Thursday, 19 February 2009



Some months later, the company Secretary Miss D, told me that she had been invited to a Masonic dinner and would like me to make her an evening gown. She was about size eighteen and didn’t care for the styles that were available in larger sizes. This was a lady who had lots of money, made tea in a black Wedgwood tea-pot and had a mink coat hanging in her wardrobe! As money was no object, she bought some extremely expensive, mid-night blue brocade. I had only ever worked with cheap and cheerful material and felt just a trifle apprehensive.
Once again, I made the sketches, held my breath and cut into the brocade. I had a deadline, several weeks away, which was necessary as there was a lot of work to do. This was to be a dress with a matching, fitted jacket.
All went well for a while, and then I suddenly became quite ill. The doctor was called in, and Arthur was informed that I had pleurisy and wouldn’t be well enough to go to work. In fact, I had to remain in bed for several weeks. Poor Miss D kept sending messages that, if she wasn’t to get her new dress in time, she’d have to go shopping for a replacement. I was so embarrassed, but could only assure her (with fingers crossed) that, come what may, she would look stunning in midnight-blue brocade on her special evening. I did manage it and she was overjoyed with the finished garment. I can’t remember how much I charged, but you can be sure it was put to very good use, however much it was.
Another little moneymaker that I managed to wangle was ticket writing. This was still during the birth of self-serving grocery stores, and bar codes and shelf pricing had yet to come. Attached to the edge of each shelf, in front of the commodity, was a piece of white card showing the price, written in black ink. This usually said something like: ‘Baked Beans 16-oz. Usual price 7d. Our price 4d!!!’
When SJI found out that I was artistically inclined, he asked if I’d like the job of keeping the price cards in our local store up to date each week. I said I’d do a good job if he let me buy the materials myself, and pay me one penny for each card I supplied. He laughed and said: ‘You’ve got a bloody cheek; I already pay you to work for me! But OK, buy what you need and let’s see how it goes.’
I went to a small artist supply shop in Camden Passage and bought sheets of the recently developed Day-Glo board in bright orange, plus a couple of thick marker pens. Next I went to Chapel Street Market and noted how the market traders formed their letters and numbers on their market stall price tickets.
I ended up doing all the price tickets for all the Anthony Jackson grocery shops. I charged a penny for small tickets and 1 ½d for larger ones. Nowadays it seems very little money for lot of work, but in fact it boosted my wages considerably and I became expert at it. However, I did feel a little guilty, being paid so much for an enjoyable job that was very quick and easy for me to do.
News came that SJI was opening larger and flashier premises in Dalston, and the old warehouse on the Islington green was to close. It was going to be a complete change and, as I had suspected, would no longer have the lovely ‘family’ atmosphere that we had enjoyed for years. Sidney Ingram was going up in the world, and we were all going with him. The trouble was that I loved the cosy, friendly little firm, and didn’t want to move into a cold, impersonal, ‘new-age’ company.
To be cont…


Beetle said...

It's very sad that these things had to change. There are many companies now where talking is not allowed. Can you believe that?!!

I think I would hate having to go out to work now.

weechuff said...

I well remember those price tickets, and in fact could probably write one out now in the style you used. How about doing a mock one and scanning it in for the blog to let people have a real idea of what it looked like in the days before printed tickets? Smashing blog again, but I hope we don't have to wait too long for the next instalment!

granny grimble said...

Yes everthingnow seems to be electronic and computerised, mostly not even in this counry! That was the happiest job I ever had. Fancy having a boss that bought you back a present on his first trip to Miami!Or gave you a Christmas kiss with a present that wasn't loaded with inuendo.


I won't make you wait too long next time. I'm not sure if I could remember how to do price tickets now. It's must be al of 55 years since I last did the!

Croom said...

I remember those tickets; they still have something like that in Spain (especially in lidl) . It is not easy to line the written price in the front with the product on the shelve as the writing is in Spanish!

I remember Doreen (or perhaps just you talking about her)

Working was much Pleasanter in those days but I was still very nervous of going to work each day.

A very interesting blog Leeta, another one soon please.

Jay said...

I can just imagine you prowling round the market checking on how the traders wrote their price tickets! How funny!

I remember those tickets, too. I never thought much about who wrote them, but I think it was very clever of you to arrange to be paid for it!

granny grimble said...


You willbe in England when I post my next blog! Hpe youcan eep up with it there.


Once I knew their style it was easy peasy! I got quite fast at it too! Once they knew I was artistic I got all sorts of jobs like designing posters and forms etc. Sometimes it made a break from the switchboard.

granny grimble said...

Sorry about that typing! I hate this rubber keyboard. The pressure is quite different and letters and spaces keep getting left out. I think I'll go back to my old one.

Swubird said...


Artistically inclined indeed.

I was afraid that weren't going to recover soon enough to finish the lady's dress. Well done.

As to the grocery story pricing and how little money you made, I can well remember when an extra five cents per hour was meaningful. Young people now days can't imagine such a thing as fifty cents an hour or fifteen cent movies, or a nickel for a cup of coffee! But it wasn't all that long ago.

I also loved the small, more friendly atmosphere, but those days have given way to the big corporations. Teams of MBA's work like cold little robots slowly chipping away at the family atmosphere until there will be none left.

Thank you giving us another look back into your life.

Happy trails.

granny grimble said...


Although it is very pleasant to be able to buy things when you fancy them, there is not the satisfaction that we felt in the good old bad old days, when we really had to work and plan for them. When honesty and respect mattered, and we really did love our neighbour!

Lynne Chapman said...


Did you get my last missive? Not sure if I messed it up...

Anyway, I am writing from Arenal, where we are having a great time but sadly it is nearly over.

Went white-water rafting this afternoon - amazingly exciting and fun. John fell out and had to be rescued, but got back in to carry on!

Can´t see the volcano though, as it ahas been covered in thick cloud since we arrived. last chance tomorrow. We are hiking near its base then bathing in the natural hot springs from it.

I am also going zip-wiring 300 ft up in the canopy in the morning (John is bowing out of that and will sit firmly on the ground by the hotel pool instead)

Saw so many animals yesterday: howler monkeys with babies on thier back (they do howl - like a bear or big cat!), spider monkeys swinging in the trees by their tails, timid white faced monkeys that hide in the centre of palm trees.

Also several caimen crocs, turtles, massive iguanas (3 - 4 foot long with heads the size of small dogs), sloths and loads of birds including vultures that are constantly swooping overhead!

See you soon x

Babs (Beetle) said...

Lynne: Sounds like a fun time!