Working Lives

Jarrolds’ Magazine Department

Location: Norwich

Janet  recalls her time in the magazine department at Jarrolds.

I started at Jarrolds in 1954. My birthday is at the end of August, school finished in July and I managed to get a job when I was still only fourteen. It wasn’t unusual to start work at fifteen then.

I started in the education department working from 9.00am – 5.30pm, serving customers who wanted educational goods, rulers, compasses, that sort of thing. I started on about £5 per week and I gave my parents £4.

There was an overall head of department and then the store assistants. If you had a problem you went to the head of department, or higher if necessary, and got it sorted out but mainly you just served customers. In education there were three other staff and two staff in the art department which was a separate section, though still under the same buyer. All the other assistants were older than me. I think they were a bit shocked by my age at the time but I got on alright with them. I enjoyed the store and I liked the camaraderie and the general atmosphere. The customers were nice and you didn’t often get a difficult customer. The atmosphere at Christmas was a bit hyper.

One of the reasons I went to Jarrolds was because I liked reading. What I really wanted was a position in the book department but I had to start in education until a vacancy came up. I spent most of my time reading. I always have.

I went to one of the Whist Drives, a couple of outings and met my husband who was a driver at one of the car rallies. I was working in education at the time. He was a rep for  commercial stationery and had to come up to collect some goods and we took it from there really. As long as you did your job and were polite to customers, which was the criteria, it didn’t matter that you were courting.

Departments were a lot smaller then. Customers were always right, no matter what, even if they were wrong. You just had to grin and bear it.

Later I moved down to the magazine department where it was just general sales. My hours there were 8.30am – 5.30pm. Magazines come and go, newspapers come and go and you just went with the changes. I remember the Eagle comic and the Girl comic which sold phenomenally well and were then discontinued. Children would come in asking ‘Where’s my Eagle’? “I’m sorry, it’s no longer published’.’ Oh, what am I going to read now?’ You tried to introduce them to something else.

We made sure our regular customers had their magazines every week. You got used to them coming in, knew their names, and in some cases you ended up calling them up by their Christian names because they asked you to. Otherwise they were always Mr or Mrs.

I was still quite young when I left in 1961. I missed the camaraderie of Jarrolds. I went to another store and the attitude of some of the bosses was different. Jarrolds does hold a particular place in the city. It’s a family store and the shop assistants knew their jobs, knew their departments upside down and inside out and sideways. I don’t think the assistants are trained as well as we were.

Janet  (b.1940) talking to WISEArchive on 2nd February 2006.

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