08 April 2013

Friendly Pharmacist - May and Baker cans

One of the amusing stories I occasionally relate harkens back to my youth.  During my high school days I was an avid tramper and mountain climber; a collector of lightweight gear.  A favourite carrying container for food on trips was the lightweight aluminium can used by the British pharmaceutical firm,  May and Baker. For one of our longish summer trips I was assigned the job of collecting up a few M&B tins.

So I did the rounds of the Christchurch pharmacists to obtain these precious cans.  My rounds led me to a pharmacist called George Bettle.  George had a mail order business supplying married (and unmarried) couples with items in plain paper wrapping.  He also had a reputation (it was said) for providing solutions to unwanted pregnancies.

I still have a few old M&B tins - 60 years later.

I'd always believed in going to the top and asked the lady at the counter if I could talk to Mr Bettle. I was taken out the back and gently ushered into a very large room where George Bettle sat behind a large oak desk and surrounded by the evidence of a mail order business. He looked across at me (with my Xavier College school cap clutched between my hands and quite obviously a good Catholic boy  with his girlfriend in trouble) and in sympathetic tone asked as he pressed his fingertips, one against the other, "Tell me about your worries, my son".  I replied - "Have you got any empty M&B tins, Mr Beetle".  The look on his face was quite amazing as he ordered me from the room and back to the receptionist - who provided one empty aluminium tin - not in a plain paper wrapping.