“The Things You Did to Earn a Few Shekels”

Saturday jobs – the teenager’s rite of passage through the ages. Richard talks about his first jobs at Elfin Pet Stores, a garage and a chemist. Sheila started her working life early, running errands aged 6 and looking after a jewellery shop on her own as a teenage Saturday shop girl.

In this audio you can hear Sheila and Richard.

This audio is 4 minutes and 48 seconds long.


Audio Transcript:

Sheila: On the corner of the next road leading down used to be an electrical shop, because as a little girl, and when we lived in Werndee Road before we moved to Balfour Road, we obviously had a radio. But the radios worked different then to what they do now. My mum used to send me up to this electrical shop on the corner. I can’t think of the name of the road, it’s practically opposite Crowther Road, I think, but I can’t think of the name of it. But there was an electrical shop there, and my mum used to send me up to this shop with an accumulator, which was like a glass box with a handle, and it had got paraphernalia inside it, which I didn’t understand. This accumulator actually made the radio work, and you used to put it somewhere in the back of the radio to make it work. And every so often my mum used to send me up to this little shop and I was only a little tot, about six, I suppose, to get a new accumulator, every so often to go in the back.

Richard: The chemist, which is the first one on the left-hand side, which was called Beale’s. And the guy who owned that was a guy called, Frank Jamison, Scottish guy and as a kid, I worked in there peeling labels off of glass bottles, the things you did to earn a few shekels, and I did that. The lasting memory of that place was the smell downstairs, the damp. And, you know, there were rooms downstairs that probably hadn’t been into since the war. You know, you’d open the door and the smell that came out, and you used to think, this is a chemist. They prescribe medicine, probably growing penicillin down there.

Sheila: Not every name can I think of, but some things stick in me and that, Pain and Lungley’s. Then across the other side of that was, I think it’s a fish and chip shop, it was. I don’t know whether it’s still there now, it’s only been closed recently if it’s closed. Next door to it was a little jeweller shop of which I used to do a Saturday job



Michelle (Interviewer): When would that have been? Your Saturday job?

Sheila: What was I doing? I was selling, I don’t know, little odd bits of silver chains and things. The man used to leave me in there all on a Saturday, all on my own. And it was before I was 14 so obviously, I was allowed to work then, and I must have had a lot of common sense because he kept me there for some time on a Saturday. But he was, I don’t know what he was doing but I used to be in there all on my own, taking this, selling these bits and pieces and writing it down on a thing and pulling out a wooden drawer, I can remember, to put the money in. And in those days, I used to get 15 shillings, which was a hell of a lot because when I started working London, doing five days or five and a half days a week, at the age of 14, I was only getting £1.50, and that was office work. But this man paid me, I don’t know how I got the job to start with, to be honest with you, but he must have thought I’d got a lot of common sense or something to employ me.

Richard: Coming back to earlier times, I was blown away when they ripped the sign off Little Mouse, the cheese and we found Elfin pet stores. Elfin pet stores was a place I spent hundreds of hours as a kid. Beryl Waghorn was the lady who owned that, she ran it with her daughter, Joan. Now she had a brother, I can’t think of her brother’s name. They were synonymous. The food that they sold and cut up, pet food. Fido meat. Now Fido meat, probably you’ve never even heard of Fido meat. It was a slab of congealed, it was vile, but people used to give this to their pets, horse meat. They had a few, when you go into the shop, there’s some stairs that go up and out the back. There was where they kept all the feeds and, you know, the dog biscuits and everything.

South Norwood High Street Stories is funded by Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme delivered by Croydon Council. For more information visit www.croydon.gov.uk/southnorwood

Image Credit: Croydon Council

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