Ready reckoners forbidden!

Memories of Reynolds in Cheltenham Place

By Maurice Packham

Over 70 years ago I was a very junior clerk in Reynold's, the wholesale grocers in Cheltenham Place.

High stools and sloping desks

Charles Dickens might have been at home in an office where we sat on high stools at sloping desks. Estimating, to the last halfpenny, the cost of a side of green bacon was quite beyond my arithmetical skill and the use of ready reckoners was strictly forbidden.

Office characters

Seated behind a glass screen was the manager, Mr Davis, a Welshman who always wore a white overall, I suppose to demonstrate his authority over both office and warehouse. One elderly clerk I remember was highly nervous; and every time the siren went he crouched under his desk.

Other memories

There were four travellers and they were instructed to ‘push’ two grocery items which languished on the shelves. ‘Osogood’ and ‘Uneedit’ were jars of meat flavourings, which I remember suppurating with rusty lids. They were palmed off on one old lady who lived in Jubilee Street and who pushed her pram of groceries to sell as far as Rottingdean. A pretty girl from a baker's in Cheltenham Place used to place orders and I seem to remember that she wore an old fashioned frock - not that my opinion at seventeen was worth much.

My first girl friend

I met my first girl friend at Reynolds and took her to the pictures. We went down Blenheim Place to the Astoria and I think the film was Sentimental Over You with Tommy Dorsey. I can't describe what courage that took! Where is Ann Dival now? Married with a different name of course.

And another one...

Another pretty girl in the office was Pearl Valler, who asked Ann which seats we sat in. I'm proud to recall they weren't the cheapest!

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 224, September/October 2013]

This page was added on 15/10/2013.

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