My first job

Phil Webb remembers his first job as an office boy with Travis Perkins.

"When I reached 15 years of age, my father decided it was time for me to leave school and he arranged for me to have an interview at the Northampton branch of Travis and Arnold at West Bridge. I went to the offices and saw the manager, Mr Pratt and was taken on as an office boy at the princely sum of £2 5 shillings per week. I was to work in the building supplies department under Tom Knott.

"My duties, as far as I can remember, were mainly to do with filing orders and receipts. I sometimes had to go out to other builders' merchants in the town and deliver written orders for other building materials to them. I had to check on items stored in the yard to check on the quantity and condition. I was taught how to answer the telephone properly and how to take and deliver messages to other people in the company.

"My hours of work were 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. I used to cycle to work from Pleydell Road, sometimes with Janet Bailey and later with Keith Gardner. Janet worked at Dover's factory opposite my workplace, and Keith later worked at Travis's. I later went with Keith on his motorcycle backwards and forwards - with no crash helmets!

"I stayed at Travis's until just before my 18th birthday when I left to joined the Borough Police as a Police Cadet."

Jim Braddock remembers his first job as a telegram boy.

"In July 1959, I started my first job as a telegram boy. On the day that I started I was taken down into the chief inspector's office and I had to sign a declaration that I understood I was bound by the Official Secrets Act. This meant if I ever learnt anything about another person's business whilst doing my job and divulged it to anyone else and was found out, I was for the high jump. It could even mean going to prison if it was serious enough. They didn't mess around in those days.

"I was told that if you were spoken to by the head postmaster or his deputy you were to call him "Sir" and all other supervisors were called Mr before their surname: no familiarity allowed then.

"I had just turned 16 years old, so obviously I did not have a motor cycle licence. This meant I had to start delivering on a push bike around the town centre area until my motorcycle training was arranged in September. The Post Office had their own trainers who trained me for six weeks. At the end of that, I was put in for my test, which I passed first time. Once I had my licence, I had to deliver to the outskirts of town and surrounding villages. On Sundays, when the Wellingborough, Kettering and Daventry offices were closed, we had to do the entire county.

"My first week's pay was £1 18s. After I had paid my board I was much worse off then when I was at school, when I had my paper-round money but no board to pay!

"I carried on delivering telegrams until I was 18 years, old when we were moved on to being a postman which I stuck until I was 21 years old."

Doreen Clarke remembers starting work as a telephonist in the 1930s.

"I left Northampton School for Girls in 1937 at the age of 16 and started training as a GPO telephonist in September. We had to be right handed and at least 5 foot 3 inches tall in order to reach the equipment. Married women were not employed. If a telephonist left to be married after six years or more service she received a dowry according to the years worked.

"As the training class in Northampton was full, I and another girl went to Birmingham for the first six weeks of our training. We travelled up to Birmingham by train on Monday and back on Friday. All paid for of course. The last two weeks of training at Northampton.

"Our wages were 12 shillings and 6 pence during training. The starting wage was 25 shillings a week. We were paid cash every Friday morning.

"We had a duty roster covering 8am to 6pm, including Saturdays. The men covered 6pm to 8am. We had to sign in and out, and be on time in order to relieve the person going off duty.

"It cost one half penny for 2 stops on the bus or one penny all the way, but I travelled to work by bike; we had a shed in Derngate, where the post office vans were kept, where we could put our bikes.

"Things changed considerably in September 1939 on the outbreak of war. Some of the men were called up or volunteered to join the forces. Also some of the girls joined up. This all stopped when our job became a reserved occupation and married women were employed. I married Jack in 1942 and carried on working, although I lost my seniority. Our duty roster also changed and we worked shifts between 8am and 10pm, including Bank Holidays and Sundays. I wasn't pleased when it was my turn to work on Christmas Day!

"We tried to arrange our holidays when our husbands or boyfriends were on leave. We all helped each other. When they asked for volunteers to support the war effort by helping the Land Girls with potato picking, I went for a week - NEVER AGAIN!

"After six years in the army, my husband Jack was demobbed in 1946. He joined the Control Commission and was posted to Germany. After working as a telephonist for nine years I left to join him. But I always kept in touch with the 'Girls'."

Christine Scott remembers her first job at the College Road Chip Shop

"When I was about 13, I belonged to St John Ambulance cadets. We met on Friday nights and after the session we usually spent our bus fare on a bag of chips from the College Street Chip Shop. The owners, Mr and Mrs Marlow knew us well and one Friday night she asked me if I would help her out the next day. She said she would pay me so when I got home I asked if I could go and Mum said that I could. I arrived at 11am and a queue was already beginning to form down the street towards Gold Street.

"My duties were to keep the tables clear of dishes and plates etc. Because I was new to it all they gave me a white enamel bucket to collect the crockery and cutlery. I later progressed to a tray. I never did any washing up, but did help with the drying. I wore a long white cotton apron which almost came down to the floor.

"People were very friendly. Some had come in from the country, others were stall holders from the market along with the many Saturday shoppers. When the school holidays came, I sometimes worked Wednesdays, also a market day.

"The shop itself was once a two-up two-down house. It also had a large cellar that was dark and damp where mushy peas would be left overnight to soak in a large black cauldron type pot. Prepared fish lay on huge trays and the fat for frying was in a large block. I did not do any cooking, though I sometimes stirred the mushy peas. The whole place was full of steam and the delicious smell of fish and chips. One of the perks of the job was that I could choose whatever I wanted for lunch. So when it was less busy, I took my fish, chips, mushy peas and bottle of pop upstairs to eat alongside the customers. After that, there was no time to lose and it was back to collecting the dirties.

"In the beginning I finished at 3pm, but after a few months I started at 10am and finished at 4pm. Extra duties then involved filling the salt and vinegar bottles and wiping down ready for the next day. I had a very happy time there lots of laughs and leg pulling. I stayed for about two years until I left school and had a full time job - but that's another story."

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