I was very happy working for the engineering firm until one day the sales manager called me and asked me to stay back and do some work for him. Always ready to help I said yes and when everyone left went down to his office. “Come in” he called and I stepped into his office knowing we were the only people left in the offices. I was still dumb.
He locked the door saying we don’t want to be disturbed. Locking the door did make me aware of something wrong and when he put an arm around me and tried to kiss me I started fighting him off. He was a fat bald little man and I was a fit young woman. My fist lashed out and connected with his face knocking him to the ground. That door was unlocked and I was away like lightening. The next morning just as I was going to complain to the boss, the boss sent for me. It was like standing before the headmistress of my old school. He informed me that the sales manager had complained that I had tried to seduce him and when he tried to restrain me I had punched him. What did I have to say for myself. For a moment I was stunned, then with a raised voice I called that man a “Slimy rat. A dirty old man” and proceeded to account for the punch, ending by saying “I can’t work with a sleazy old pig like that”.
The boss was silent for a moment and then informed me this man had a wife and two daughters. One daughter was my own age. If I pursued my view of the situation it would cause great harm to innocent people and not help anyone. He thought I was wise to leave and would have my pay and a reference ready for me if I would go and clear my things away. I marched out of there indignant and boiling. There outside the door was my victim. I gazed at his face in shock. His nose was swollen and red, one eye was black and swollen shut and a big lump rose over one ear. I couldn’t believe my fist had caused all that damage but it had. He sneered at me and said “I told you your job would be gone.”
He left quickly or I might have closed the other eye. Not being aggressive by nature it was only a matter of minutes before I saw the funny side to all this. I wonder how he accounted to his wife for the injury. Anyway when I went back to the boss he handed me my pay and an envelope containing my reference. He shook hands with me and I left to go straight back to school before they believed the lies.
At the school I opened the pay packet while the teacher looked on just to make sure my cards were there as well as a week’s pay. I was staggered. Not only a week’s pay but an extra two weeks’ pay as well. I had never owned nearly twenty pounds in my life. Savings here we come.
Then I learned a similar thing had happened to the girl before me but she had not been believed. Apparently it didn’t seem possible for a man in his position to behave badly. He couldn’t imagine he was attractive surely. The school solved the problem by sending a young man to take my place. They assured me they believed what I said had happened.
Almost immediately I was sent to do the books of a firm in “Gunnersbury Park.” What a sweet job. It was for three days and the boss bought me lunch each day and a big box of chocolates when I left.
I walked in the park after lunch and admired the peacocks there. I wasn’t aware of the size of their spread tails until then. Gorgeous.
Another job awaited me at once. Another three-day one at a milk depot. All was well until I arrived early the second morning to find black beetles everywhere. A packet of insect powder was on the windowsill over a radiator where most insects were. Hastily I poured powder down the floorboards and all around. Suddenly my door flew open and a man rushed in. He was covered in pink dust. “What are you doing? Look at me. I could be poisoned.” He rushed out and when I looked I could see right through to the accounts department below. I learnt that he sat on a chair close to the radiator to keep warm. He didn’t turn up his toes not even a cough. In the factory part I went to complain about the beetles to the boss and saw people skimming beetles from the big vats of milk. We could have as much thick cream as we wanted but after seeing that, no thank you. I finished the three days and left with a present of this cream. I did not eat any although I was assured being scalded cream it was safe.
Back to school again. This time I was asked if I would go to Battersea Flats to do another three day catch up job. Well, it was out of my travel way but to oblige the boss I agreed. For the pay I was getting nowhere was too far.
This was a factory on the banks of the river Thames and near the power station. Not a nice area besides needing a bus, a train and then another bus. As I say, money beckons. After the three days there was about an hour’s work to finally finish. I suggested that I could work back and get it done. The boss said yes and gave me a key to lock up and post through the letterbox.
Great! All was as quiet as the grave and I worked hard not liking to be there too long on my own. Leaning back to take a break I looked up and saw through the gloom, my desk light was the only one on, little bright eyes looking at me from the rafters. There were dozens of them. Then a furry slinking body went plop on the desk in front of me. I squealed and grabbing my jacket and handbag I left. They were big ugly rats. I even forgot to leave the key and had to go back the next morning to return it. The boss was so overcome with remorse that he ordered a taxi to take me to the station. Apparently a rat catcher went in regularly and was just due.
Back to the school where there was a permanent job waiting. It was with an insurance firm connected to Lloyds.
I was now seventeen and on my birthday dear Ernie sent me a pretty wristwatch and a huge basket of fruit. There were all kinds of exotic fruits among the usual ones. The big purple figs were delicious.
The work was most interesting. One thing I learnt, read the small print. Most of the catches were contained in the little words at the bottom of the policy. “Act of God” was a favourite ploy. What a variation in work. Shipping to race horses. Flotsam and jetsum. Such a to-do when a ship’s cargo was damaged. All in all it was a good well-paid job. The fashions were changing all the time. Dresses were down to mid calf or a little lower. Evening dresses were backless and low in front. Green was a favourite colour and navy blue. I made my own ball dresses and they really were low at the back and front. I was so skinny it looked okay... and my fate was about to be sealed.