My First Job

By Bryan Palser

Dear Bernard,

It was very interesting to read about Charlotte Tate’s life in banking in the early fifties. I wondered if our members would be interested in reading about what I consider to be an unusual way to start working life. I am no author (or typist!) but put before you the following for consideration.

I went to George Dixon Grammar School and left on Thursday 20th July 1950. The year was the last one when you took “School Certificate”; 0-Levels were introduced in 1951 .To get School Certificate you had to pass six subjects one of which had to be English Language. If you passed eight subjects but did not pass English Language you did not get a certificate, a most unfair situation. My father impressed on me the importance of getting the certificate and promised me a motorised wheel for my bike if I passed.

Unless one had definite ideas you did not really know what you wanted to do but again my father thought I should get a secure job in Local Government, Banking or Insurance.

I had completed the application form for Local Government and my Father (un beknowns to me) had secured me an interview with a well-known insurance company at 9-15 a.m. on Saturday 22nd July 1950. Whether it was the norm in those days but my father came with me to the interview. We were ushered into a large office with opaque glass sides and a very worn Turkish carpet and were confronted by a foreboding District Manager.

Following the interview the Manager asked if I would like to accept the position of Junior Clerk (subject to my School Certificate results being favourable) starting at £125 per annum or if I would like to think about it. I said I would like to think about it and we departed. Outside my furious father said, “You want the job don’t you? I said, “Yes”. He said, “Get in a telephone box and accept”. This I did, the manager Mr H.W.Bruce said they would write and let me know when I was to start.

I went home and looked forward to my last long school holiday.

On the Monday morning I was languishing in bed when my Mother came up and told me that there was a typewritten letter for me, a most unusual event. The letter was from the District Manager advising that they had arranged a medical for me the following Wednesday but also saying they could find me occupation if I cared to report to Mr Bruce at 10 a.m. that Monday morning, this was at my own discretion.

Horror! My long holiday had gone but worse I had nothing to wear. In those days ones only jacket was a school blazer, after hasty consultation I borrowed a sports jacket and a pair of shoes from my uncle and turned up at 1O a.m. This was the start of 42 Years with Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd (now Aviva)

Early days were rather austere, we put sticky labels over addresses and envelopes were used again (nothing new in recycling!) and during the winter months to conserve the use of electricity we were not allowed to use the lift between the ground and first floor. The only mechanical aid in those days was a “Sumlock” adding machine, which was shared between the re-insurance department on the first floor and the cashier on the ground floor. One day during the winter the cashier asked me to fetch her the “Sumlock”, this I did but on the way downstairs I tripped and dropped the machine down the flight of stairs, all the keys jammed and the cashier said the cost of repair or new machine would be taken from my salary. Fortunately I took the machine to the “Sumlock” offices where with the touch of a screwdriver a mechanic released the keys and all was well.

A fine start to working life but I did retain a friendship with that cashier which lasted for 56 years until her death in 2006. Oh and I did get my School Certificate!

Ed’s comment-Thank you Bryan for another insight into working life anyone else like to share their work experiences with us?

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