Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Working in London

I worked in the City of London for nearly three years in the early 1960s.

The career I actually wanted to take up when I left school was journalism, and I was offered a job as a trainee reporter provided I got enough examination successes, but I didn’t achieve this, and had to look for something else.

At the beginning of 1960, I started working as a clerk in a shipping and forwarding office in the City, named Mory and Company. The office was below ground in Cunard Place, off Leadenhall Street.

I started work at 5 guineas a week (5.50 in today’s money). When I tell groups this, in my talk “The Adventures of the Bearded Cinema Manager”, I am usually told “that’s nothing - we started for less than that”.

However, out of my five pounds five shillings I had to pay three pounds ten shillings (3.50) to get to work. That was the cost of my season ticket on the train between Southend and London. Most of those critics didn’t have to pay anything – they simply walked down the street to the factory.

When the trains were on time (which they sometimes were), I spent three hours a day travelling, on top of the time spent actually working. The train ride took about an hour, and of course I had to walk between home and station, and between office and station.

I also had to work every other Saturday morning. It wasn’t that the work had to be actually done on the Saturday – it was just that the bosses had the power to insist on us working. So on Saturdays I would spend three hours travelling to do three hours work.

I worked for several different companies. It was the only realistic way of getting a slightly higher salary. There was no shortage of vacancies, so one could make a move and earn perhaps an extra pound a week. Among the companies I worked for were General Transport and British and Northern.

I really didn’t enjoy my job. Most of my duties were working out figures and adding up long columns – obviously without the aid of computers. It wasn’t that I was incapable of doing it – it was just very repetitive and boring.

One thing I was able to do was to leave the office from time to time, in my capacity as a messenger. I would, whenever I could, find myself on Tower Hill, where I would watch, and sometimes interact with, the entertainers. In particular, I enjoyed watching the escapologists and the popular evangelists, such as Happy Harry and his great rival Bible Jack.

While working for British and Northern, I organised and ran the company football team. I persuaded the company to pay for our kit. We used to play, mostly against other offices, generally on Sunday mornings.

After nearly four years of this, I gave myself a talking to. At this time I was now twenty years old. I pointed out to myself that if I lived my whole life again, and then again, I would still be five years away from retirement, and I asked if I wanted to do this job all that time. Not too surprisingly, the answer was “no”.

So I looked around for something more interesting to do, and joined the Rank Organisation as a Trainee Cinema Manager at the Odeon Gants Hill in September 1963.

If anybody reading this has any connection with the City, or London in general (Born? Lived? Worked? Ancestors? Relatives?), I would be very pleased to hear from them.