Brown Paper Packages Tied up with String


Sound of Music? No. But it does have an ‘old’ ring to it.

Hey, but sometimes we have to be reminded of the way it was, so that you can appreciate what we have today.


But, you havn’t heard about the parcels that we received, arriving from abroad wrapped in heavy brown paper. They were held together with string and sealing wax; and were always far more exciting than any parcel you get today.

Horrible grey coloured self adhesive plactic bag wrappers with printed labels or boxes covered with brown parcel tape and official looking stamps.

The parcels that lit up our little faces with smiles in Potchefstoom and Pretoria, South Africa came from the British Isles.

That land far, far away that we only heard about in school or when Daddy and Mommy reminiced late in the evening around the fire in Gezina.
Stories of the old country we never tired of hearing.

Our parcels were always brown and covered with old fashioned beautiful hand written addresses, lots of string, rock hard sealing wax on all the knots and , don’t forget, rows and rows of bright coloured postage stamps.

Nell and Dad 1973

Our Auntie Nell, Dad’s sister had no children of her own, so once a year at Christmas we would each get something in the BIG parcel! More often than not it was a book; Enid Blyton’s Noddy for the little one’s, Secret Seven, Malory Towers and then the Famous Five.

As the girls grew up, we got Girls Own Annual’s or The School Friend, and any other little items she could buy and squeeze in. Books are heavy, however these parcels would come by what was then known as “surface mail”.
By van, and boat, taking all of four to six weeks before delivery. The journey was long and they did take a bit of a battering.
No containers then to keep parcels unblemished and dry.

Books by Enid Blyton.

Has this one special excitement ever died for a child?
Getting a parcel in the post!

I met our generous Auntie Nell in 1979 in Yorkshire and was able to thank her personally for the gifts that held immeasurable value, and which gave such joy. Our special library, which our big sister Pat managed, was richer for the additions.
(If you wanted a book, to read yourself to sleep with at night, before lights out, she would sign it out for you; but it had to be back the next day.)

A visit from Auntie Nell to South Africa,1981,surrounded by our children!

Another parcel related story: A cancelled visit to Rhodesia, to our cousins, Irene, Sheelagh and Les Dimond, where we would have spent Christmas together, probably the first time in two years. All the Christmas presents had already been bought so had to be sent to Salsibury by post.

The Dimond Family

Our mother set aside most of the afternoon to wrap, parcel and complete that job.

It was technical, you understand::- string, fingers, matches and sealing wax were involved. This WAS NOT a one man job!

Mac knew where the sealing wax was, in Dad’s desk drawer, because he was always fiddling with everything interesting that didn’t concern him; (this in case he could take it apart, then say”Daddy fix!”) Charlotte would run along beside him to keep a motherly eye.

Charlotte had to hold the knots tight for Mom, to make sure they didn’t slip, while I held the sealing wax, Pat lit the match and we dripped the hot wax onto the knot.

This was more than likely followed by a three quarter hour walk up the Great North road (towards the borders of Rhodesia),to the post office to post it.
We would have walked past York Store, an African Trading store, where the little black picaninies danced on the verandah to the sound of Quela music. If Charlotte could be sworn to secrecy, I would have gone in and bought us a penny’s worth of Wilson’s toffees to chew along the way.

York Store was banned.

Then we would pass the Sasko Mills where our Dad was on shift.
This parcel would also have gone surface mail, with a delivery time of two weeks the norm.

Rememering the joys we experienced that I have just shared with you, I get to thinking about my little Irish team of Grandsons in Kildare today.
They are experiencing some of the old magic!
This Granny now packs up parcels and sends them over from England without prior announcement.

Their parcels are delivered to the front door by the postman, to gales of

“Open it Mummy, open it!!”

No they have no brown paper, nor sealing wax; but hey, the excitement is the same.

I sometimes wish I could hide myself inside, just to be there.


About liz2you

Life just happens when you plan something else. 50 years spent in Africa and relevant stories.
This entry was posted in Africa, brown paper packages, Humour, sealing wax, Wilson's toffees and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Brown Paper Packages Tied up with String

  1. Mac says:

    Oh yes
    I remember

  2. Charlotte says:

    Oh Betty, this is sooooo special… have ‘captured’ everything so well, I felt I was back there.

    Your three little boys are very blessed to have a Granny like you !!!


  3. Sheelagh Hansen-Violets Daughter for those that don't know says:

    Oh yes So it was the same on your side. It is a shame I have got so lazy or is it our lives are just different? I wonder. Because we still care as much but don’t manage to cope as well.
    Keep up the good work we love it
    Love Sheelagh

  4. liz2you says:

    Oh Sheelagh, remember this, you still have four children hanging about waiting to be told what to do.
    Not that I don’t have one of those too; he turns sixty next week. I am so looking forward to his coming of age!
    Then I can get on with the writing.

  5. Pingback: Youth, Yesterday, Youbetya! S. A | 'Work Out' each Day

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