« Dear Old Alma Mater? | Main | Village Shopping »

U3A Writing: First Job

…This jolly little man finished my interview as follows: “There is something I ought to tell you, and I’m not sure how you will take it.”

I thought that this must be something important, and his face was very serious. I stood there while he said, “Sylvia, do you know that there is no such person as Father Christmas?”

I can’t remember what I thought, but I do remember him bursting out laughing and me going bright red….

Sylvia Abele recalls being interviewed for her first job.

When I left Kayes’ College in Huddersfield in 1949, I applied for the job of office junior at a chartered accountant’s office in Huddersfield. My job was to start at the bottom and work my way up. Therefore I began my adult working life by making tea and coffee for the staff, delivering letters to other offices in the town centre, shopping for the boss’s cigarettes and one or two other mundane things. My salary was £1.15.6d per week.

I never wanted to work in an office. My ambition was to train as a midwife, but my parents had sacrificed a lot to send me to Kayes’ College to learn office skills, and in those days one did what one’s parents said. How the world has changed.

When I attended for my interview with one of the two partners, who were brothers, my interviewer was a happy-looking, very short man. I was a five-foot-nine-inch very slim girl. I think that because there was such a difference in height between us it seemed to make me confident, and I answered all the questions he asked with no hesitation at all. He said that I would be ideal for the job and could I start the following Monday at 9.00 a.m.

This jolly little man finished my interview as follows: “There is something I ought to tell you, and I’m not sure how you will take it.”

I thought that this must be something important, and his face was very serious. I stood there while he said, “Sylvia, do you know that there is no such person as Father Christmas?”

I can’t remember what I thought, but I do remember him bursting out laughing and me going bright red. He obviously was a bit of a joker (or at least he thought he was), but he turned out to be a fine boss. I worked there for three years, gradually learning to take down the dictation of letters in shorthand and, of course, typing them.

Learning to type balance sheets, trading accounts and profit and loss accounts was quite difficult, especially as there were no photocopiers or computers around then. These accounts had to be typed on very large sheets of paper with carbon copies. All relevant underlining was done on every sheet with red ink, using a ‘dip pen’. It sounds a real Dickensian carry-on, but obviously that was the way these things were done in late 40’s and 50’s.

In the general office there were the secretary, Gladys, and myself. Gladys was five years older than I was, and we got on brilliantly together. We had the same sense of humour, and she had bags of patience in helping me master various jobs that I was allotted. I am still in touch with her, and sometimes we talk about the old
days, how the firm has done really well and expanded very successfully.

My second job was at another firm of Chartered Accounts in Huddersfield where I was secretary to one of the two partners there. He was a horrid, sharp-speaking man. I hated working for him, so after about a year I left and went for yet another interview at a third firm of chartered accountants in the town. This was a very long-established firm and has now expanded to probably the largest firm of its kind in Huddersfield.

I was interviewed by the head partner in the most beautiful large office. He sat in his huge leather swivel chair, looking like a Chinese Buddha with his arms folded across his fat belly and a huge cigar in his mouth. ‘Oppulent’ is the word that comes to mind when thinking back.

The experience I had gained in the first two offices I worked in must have shown through as, after a very short interview, the Buddha offered me the job. This time I knew I was settled. There were five secretaries in my office, and we all got on like a house on fire.

Having worked there about 18 months, I then got married to John. Four years later I left to have my first baby, then two years later my second baby, so I was a stay-at-home mum until my children went to school.

The day came when I thought my children were well settled at school, and I called in at my last office one day and asked if there were any vacancies. Immediately I was offered a part-time post (9.00 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.), and I accepted it. It worked very well, and I could be at home for when the kiddies came home from school.

There were seven secretaries there by this time, and we all had electric typewriters. A huge step up from an old manual one. I enjoyed the work, the people and the whole atmosphere of the place.

Apart from working we formed a social group, and I was roped in to do the organising of various quiz evenings, car treasure hunts, meals out and many other things.

The whole ambience of the place was lovely, but as the years passed I thought it was time I retired. It took me three years to really take the plunge, but eventually I did and had a great send-off, with a party, many leaving gifts and lots of tears. After all my years in chartered accounts offices I was sad to go, but all good things come to an end.

However, in my heart of hearts I still would have liked to have been a midwife, but I don’t suppose my choice of work was too bad. I
met such a lot of great pals, many of whom I am still in touch with through letters, Christmas cards and phone calls.

Maybe those far-off days seem happier now than they were then, but ‘what will be will be’, and that is life!


Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.