I joined the Partnership in the late 1960’s as a Junior Partner. At that time we spent 6 months in different departments to gain experience. I recently came across a pay slip dated 3rd Jan 1970 and saw that my gross pay was £7.00 per week, but after deductions I actually took home £6.6s.5d!
My 1st department was Fashion Accessories, with the duty of selling umbrellas – who knew that there was so much to learn about an umbrella! Our Department Manager at that time was Mrs Kavanagh, although I think when I started it was someone else. I remember the names (and faces!) of several of my colleagues – Mrs Bridge, on handbags, Mrs Penman, gloves, and another Junior Partner, Judy Shipp who was on handkerchiefs. As a Junior Partner we were encouraged to go to college on a Day Release Scheme, and I enrolled on a two year NRDC (National Retail Distribution Course).
We all dreaded February as it meant the start of Stocktaking, which in those days was extremely arduous as every last thing had to be accounted for. We had to forgo our day off (Monday when the shop was closed) until it was completed. I was so glad that I wasn’t working in Haberdashery!!
The Fashion Accessories Department was at the front of the store by the main door which opened directly onto the High St. and opposite the Guildhall. Being so close to Windsor Castle meant that each day the Changing of the Guard took place right outside, not that we were allowed to watch (that came later in my change of Department!). We were privileged to serve both famous faces and royalty. Diana Dors, if I remember correctly, was a fairly regular customer and always friendly, and I also recollect Princess Anne visiting one Christmas time looking for a present for her older brother Charles! I was sad to leave the Department when my time came to move on – and very worried when I heard that I was to be moved to Accounts, as Maths was never a great subject for me.
It seems impossible to believe the amount of processes that occurred from purchase of an item, to sorting out the type of account, and then adding it to the customer’s account. In those days the receipts for each bought item was recorded by hand on a Lamson Till, and collected at the end of each day and brought up to the Counting House. There the account customers were segregated, and sorted into types of account, and then by name. Sale times meant a very tiring day! I was moved from the task of sorting these receipts, to collating them upstairs on a very large machine – I can’t remember what it did exactly, but guess it was some sort of adding machine(?). We had to collate the amount each individual Department made each day, and which Department had made the most profit each week. The Accountant when I was there was Mr Day, and Mrs Deller was his deputy. It was whilst I was working right at the top of the building in the Counting House that we were allowed to hang out of the windows to watch the soldiers changing the guard, as the windows faced onto the High St.
My next move was to Menswear, with Mr Booth as our Department Manager. He was a really lovely man and a delight to work for. I loved working in his Department, and was allowed to stay there for a year.
Menswear was in the basement of the store, with a beautiful sweeping staircase running down to it. What many people who didn’t work for, or know, was that Caley’s had a labyrinth of hidden passages running under the sales floor, which the staff used. You could get to Menswear via a passage that ran from what was then Dress fabrics, right underneath and through to what we used as a cloakroom, and then out through a door into the department. There was also a passage that ran under the shoe shop (which at the time was nothing to do with JLP, but independently trading) and down to the Strongroom where all the details of accounts were kept.
Whilst working for Mr Booth in Menswear I received my 1st (and only) ‘promotion’ as a Sanctioner for account customers – one of the youngest in JLP. There was however, no financial gain that came with this promotion!
The General Manager of Caleys at the time was Mrs Graham, who visited each department every day. She was well liked by all the staff, and always wore a turban and looked incredibly elegant. I believe she went on to work at John Lewis Oxford St.
I was then offered work in dress fabrics for my next placement, but felt nervous as I was unsure how I would cope with reckoning lengths and increments of yardage with lack of ability with all things mathematical! So the only other option I was offered was back to the Counting House, which I took but only for a short time as I realised that I really wasn’t Department Store material.
However, it gave me the opportunity to work in retail, which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially serving the general public. It gave me the confidence to apply for a position in a local dress shop, which was offered to me I am sure because I had done my initial training at John Lewis.