Sunday, April 3, 2011

The messenger of the gods


My very first paid job as a teenager was as a fifteen year old still at school. Being a responsible teenager I was invited together with a few other boys to work for the Post Office in England for the few weeks up to Christmas.
Surprising few boys took up the offer, clearly relishing their freedom more than the filthy lucre that would be pouring my way. Once indoctrinated into the complex post office system, chiefly concerning where to make a cup of tea, I found myself assigned to a parcels delivery on board a truck delivering goodies for the people of our town. It was December 1951 and my task together with the two or three others on board was to lug the packets and boxes of goodness know what to the homes of the fortunate.
Britain was only just recovering from the privations of the wartime economy and luxury items were a rarity. We were generally greeted with much delight by families who by some good chance had relatives who were willing to send food and other gifts by post from far afield even some from the United States.
We were not only bearers of gifts like the wise men from the east but harbingers of good fortune in yet another winter of discontent for the impoverished. This largess was by no means one way. Being Christmas, recipients would somehow feel magnanimous to us little elves of Santa and bestow gifts probably intended for their regular postie. I pocketed the sixpences and shillings as my right as a messenger of the god of plenty.
Parcels were often badly packed and there seemed no restriction at that time about sending meat through the post. Most of the food parcels came from Ireland where clearly by not being involved in the War the inhabitants there could spread a little largesse on their cousins across the North Sea, even though it ponged a bit on delivery!
The following year after another year at school, I was again invited to work for the GPO. With experience from the previous year and of good character I was promoted to delivering letters on a post office bicycle. Waiting patiently for the sorting to be completed, I would check the bike before attaching my sack of letters to my carrier. Luckily I had the same route every day but this was less fun that the previous year as I had to work by myself and somehow determine which houses with similar numbers on intersecting streets should get the letters. I am sure that few for 14 Smith Street found their way into 14 Brown Street round the corner but they could correct that themselves later, I hoped.
I wasn’t troubled with snarling dogs, enticed by nubile maidens or roughed up by the local hoons but I did eat a lot of mince pies in the course of my work. I don’t know what I did with the money I earned but I certainly got the message that work was worth its weight in gold.

6 comments:

  1. That was an interesting bit of practical nostalgia. I never ever did paper rounds, or postal help, or anything like that when I was a teenager in Littlehampton. I did go to the beach at low tide and gather bushels of winkles, but that was for Maudies' home consumption.

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  2. That must have been the good old days of the Post Office when actual people had contact with the post..I think the Christmas temp tradition still holds although you are not bestowed with a PO Red Anorak if you are temporary..for some reason posties favour shorts in December too..never a pleasant sight..but I ramble..I bet that mince pie tasted good..a job well done..a story neatly delivered..Jae :)

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  3. I like to think that allowing a young person great responsibily sets up a stage for much value later on in life. I know my first paying job did. Watching too many children with my older sister; it's not so difficult being a mother of five these days.

    This was a nice note of being a messenger and the other things that occured in those days.

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  4. It's so pleasant to be the bearer of good news, especially gifts arriving from a far country. I can't imagine what the deprivation in Great Britain was like during the war, but you are helping me see it through eye-witness eyes.

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  5. I have fears on wild dogs..

    awesome reflections of war time messengers.

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  6. I really enjoyed this piece. Thank you for sharing this bit of history, you recreate the time and atmosphere so effortlessly.

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