In 1973 I started working for the Partnership at the Waitrose branch (No.108) in North Watford, and worked there until it closed 14 years later when I transferred to Trewins in Watford.
Light for the customers
During my time with Waitrose we suffered power strikes and had no electricity. During these power cuts the shop remained open. Staff and managers stood at the doors or patrolled the shop floor with torches to provide some light for the customers. There were no generators so the remaining staff had to operate the cash registers using crank handles so cashiers could keep the tills working.
We also had a toilet roll shortage while I was at the shop. At this time I was working in the non food department. When a delivery arrived we would pile them as high as possible on flatbed trolleys, take them to the shop floor and within seconds they had sold out! We would then take the trolleys back up in the lift.
Rationed to one packet of sugar
There were also shortages of sugar, bread and flour (which was only available in 1lb bags.) Customers were rationed to one packet of sugar and one loaf of bread each. However, as the tills faced the big windows overlooking St Albans Road we were able to see entire families coming in one by one to get extra rations.
Sadly when Asda came to North Watford, with its size and vast car parks our friendly little branch had to close. All partners were then interviewed by the area and branch managers who were able to offer advice on how to find new positions within the partnership. Some transferred to other Waitrose branches while others, like myself, went to Trewins. For me this was the better option.
Trading continued whilst the shelves were gradually emptied around the shop. On the last day of trading, myself and the other cashiers were replaced by juniors so that we could go home to change. On returning to the shop, we were invited to a farewell party given by Mr Vaile the branch manager and the area manager.
My late husband Terry, who was disabled was also invited. Food and drinks were provided in the dining room which included Bucks Fizz. All the ladies were given a yellow rose.
I asked one of the managers if Terry could be shown round the shop and warehouse. We were escorted around and it looked really strange with the almost empty shelves and empty warehouse. The huge fridges which normally housed butter, milk and cold meats stood open and empty except for one packet of butter. You can see photographs of this party, and also some of the shop, showing empty shelves. It was very sad as it would be the last time we would all be together.
After the shop closed, I went to work at Trewins whilst Mr Vaile and several other partners transferred to the new Waitrose branch in Northwood; where another party was held in the dining room for those partners transferring to other branches within the partnership or who were retiring. My husband was fortunate enough to be invited again.
Moving to the kitchenware department in Queens Road, the tradition of inviting my husband continued, even after retirement.