Working Lives

Jarrolds’ Sales Rep (1950s-1960s)

Location: Norwich

Tony recalls his time as a Jarrolds sales rep in commercial stationery.

Packing parcels and marking cards, properly!

My headmaster at CNS, Mr Jackson, suggested I tried for a job at Jarrolds. Later I discovered a cousin, Jo Anderson, worked there and at one time he was my boss on commercial stationery. I joined in 1951 as a fetch and carry type of bloke in the retail stationery department. I worked from 9.am – 5.30pm and went in by bus from Horning. I had to leave dead on 5.30pm to get the 5.45pm bus back. When I got on the move it was much easier. I paid half a crown a week to keep my bike down the tavern, just below Exchange Street, which was handy.

I earned 32/6d a week when I started, which was alright. I had to mark the birthday and Christmas cards. As you can imagine it was very busy at Christmas. Miss Garrod, the social stationery buyer, was in charge. She was very particular about marking. Once, I’d just marked up a gross of Christmas cards and she said ‘Oh, that’s most untidy, rub them out and do them again’. That was my initiation into stationery at Jarrolds. Miss Garrod’s training and guidance in retail stationery helped me a lot. Wherever you went in the store there was guidance, if you were prepared to listen. Sometimes I could be a bit stubborn but it paid off in the end.

In the early days I would help out wherever they were busy. If my boss needed a parcel sent out immediately I packed it myself, as well as I could. The education department dealt with a lot of schools so large quantities of stock were sent out. It was good fun. I was known throughout the store and I knew everyone.

On the road as a rep

Later I went to the department selling commercial stationery and office equipment. I was just a lad there. I served on the counter, met all the customers and eventually I became a rep. One of the customers, City Hall, had a pretty good relationship with Jarrolds. I would go to the Town Clerk’s office for my daily order and to sort out any problems that might have arisen. After one of the reps left I had half the city as my domain and later my area increased across Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire. I was covering a lot of miles. I always enjoyed driving and I’ve been a rep all my life.

When young Mr Richard Jarrold came in with modern ideas the business increased. There were two other reps in commercial stationery and we were all fighting for business with targets to meet. There was competition between us and the staff, all trying to do our best. I’ve always been competitive when I play bowls or whatever, I play to win.

When I returned from a holiday with my friend in retail stationery I went up to the education department and saw her. I asked my boss’s secretary who the new girl was and I made a point of meeting her. Her father was an electrician up at the Speedway so our first date was there, where he could keep an eye on us. I shall never forget it ‘cos we sat on the rail and both fell over backwards. We married in 1960 and my wife left work in ‘61. The first boy was born in ‘64, the second in ‘66.

Wrestling in the Corn Hall

Before we married the wife and I and Reg More would go to see the wrestling fortnightly at the Corn Hall. I left work at 5.30, planted Janet on the Corn Hall steps while Reg and I would get sandwiches and rolls from the Clover Leaf cafe in Dove Street, bring them back and be first through the door. It was a big open space with the ring in the middle and all the corn stands where the market was prior. We’d grab a bench, chuck it up over the back stands as, being short people, we needed it so we could look down on the ring, which was absolutely brilliant. We had really good nights and we’d come out at 10.30 and Janet would dash in one direction for her bus and I would dash in the other. The Corn Hall has gone now. Next door was a little shop called Vanstones, between the Corn Hall and Jarrolds, where commercial stationery kept the office machinery and whatnot.

Our local wrestler, Eric Pleasant, wrestled under the name of Panther. He lived out at Wymondham but used to wrestle in Norwich occasionally.  He taught me Judo. My wife and I both did Judo and Aikido and we were very friendly with Eric and his wife, Pauline.

Ink, a photocopier and a pocket camera

One particular memory I have is going to the stock room to get pint bottles of ink. First thing each day it was my job to fill the shelves. I had two pint bottles of ink in each hand and I walked down the aisle between the shelves and the drawers and counter on the right hand side. Somebody had left a drawer partially open and it took the bottom out of the bottle of red ink. You can imagine the mess! I shall never forget that one. The manager was very sympathetic when he saw my shoes and socks and trousers, but I cursed whoever had left the drawer open.

Latterly during my time at Jarrolds things changed and I remember the Coolmax Verifax photocopier. The original was placed with a sensitised sheet over a bank of bulbs and exposed for a length of time. It was then separated from the sensitised sheet which, with another sheet, was put into a bath of warm developer for a certain length of time. These two sheets were pulled out between squeegee rollers, allowed a few seconds to fuse and were then pulled slowly apart.

When the Polaroid camera first came out we introduced it on the commercial side. It worked in a similar way. You had sensitised cassettes in the cameras, took a picture, pulled it out, waited so long and then pulled them apart.  Eventually they came out in colour and Philips brought out a pocket camera, not much larger than today. Working for Jarrolds did give you an edge in the city but competition and the mechanisation of office machinery increased, requiring more specialised people so it was much more challenging.

Relaxing with colleagues

I enjoyed the outings and coach trips but one of the most relaxing, most fun times, was our lunchtime game of cards. Alan Hutson, Reg Moore and an under manager from the hardware department and I had sessions up there. If there were only four of us we played crib and otherwise we played pontoon. In those days my memory was quite good for the sequence of a pack of cards so I used to do fairly well at pontoon, till we lost the bank and had to shuffle them.

At one time our department had a bowls team and Jarrolds built us a bowls green up at  their sports ground on Fifers Lane.  I had many happy years bowling with them. We went out on trips and there was an annual dinner dance, with the factory, which, if I remember rightly, was held at the Samson Hercules Hotel and went down very well. We also had car rallies. There were also very pleasant evenings at Whist drives and crib drives on the top floor with both factory and shop, though mainly shop attended.

Politeness, civility and helpfulness was the main motto and that’s how it was. Today when you go into a store and you’re looking for something, you have to stop young ladies who are gassing away or doing their fingernails or they ignore you. Today they employ people who don’t know what they are doing, whereas before, when the customer asked for information you could give it to them and they could decide.

Jarrolds was a good old family firm where you could talk to anyone, right to the top, and get a satisfactory answer. There weren’t a lot of stupid regulations. If you had a problem there was always someone who would listen to you. Sometimes I regret leaving. I saw a future elsewhere so I left but I could have happily stayed on.

Tony talking to WISEArchive in January 2006.

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