My first day at work

In the men's underwear department at British Home Stores

Faith Brooker

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'My first day at work' page

Illustration by Heather Hookey

Saturday job

My first job was at the British Home Stores in Brixton and it was a Saturday job. My friend Angela and I joined together, and wasn't I pleased when they put me in the men's underwear department! As a fifteen year old schoolgirl my knowledge of men's underwear was somewhat sketchy. I suppose I had seen my Dad's enormous button up pants over the old wooden clothes horse once in a while, but that was about it. My Dad always wore a string vest - probably the least sexy item you could imagine.

Men's underwear department

Anyway, my age and inexperience never stopped customers coming up to me and asking me, 'Do you think these will fit my husband?' To which my stock answer would be, 'I'm not sure.  Is he bigger than me?'

Considering I was about 4 foot six until I was 17, I was surprised that nobody actually laughed. Most would stand back and say, quite seriously, 'Um, yes.  I think so.'

My work was quite fun, although I didn't get many male customers. I suppose they were a bit embarrassed to be served by a girl. When it was busy I enjoyed myself and really liked all the characters who would come in. Now I guess it is amazing how little the women might know about their husbands.  'Will my husband like this?' was another standard question.

Eventually we were sacked

When trade was slow it was so boring.  Supervisors would come round and untidy the stock, just so that you had to tidy it again, to look busy. We used to have a 15 minute break in the upstairs canteen. I remember great floury rolls with ham in them.  Maybe a cup of tomato soup. We always had to rush through to get our snack down. We did a great deal of giggling and eventually we were sacked. Our rolls were never very good, Angela's till was consistently under and mine was consistently over, or so they said.

I think we were just too silly and irreverent.

I remember running down the stone steps with that last wage packet.  It was in a brown envelope and I laid it in front of me and salaamed to it with both arms.  I think it was 5 pounds - a fortune.

Angela and I exited - giggling -  with our arms round each other.

This page was added by Roslyn Cook on 07/04/2008.

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