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Marianne Hall recalls her rocky entry into the world of work.

“I have a good mind to fire you!” shouted the bank manager.

Oh, hell. What had I done now?

He pointed at a statement with my name on it.

“What is the meaning of this very big deposit?” he asked.

“Well……..” It took me some time to gather my wits.

“Well, what?”

“Well, you see it’s like this. My father had this tractor. He sold it and received the amount you see there,” I pointed to the statement. “In order to save ledger fees he asked me if he could deposit the cheque into my account. Of course, I agreed.”

He glared at me. “This benefit ONLY APPLIES TO THE STAFF!”

He was getting redder and redder in the face.

“OK. OK. Don’t get your knickers in a knot!” I muttered.

“JUST GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!” he exploded.

I sullenly complied wondering who the devil had reported this.

When I matriculated it had always been my ambition to become a journalist. I went for an interview to the then “Germiston Advocate”, was sent on an assignment and got the job.

“Nie genoeg nie,” (not enough) said my mother in a firm voice when I told her that the salary would be thirteen pounds and five shillings. “Gaan na de bank toe.” (go to the bank).

The bank offered me nineteen pounds five shillings so, of course, that is where I landed up.

I was put into the “enquiries box”.

An Indian man came in with a cheque. It reflected a very large amount.

“If I deposit this cheque, can I draw on it straightaway?” he asked.

“Of course,” I assured him. I then heard a lot of screaming and arguing between him and the teller. I had been unaware of the fact that a ten day clearance was required on all cheque deposits!

Shortly after this episode it was decided to move me into the Ledgers section where they assumed that I could do no harm.
Entries were processed on two Burroughs accounting machines. They were first posted onto the cards and then on to the statements. At intervals these were checked and had to correspond. If the figures did not agree differences were looked for and adjustments made.

Ledger fees were recorded in a large cumbersome book. At the end of the month these had to be posted on to the cards cum statements. In those days, everything was initially recorded by hand. The staff usually worked late to do this.

“Are you sure you understand what to do?” I was asked.

“Of course I do!” I slammed the book shut.

Well ……… when they finally compared the statements with the cards, they found there was a difference on each and every account!

I HAD PICKED UP THE WRONG MONTH!!

What a palaver! All incorrect entries had to be reversed and initialed by the supervisor, and then the correct entries re-posted. It was well past midnight before the job was done. I was most unpopular!

I eventually found another job and resigned. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

My next job was with a construction company by the name of “Prefabricated Housing”. This was the first company in the country to introduce the concept of bolting together pre-concreted walls.

I did the filing, handled the petty cash and kept a record of sales.

I also had to do the daily banking. The guy who took me in his bakkie worked in the factory. He was engaged. This was not a problem to him. On the way to the bank we would pop in for milkshakes and did a lot of talking and giggling.

“Where have you been? You’ve been away for hours,” was the usual comment on coming back from the bank.

“There was a queue from here to Christmas,” I would reply.

One of my jobs was to relieve on the switchboard. The latter consisted of a board with many calls coming in through thick wires at each end of which were plugs which had to be inserted into holes through which the calls were directed to various members of staff.

These wires were my moses. I was forever getting them tangled up and putting calls through to the wrong extensions.

My on-going comment was “hang on, hang on”. An irate person got so irritated that he replied: “I’m hanging on for grim death.”

I was busy trying to make some sense out of all the wires and extensions when I heard a voice say in a very official tone: “We would like to see a Miss Kamp.”

I looked up. Behind the counter were two police officers. One had a brown official file in his hand.

“That’s me,” I replied cheerfully.

“You must come with us to the station. You have contravened the Alien’s Act and you will be charged.”

Without further ado they bundled me into the back of the van, much to the interest of my colleagues.

I had to pay a fine of ten shillings. I was a Hollander and it was then a law that every alien had to report to the police whenever there was a change of residence or job!

My father was furious. He immediately applied to the Department of Home Affairs to get South African citizenship for all the family.

Years later, Joan von Memerty and I were invited to recite some poetry at the Afrikaanse Sakekamer. Joan was then the poetry editor of the writers’ club to which we both belonged. They were keen to introduce some English culture to the group.
As I walked up on to the stage I looked at all these well turned out woman in their suits, gloves and hats and in an inkling decided to change direction.

“You have in your presence a criminal,” I announced. I glared at each one in turn.

“Yes,” I repeated. “A criminal.”

Now I had them really worried. They looked at each other suspiciously. I winked at Joan.

Some clutched at their handbags, and others rose out of their seats to make a retreat.

“Before you all disappear,” I said very sarcastically. “Let me tell you all about it.”

When Joan went up later to recite her poetry it was so “high-falootin-tootin” , I think she did it on purpose, that even I could not understand what it was all about. As far as her audience was concerned she might as well have been speaking in Greek.

Needless to say, we were never invited again.

©Marianne Hall 2013

TRANSLATION: “BLAPSE” is the Afrikaans word for “mistakes”.

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