The School Year (1950s and 1960s): On little or no money

The post war and baby boomer years were pretty tough for many Shepherds Bush families. Money was tight and younger children would often wear hand-me-down clothes. Sometimes both parents worked, or the father would have to do extra work. Neighbours often helped each other out. Needless to say there was not much spare money around.

Initially I did not get any pocket money but sometimes on the way home from Ellerslie Road School we stopped at the sweet shop for 4 or 8 farthing chews or 2 ounces of loose sweets. But naturally as I got older I wanted some money in my pocket and I tried different ways to get some. I would offer to run errands for the man who lived downstairs, or my mother, or my grandmother who lived close by. If I was lucky I would be given some of the change from the shop. My Nan was a widow and was struggling herself but her brother-in-law visited periodically and between visits he saved all his pennies and halfpennies for us.

However, I soon learnt that here were other ways to get money. I looked for discarded beer and pop bottles that I could take to the shop to get the deposit back. Surprisingly, at that time, there was an amazing array of vending machines for chewing gum, chocolate bars, boxes of sweets, cartons of milk and cigarettes. So whenever I passed a machine I always checked the reject coin slots and change dispensers for coins. The old red telephone boxes also had coin machines; once someone put their money in they had to press Button A to be connected or Button B to get their money back for an unanswered call. So I always pressed Button B in the hope that someone had rushed off without taking their money back.

Telephone box coin machine

But without doubt the best money making time was the weeks leading up to bonfire night. I would make a ‘Guy’ and set up on the Uxbridge Road where there were plenty of local shops. Within two hundred yards stood four pubs; the Princess Adelaide, the Coningham Arms, the British Queen and the Princess Victoria. There were always plenty of people passing and the men going in and out of the pubs were often quite generous. Several neighbours on our road pooled their fireworks to spread the cost which meant that most of my ‘pennies for the Guy’ could be saved to spend on other things.

My favourite ‘Guy’ pitch was just to the right of the Handy Store which was between the British Queen and the Princess Adelaide pubs.

Sometimes we made the most of circumstances and the exceptionally hard winter of 1962/1963 was a good example. There had been very heavy snow and due to three months of prolonged cold temperatures ice and snow was still on the ground. Armed with a shovels and brooms a small group of us went door to door offering to clear snow. Between us we earnt quite a lot of money.

Some children on the White City Estate had perfected the art of car minding on QPR match days or dog racing nights. A combination of kindness and fear of getting their car damaged meant that drivers paid the children to watch their cars. We tried it ourselves one match day but it was quite hard work. We constantly ran up and down South Africa Road looking for cars arriving and asking the driver ‘can we look after your car mister?’ We were quite conscientious and stayed in the road throughout the match watching the cars but we realised that most of the White City kids had gone off to do other things. At the end of the match we had to run up and down the road looking for the returning drivers. Some would quickly drive off but if you were lucky and caught them they would give you some change.

My friend Colin, who I met at Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School, had an ingenious money making scheme when he was at junior school. With the aid of an old pram he went door to door collecting old newspapers which he then sold to a local scrap dealer. In our early teens the employment laws were very lax and we could easily work for money. Colin worked on a paraffin delivery round but I opted for a morning paper round. Newspaper deliveries were very popular and every newsagent employed several paper boys and girls. I worked for my local newsagents run by the Venables family and I was paid around 12 shillings for six mornings work. We all looked forward to Christmas as we got a share from the Christmas Tips Box that was kept on the shop counter. As I had the longest and heaviest round one year I decided it would be much more lucrative to knock on all my customer’s doors to wish them a Merry Christmas. I did collect a very large number of tips but afterwards I got a stern telling off from the boss.

Venables the newsagents is in the centre of this photo

Occasionally I worked the odd Saturday at Wyatts the local butchers. One Christmas I spent the majority of my time in the basement plucking chickens and turkeys, removing giblets and cutting off the claws and heads. It was quite dark and so cold that periodically I had to hold my hands close to the small bulkhead light to get some feeling back. After that experience I never went back!

S C Wyatt the butchers – with the canopy

Around that time new employment laws were introduced regarding part time jobs for teenage schoolchildren. The following Christmas, after filling out all the necessary paperwork, I got a seasonal Saturday job in a small Tesco’s store in Acton High Street. It was my first ‘official’ job working alongside a group of full time employees and although it was quite hard work I enjoyed the experience.

A couple of my friends left school at the age of 15 but most left at 16. I had already sat my GCE O Levels but I stayed on to retake a couple due shortly after my 17th birthday. Just before I took my exams I was interviewed and accepted for a job in the Design Office at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. I knew that I would be expected to pay something towards my keep at home but at long last I would be earning a good regular weekly wage.

By Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies and Archives volunteer

This entry was posted in Archives & local studies, Children, local history, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The School Year (1950s and 1960s): On little or no money

  1. smokeycole6 says:

    That was an enjoyable read.
    Similar to my childhood in Fulham 1947 to 1962.
    Stay safe and keep smiling.

    Peter Bryan Cole

  2. Anonymous says:

    Peter another enjoyable read , Thanks for sharing your childhood days, it was very interesting , I was born about the same time.
    Take care stay safe
    Bernie Crawford

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