When I first left school I got a job pebble picking on Branscombe beach. We worked according to the tide. They had to be round pebbles – the smaller the better – which were used for the milling process in paint making. We collected the pebbles in a bucket and then carried them up to the top of the beach and put them in sacks. These were then collected and taken to the millers. We were paid 15/- per cwt. It took all day to find about 1 cwt. (That is 75p for about 50 kilos). Then at 17 1/2 years old I went into the RAF. When I came out of the RAF, I worked on the fishing boats at Beer until I worked for Television Relay.
Later we lived in Sidmouth and in 1963 it snowed so hard I couldn’t get to work in Seaton. I phoned to tell them and they said that’s fine but you won’t get paid. I couldn’t afford to lose my wages so I decided to walk. I took the car and got to Blue Ball car park and then started to walk. The snow was so deep I had to walk on the top of the hedges. I couldn’t get home so I stayed with my parents for the week in Beer.
When I was on stand-by for the Electricity board, I was called out one night to the Old Bakery at Branscombe to mend their Treacle Machine. I was worried thinking it was going to be a difficult job. When I arrived I called out but no-one was about, then one of the brothers who owned the bakery appeared. I told him why I was there. He knew nothing about the treacle machine. It was the trickle charger that needed attention. The brothers had such strong accents, I had completely misheard. What a relief!
My Grandma worked in the kitchens at Balfour Manor when she was a young woman. She had to be there at 6:00am. She had 10 children, though not all of them survived. One morning Colonel Balfour was getting ready to go hunting and he saw her running across the grass so she wasn’t late. He sent a message down to the kitchens to say if she was seen on the grass again she would be fired. She earned 1 shilling (5p) a week!
The Colonel gave the land for St Francis church to be built and all his history is written in the church. He was very generous and when he was hard up, he started selling off properties around the town because he owned most of it. He sold my gran the coffee tavern. All the 10 children worked there. My gran was called Hacker so it was called Hacker’s Hotel and Cafe. That is where Mountain Warehouse is now. It changed hands several times until Mr Knight bought it and it became Knights dress shop.
I worked at a dress shop in Dolphin House and earned 19/11 a week. He never did give me the £1.