Although I’d had a summer job previously working at a filling station during the summer, my first real job was working at a shoe shop. It all started because my grandmother had called into the shop, which was a well known name on many High Streets up and down the country, and asked if there were any Saturday jobs going for her granddaughter.
Just the day before, me and my friend had called into the local market hall to ask about Saturday jobs and were both supposed to work there all day that coming Saturday on a clothing stall for a measly two pounds a day. My grandmother, bless her, had negotiated a deal with the manageress at the shoe shop so I would receive twice that amount, with certain benefits to boot. Pardon the pun. Depending on how well my sales went I’d also receive Boots vouchers to spend, sorry there’s that word boot again!
I become rather good at my Saturday job, so much so that the young woman who worked there full-time became jealous as I was outselling her! Being a bit naive, she told me that I was to credit some of my sales to her as everyone helped one another out. What did I know? Didn’t everyone do that? This went on for weeks, making her sales pad flourish, whilst mine was average. It went on, that was until the manageress cottoned on and called us both over to the till and demanded an explanation as she’d recognised my writing on the other girl’s sales’ pad. After that, we were told we could only record our own sales, which was better for me as I received lots of Boots vouchers for all my great sales, whilst Miss Full-Time-No-Sales-Patter glowered at me and threw the odd snide comment in my direction.
She was later lured away by a new shop selling records that had just been built in the town. Hope she was better at selling 45 discs and 33 rpm long playing records than she was at selling sandals and slippers!
Anyhow, this left her position at the shoe shop, free. I’d just finished a year of the sixth form at school and was due to begin my nurse training the following year, so there was time to be filled, so I was given her full-time position. The manageress even told me I was the best sales girl she’d ever had working at the shop, which was quite a compliment considering her own daughter and niece worked there on a Saturday too. Or maybe she told all sales girls that to get the best out of them! Who knows? It worked in my case.
But I have to admit, I learned from the master or mistress herself, a.k.a. the manageress. I’d watch her literally bending over backwards to find the right shoe for a customer, often endlessly climbing up and down ladders or rummaging through old stock to find exactly what they wanted.
Another thing she excelled at was selling long, leather boots to ladies. No matter how wide their calves were, she managed to zip up those boots, even if it meant threading a lace through the eyelet of the zipper and getting them to lie on the floor as she huffed and puffed to get that zip up to the top. Sometimes it took her about ten minutes to do so. Her stock phrase was, “The boots are real leather, so they’ll give. You wouldn’t want them too loose anyhow!”
The larger lady would walk away with her new box of boots under her arm with a huge smile on her face. No doubt, she should probably have gone to a specialist shoe store for those boots, they were meant for the average calf, but don’t tell anyone that, only me and Mrs T. know that!
One day, a beautiful wooden rocking horse turned up at the store. No, not on its own, it’s not the movie, Toy Story! The idea was for it to be installed at the children’s department to encourage the little blighters to hang around the store whilst their mothers checked out the shoes, especially for ‘Back to School’ in September. This all worked very well, except on the odd afternoon it attracted the towns’ drunks, even one well known hard man from Merthyr, climbed aboard and ‘Yee Ha-ed!’ loudly, egged on by his friends, much to the amusement of the staff and customers.
One little boy with blonde hair and circular framed glasses shouted, “Get off your horse and drink your milk!” Whilst Mr Hardman-of-Merthyr replied, “The Milky Bars are on you, Kid!”
You really had to be there, it was so funny on a busy Saturday afternoon in an ‘ordinary’ shoe shop in Merthyr Tydfil!