Jimmy Ward’s – Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla

In 2008 there was some discussion on the BGS List Yahoo! group about BGS OB spending time in a shop on West
Street, Boston run by Jimmy Ward. It’s before my time, but I don’t forget these conversations easily. Here is a flavour of the discussion:

Ray Millard: Anyone remember Jimmy’s? It was a favourite lunch time haunt for some of us in the 60’s.

Mike Brewell: Hot sarsaparilla & Jimmy in his grey shop coat. Remember it well.

Bryan Ashberry: I remember the shop so well – it was close to where I lived and near the co-op stores. Some of you may well be referring to the “new” shop on the Emery Lane side of West Street, but I remember the old shop (or shed as we used to call it) on the other side of the road. Jimmy always had some wonderful tale to tell, and amused us with his little ditties and rhymes some of which I remember today (some 60 years on) but which may not be suitable for an internet posting! What a character! 

Jonathon Brackenbury: I remember Jimmys ‘new’ shop tho’ my mother warned us to keep out of it….I think she may have used the Shed on her visits to Boston from Bicker in her youth. 

Adrian Wightman: Yes I remember the “new” shop, not being long enough in the tooth for the old variety! I can remember it was a good spot for a safe smoke when the urge arose. My Dad actually made the mahogany counter top, bench seat along the wall, window and doors and other fittings for the new emporium when I was a lad. I think a hot sass was sixpence in those days.

So, this shop was obviously an important meeting place for BGS OBs for some time.

Now fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 2013 and got talking to a chap on the stand for Mr Fitzpatricks, which claims to be the last surviving temperance bar in the country. It’s in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. Among other things, he was selling Sarsaparilla cordial. I asked to try some. He asked whether I had had it before (it’s an unusual taste), I said I had and it was definitely better than the last lot I’d bought (but this isn’t a commercial, so I’ll get on with the story).

He said that sarsaparilla was only remembered, or drunk in some very restricted regions, though some younger people now know American root beer, which is made from the same plant and is somewhat similar. In particular, if you go south from Rawtenstall, into Cheshire, you can’t sell it. I pointed out that my mother-in-law, whose family come from Barrow-in-Furness, remembers it from her youth, and he said that indeed there was a manufacturer in Barrow. He said it was also popular in the East End of London (not the West) and he mentioned one or two other places.

I then mentioned Mike Brewell’s and Adrian Wightman’s references in the message above to “hot sass”, and the chap from Rawtenstall confirmed that indeed there was an outlying area of sarsaparilla popularity in Boston. So, it seems he may have heard of Jimmy Ward’s, though I didn’t remember the name at the time and was therefore not able to take the conversation any further.

I just thought this might be interesting for BGS OBs of a certain age. Your comments are welcome below, or indeed on any article on this blog.

4 thoughts on “Jimmy Ward’s – Sarsaparilla

  1. I certainly remember Jimmy Wards. From early 1959 until I left school in 1963 We met there after school most days along with girls from the High School. As well as the various concoctions on offer to drink you could also buy a single Woodbine for twopence in old money. Lots of courting went on in Jimmy's as well. Fun times.
    Chris Lees

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