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When the world was young

Ten-year old schoolboys, as Shakespeare said, would with satchel and shining morning face, creep snail-like unwillingly to school. On my snail-like way to Rose Hill Public School in Ipswich, Suffolk, England (where the words cast in stone over the junior entrance read not “Kindergarten” but “Mixed Infants”) over 60 years ago now, I would pass two tiny stores, both of which I found very attractive. From Jackson’s Pie Shop came the irresistible smell of hot meat pies, while displayed on the glass door pane of Miss Jay’s tiny general store were many exotic postage stamps individually hinged on album pages that were, in turn, secured by wooden clothes pegs clipped to lengths of stretched string.

Happy days were those when I could persuade my mother that I was too sick to go to school yet well enough to make my way to Miss Jay’s store to spend a few pennies on the colourful stamps that caught my eye. For the most part the stamps were priced at a halfpenny  (we pronounced it “ha-penny”) or a penny each, with a few “high value” stamps at “tuppence” apiece.

These were the old days of pounds, shillings and pence, of course, when even the lowly farthing had some purchasing power. These historic oversize coins were all replaced with undersized decimal coins on February 15, 1971.

The lower value stamps were usually chosen; quantity winning hands down over quality, as every young stamp collector kept pencilled in the front of his album a running total of how many stamps were housed within its covers.

To this day, I can visualize many of the stamps that caught my youthful eye: triangulars from the Mozambique Company, Bengal tigers of the stamps of the Federated Malay States, giraffes and leopards from Ethiopia – we called the country Abyssinia then – camels and zebras from Nyassa, and galleons from Spain as well as colourful pictorials from both British and French colonies.

Stores no longer hang stamps on their doorways in this fashion; in fact, few stores even sell the individual country stamp packets that enabled us to fill the printed pages of our childhood albums so quickly. Today, a teacher of philatelic bent may still introduce a few children to stamp collecting at a school club but, generally, I fear, stamp collecting, once the world’s most popular hobby, is now a hobby enjoyed by older citizens.

A recent news item said Curacao was the world’s newest country created as a result of the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles. Apparently, of the 196 recognized countries in the world, 103 of them have become independent or changed names since 1960. So many of my stamp-collecting favourites of the past have new identities – Gold Coast (Ghana), for instance and do you remember Basutoland and Bechuanaland?

And who but stamp collectors would know of the Oil Rivers, Poonch, Stellaland,

Sungei Ujong and all those delightfully named French Colonies, such as Djibouti, Dedeagh, Mayotte, Packhoim Tcongking, and Ynnan Fou?
My geography may be outdated but collecting the old time stamps can still be fun.

Filed Under: Alan R CaponNews from Everywhere ElseUncategorized

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