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From an article by Roy Blenco
Roy Blenco - Memories

Picture of T. Swindall & Sons Builders & Undertakers
T Swindall & Sons

I was born in the same year as the Queen. This was the year of the General Strike and the start of the depression of the 1930s.

When I was eleven, in 1937, it was decided I was now too old to be cadging my statutory Saturday penny from my parents and it would be beneficial to learn the value of money by earning my own. The official age for part-time work after or before school was twelve but that had only just become law so was blinked at a little bit.

My aunt, who lived on the very outskirts of the town, had had her bread delivered until recently by a boy on a bike but that boy was now working full time in some sweatshop of a shoe manufacturer so she knew the job was vacant. She had a word with Miss Walpole Smith, the bakers shop owner and before you could say knife I was gainfully employed.

My duty was to report for work at noon when I was given a bread-basket of loaves to deliver 'on your way home' as it was put, and again at 4.30 pm to deliver a 'long round' of bread to the outlying districts of the town. This long round took about an hour and the empty basket was then returned to the shop. Saturday morning found me there at some unearthly hour to start deliveries. These were to all those people I had served through the week but double the quantity and collecting, from some of them, payment for the previous week's supplies. There were also some Saturday only deliveries that the senior bakers called on during the week but had no time for on the double baking day.

For these services I received a weekly wage of 3/6d. I was rich. I had never had so much money before in my life. But, alas! my bike fell over outside the shop and was crushed beyond repair by a passing vehicle. I had to have a new one straight away and was able to buy one on the 'never-never' from Mr. Espin whose business was in Queen Street. The bike was a shop-soiled (a credit sale that had not gone on to maturity) Coventry Eagle which cost £3.17.6 but was reduced to £3.10.0 because of its condition. I paid 2/6d (12.5p) a week for 28 weeks so for about 12 hours work I got a shilling (5p) a week. I was still able to feel a bit independent earning my own money and was quite well off when my pay was upped to 5/-. Then I could go to the cinema, as a junior, for 4d.

This was my start in working for a living but I didn't stay in that job because I changed schools and it was no longer practical. I took another less demanding (and lower paid) job at T. Swindall & Sons, the builders & undertakers, delivering accounts to 'The Executors of Mr So & So (deceased), with simply the name of the road. This was completely worrying for a small boy too shy to ask the way and not even knowing who or what an executor was.

I was really glad to leave that job to start work full time in a shoe factory. I had been a student at the Technical boot & shoe school but had to leave at fourteen, which was normal for elementary school and I had to pay a £5 fee to start work. My uncle and godfather, who worked at the same factory, Sanders & Sanders, lent me the money which I had to pay back when I received my wage of 12/6d from Arthur Bailey, the foreman, on a Friday. Uncle was kind to me though and slipped me 2/6d back so I didn't feel my 48 hours work had been for nothing but it meant that it was ten weeks before I really took home a pay packet. In spite of my technical knowledge of the shoe trade, or perhaps because of it, I wasn't long in that position and went to work for PX Transport, got sacked, then worked for Seamarks Motors where, among other duties, I sold rationed petrol at 1/9d per gallon.

We were a poor family and my wage went into the family coffers. I was allowed 2/6d 'spending money' by my mum. I was nonplussed but that was what I learned most of my peers did when they started work until pay was enough for them to 'pay board' when you had to buy your own clothes and toiletries. The war meant you couldn't buy much anyway. My first real wardrobe was supplied by the Army when I joined the colours 4 years after starting full time work.

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