Like most teenagers in the 60's I had the obligatory Saturday job and despite aspirations for W.H. Smiths in Wallington High Street the best I could get was Woolworth's next door. This was in the days of wooden floors, green overalls, old fashioned cash tills that pinged and the plastic orange floating around in the dayglo orange juice dispenser. We moan about E numbers these days but I bet it was a while since that juice had been anywhere near a real orange.
This picture by the way is THE actual shop.
I had a variety of counters to contend with and some were real no hopers. Fortunately I developed an allergy to whatever the seed potatoes and the hyacinth bulbs were coated in so I was quickly moved from the Ailsa Craigs onto lightbulbs.
I loved lightbulbs.You had to test each one before it was sold and there was something quite important about that job.That didn't last and I ended up on crockery where after a particularly bad teapot lid breaking day I was finally dispatched to curtain rails.I became quite a whizz on the Harrison Drapes and the Swish but made Woolworths a huge profit as no one told me the rail price included fixtures and fittings and for weeks I sold it all separately.Someone had the sense not to let me near the Pik and Mix sweet counter or profits would have plummeted.
Then, about a week after my O Levels finished, I was struck down by appendicitis and despite sending a message to let them know I wouldn't be in to work for a couple of weeks I was sacked...from Woolies! Surely my finest hour?
Unemployment couldn't last for long, at £1/ 8 shillings a week down (when an LP cost £1/4s) I decided to try another town and walked in the opposite direction to Carshalton High St and eventually landed my job as a waitress in Honeybun's cafe and tea rooms.
Here I learnt a skill that has served me well down the years, how to balance a loaded tray holding roast dinner for four plus plates and cutlery on one hand and unload it with the other.I laugh now at the kitchen hygeine, not least the cook with the cigarette complete with precarious ash leaning over a large pot of indeterminate veg, and in case you ever wondered, yes they were all heated up the next day and the next. Nothing but nothing was wasted and the washing up water in the enormous sink was made to last the entire day.
My fellow waitress was a lovely girl called Valerie who looked quite ordinary and normal by day, but by night turned into a raving diehard Mott the Hoople fanatic. A sound I'll admit I never quite warmed to.
Our favourite customer however was the jazz pianist Roy Budd who always left a very substantial tip that more than covered a Mott the Hoople single (7/6d) for Valerie and a Simon & Garfunkel one for me.