Chemistry Department (2006)

Location : Norwich

Mr B worked in the Chemistry department in Jarrolds when he was 16 & became the camera expert.

He was born in Ringland Norfolk & lived with his parents Richard & Ada Florence Bass. Father was a Baptist Minister in Stradbroke Suffolk & later in Foulsham. He had one brother who died at 5 years old & an older brother who is now 89

After school where he obtained the Cambridge School Certificate he thought of joining the airforce. There was not much work available at that time till after Munich (1938). He saw men fight to get 2 pence. One man he knew took a 6 foot diameter iron pig trough on his bike by rolling it four miles for a farmer who couldn’t get it on his truck. He wanted 2 pence to buy a packet of fags. The farmer gave him 1½pence.

Jarrolds were advertising so he applied & got the job. Mr Grant was the manager & asked him what was 2½ % of a pound. He was paid 10s / 3p after deductions. His mother had 10s. he kept the 3 penny bits. To get to work from Ringland he biked 8 miles there & 8 miles back. The bike shed was 200 yards from the store.

Jarrolds had taken over the business of Corder the chemist to set up the department. The chemist in charge was Mr Deacon ‘a proper gentleman who never lost his temper’ He tried to help Mr Bass get on in pharmacy even giving him his old white coats, but the war intervened. Miss Cook was the dispenser & Olive Fields (Lee) the main assistant, was an expert on perfumes Yardley & Coty. Mr Deacon got books for him to learn about cameras. He knew how a Leica worked although they didn’t sell them as they were expensive.They sent the films to Coes for printing although there was darkroom at the store to process postcards for Jarrolds.

‘I took up photography & took wedding photographs with a box camera to earn a shilling. I did the printing at home & washed the film under the pump. Jarrolds gave a staff discount of 2p in the shilling for film.

In September 1939 Jarrolds bought reams of greaseproof paper to make a profit after the war. When the alarm sounded we had to go in the basement & sit between the reams. They thought the war would soon be over. Miss Cook made up an antidote to mustard gas, but said it was no good & wouldn’t help.

I worked from 9am to 6pm every day except Sunday & Thursday which was a half day. I could get home in half an hour. I took sandwiches for lunch which was an hour. I used to walk around & sometimes went to pump an organ in a church near Bonds for a Jarrolds man.

A lot of the customers had accounts but I wasn’t allowed to serve them. I had to get permission to accept a £5 note. Customers had to sign the note & put their address on it. We used the overhead ‘railway’ . The cash went to the accounts office on the first floor. Molly Thirkettle ( distant relation) did most of it. She was very fast

Mr Footer was the Floor Walker. He would buy stuff in for the sale like boxes of soap. But the busiest time was Christmas. We had a 35mm projector which they couldn’t sell so each Christmas they would show films for the customers like Jessie Matthews films. Eventually it was sold at the reduced price of £35

In 1938 King George VI opened City Hall. Staff were allowed to watch from the windows. I went outside to the Guildhall with a camera. I noticed that the King looked scared stiff & frightened.

Once Prince Monolulo a tipster who was well known on the race courses with his cry of “I’ve got a horse” came in to promote his book. He used to sell tips for 3d & gave everyone a different horse saying “I’ve tipped a winner’.

When the war came after the false alarm over Poland everything carried on as normal. Some stocks were getting low. I stayed till the 13th June 1940 (Dunkirk) when I went to the Octagon Chapel & signed on. I was sent to Uxbridge & pronounced fit for duty and training as an wireless operator or air gunner in 3 months time.

I returned to Jarrolds till 3rd September 1940. I was the first employee to volunteer & the staff clubbed together to buy a gents toilet set costing £4/19/6 & all signed a little book (he still has the set unused)

During the war he served on the flying boats including the Catalina and flew in Liberators & Lincolns. He was demobbed in October 46 as a Flight Lieutenant..

Returned to Jarrolds & met Mr Grant again. He said “We’ll do our best for you” They were going to expand the Department but not for a little while. I worked in the wholesale department with Mr Turner & stayed over Christmas selling books. Rupert Annuals for 1/6. Mr Stone was in charge of books. A very clever man. Knew all about books. He was the first in the City to get Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Did a sweep on the Grand National backing a horse called Cahoo picked out by a girl. Not a chance, 100 to 1. Hadn’t done anything like it during war. Then had an offer from the Airforce for an extended service commission for 4 years which I accepted and got £500. Did one more. I was now married.

I met my wife in July 45. I was going along the Walk. She was with a girl I knew, Val D. ‘How’re you getting on bor?’ We were married on Boxing Day.

Jarrolds generates a lot of good will. It’s a happy store, always pleased to serve people.

Afterwards I joined the police force in 1952 and ended up as Detective Inspector (another story)

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