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Saturday Jobs

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My Darling Daughter has just got her first Saturday job. She will be a waitress at weddings and functions in a nearby 4 star hotel. She did the phoning and interviewing all off her own back and I am incredibly proud.

And it has got me thinking back to my own Saturday job experiences when I was younger.

My first Saturday job was as a waitress in the Golden Egg next to Lewis’s Department Store on Argyle Street, Glasgow. I don’t know if you remember this particular restaurant chain, but it sold burgers, chips, fish, a few sandwiches – basically a chain of greasy spoons. I was incredibly shy back then so my waitressing lasted only one day and I was on dish washing duties after that. I worked from 10:00 until after 6:00 with only one break during the day which had to be taken when the restaurant wasn’t too busy. This usually meant I sat down to my cheeseburger around 4:00 or later. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the establishment expected me to wash ashtrays in the same water as the other dishes. Ewww! AND they didn’t have a plug for the sink so you had to keep replacing the ball of scrunched paper towels that was used instead.

I lasted four weeks.

Then I got a job as a sales assistant in Lewis’s. Lewis’s isn’t John Lewis. Lewis’s was a much smaller chain with branches in Glasgow and northern England, its headquarters in Liverpool. My mum worked there full-time in the pen department. They actually had a department selling nothing but pens. This is beyond cool, but I digress.

I was sent to work in Pictures, Mirrors and Fancy Goods. If there was ever a worse department to send a gangly accident prone 16 year old, I’d like to hear about it. I spent every Saturday on edge, scared I’d knock over a ‘Murano Style’ glass clown or silver foil silhouette picture. We sold tons of those. There were bars disguised as globes, paper weights, and more tacky mirrors than in A Versailles palace. We also sold wicker ware: bread baskets, small trinket boxes, laundry baskets – you name it, if it was made from wicker, we sold it. Unfortunately, it was also infested with some small beastie that meant we had a LOT of returns.

My department was on the third floor, right beside the Sports department and Toys and Games. At Christmas special festive music was piped through the floor’s speakers. Yes, nothing says Christmas more than a medley of Winnie The Pooh songs. No, I didn’t get it either.

I stuck it there for a couple of years before leaving to concentrate on my studies *cough* and relax a little at the weekends. But less than a year better, I was back. I missed the money. My pay started at £6. For the day. By the time I left for the second time I was on £12. Woo hoo.

This time I worked in the Record Department in the basement. In the pre-CD days we sold only vinyl and cassette tapes. Behind the counter were pigeon holes in which we kept the top 30 singles for the week. Rows of album racks ran in parallel rows in the middle of our area and we had a variety of shelving delineating the sales area we worked behind.

One of the full-time members of staff, Jean, used to refer to the established artists by their first names only. “Barbara (Streisand) is over there and of course, we keep Frank (Sinatra) and Dean (Martin) here.” She had a fungal foot problem and would keep foot powder behind the counter. Funny the things you remember…

We sold a lot of singles and chart albums but our best sellers by far were the Joe Loss Banjo Party and the Geoff Love Banjo Party 2. I think that gives you a good picture of our typical clientele.

Most of our customers were pleasant and courteous, but there were a few I would never have tired of slapping.   I did like to have some fun with them though. They would ask me for something and I would say, “Pardon?”, so they would repeat it. As did I. I’d carry this on until they were about to shout at the top of their voices at which point I’d turn the music off. They never found shouting in a quiet room anything like as funny as I did.

In the summer the basement could get very hot and management would give us orange squash with salt in it. I never, ever understood what the salt thing was about.

All of this was in the seventies when the threat of an attack by the IRA was a real possibility. Because I was only a Saturday girl, when we got a bomb threat – and there were quite a few – I was sent to look for it. Seriously. On the third floor I had to look under tables and inside the Globe bars. What I was looking for was anyone’s guess. Once, I found an abandoned bag of shopping hanging on a weigh-yourself machine on a landing in the back stairs. Concerned that this might actually be a bomb I was wary about looking inside so I made sure I did it quickly. My speed would, of course, fool the bomb into thinking nothing happened. It’s scary how stupid I was back then.
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Writer, photographer, creative fantasist.

6 thoughts on “Saturday Jobs

  1. oh yes the bombs are so slow – I would have done exactly the same!! Never had the scrunched paper in plughole but rememeber the smell of meat grease on my arms after a whole load in one lot of water and as you say ashtrays as well ugh!! did pay for the books and music tho’

  2. Really interesting post! I love the sound of the pen department *drool* – I love department stores like that. Fancy having that but having to work in fancy goods instead! Poor you 🙂

    I had a voluntary Saturday job helping out in the Red Cross shop which was interesting in its own way then moved to Neamish Museum where I met the love of my life! (1, 2, 3…awww!)

    1. For a while people thought I was security: it was my job to wander round the department and make sure people weren’t stealing stuff! No romance there for me. But “awwwww” for you xxx

  3. The bomb checking story is horrifying. I bet that wasn’t in the job ad! I’ve done: washing up in a butcher’s shop (ewww), washing up in a pub, singing in a pub (much more fun than washing up!) and packing and grading apples, as well as several summers in a theme park on ‘catering’ – ice cream kiosks, popcorn stands etc. But nothing actually threatening to life and limb…

  4. Thank you very much for your memories. I worked in Lewis’s, Argyle Street and remember the Golden Egg very well as we sometimes ate there at lunchtime. I obviously didn’t know about the dishes and ashtray thingy at that time but your, ‘spilling the beans’ as it were now, is quite funny…Your searching under tables and Globe bars for hidden bombs in Lewis’s brought back a memory of a briefcase that was found in the ladies staff toilets on the first floor. The police were called and a big, brave Glesga sergeant walked up to the case and put a bomb blanket over it. He then proceeded to put his hand under the blanket and opened the clasp. Thankfully the ‘bomb’ was not. Everyone had been evacuated except the security staff and we all fell about laughing (afterwards of course), probably hysterics. The innocence of it all. Cheers!

    1. So glad it’s brought back so many happy memories for you. My mum was a Lewis’s full-timer – Big Nan from, at different times, tobacco, stationery and pens. Maybe you knew her?

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