To be an errand boy!

My husband is very fit for his age but in 1955, as a boy of 13, he must have been super-fit!

Along with many other young people at that time, he was expected to contribute towards the family budget and was considered fortunate to have obtained the position of errand boy to the local grocer.

lie earned 12s 6d for eight hours’ work, and customers tipped him with as much again, but he was expected to ride a black metal bike which was probably equal in weight to himself and had an enormous basket fixed to the handlebars. Up hill and down dale he would pedal furiously, holding on to the thought that when he had finished his duties he could have a game of football.

The most taxing delivery he ever made was to a customer with a large
family who lived three miles away, and included 18 pints of milk in her weekly order. After making the delivery, my husband would be given 18 empty bottles to return to the grocer, for which he would be paid one penny per bottle, assuming, of course, that they were still intact!

The only time he got into difficulty with the grocer was when he was delivering to a house on a hill. Being an impatient young man, my husband forgot to secure the bicycle properly and, to his horror, watched as it rolled erratically down the pavement strewing eggs, milk and vegetables over the donkey-stoned doorsteps. Fortunately for my husband, he was a
firm favourite with the female grocery assistants and they persuaded their boss to give him another chance.

On Saturday mornings, after all the orders had been delivered, he would sweep the cellar of the shop and sprinkle the floor with fresh sawdust. His bicycle would also require a spit and a polish and the tyres had to be checked for slow punctures, lie considered it to have been a good week if he had avoided having a puncture because if this happened on his rounds he would have to push the bicycle back to the shop, mend the puncture and then start delivering again.

If he finished his chores ahead of
time, he would be sent to collect outstanding monies from customers. He was sometimes fortunate enough to be given a small amount to take back to the grocer.

We have all seen old films with errand boys whistling merrily as they freewheel down hills. For my husband, reality was very different. Even though it was a hard life for a young boy, as he also delivered newspapers three mornings a week, he was nevertheless free to play football on Saturday afternoons which for him made everything worthwhile.

How he found the energy I will never know!

Carol Emmison