your hair cut while the wife queued at the greengrocery department. My mother was a member of the Derby Co-operative Provident Society Ltd and she had a membership number. You quoted this number after a purchase and you would be given a discount or dividend - “divi” for short, which would be paid out to members twice a year or banked for a rainy day.

My mothers “check number” is still indelibly printed on my memory as she often sent me to the local co-op for a quarter of butter. The divi was quite substantial and she used to kit me out for school in the outfitters department, using the money credited. When you wanted some milk for the tea you bought at the “stores” the friendly co-op milkman would leave a bottle on your doorstep in the dead of night. If you wanted some bread to spread your butter on then you could ask the co-op bread man to call. Finally when you went to meet your maker the co-op funeral department would handle the job.

The Co-operative movement was born out of co-operation between Working Class people in the mid 19th century, which led to them creating coal clubs, rented housing, banking and retail outlets for their members. The movement is still alive and well today in a more centralized role, many of the small societies have amalgamated to form big organization which are able to compete with the big supermarket chains.

There are still a lot of reminders of the past to be seen around the country in old signs and architecture and this section is devoted to these sites.