I was at Dunsmore School for Boys in Rugby in 1976, just starting out in the 6th Form. One day in assembly the Headmaster Frank Hodgson announced that the Sainsbury's Store in North Street were looking for Saturday Students and if we wished to be considered then turn up at the store on the coming Saturday. Well, the Sainsbury's store in North Street was a 10 minute walk from where I lived and the prospect of earning some much needed money was a considerable draw. Sure enough I was outside the store on the Saturday morning with a couple of other school mates at around 7:30 am. Now, whilst I don't have much recollection of that particular recruitment process I was successful in gaining one of the much coveted positions.
My working hours were Thursday late night so 17:30 to 20:30 and all day Saturday 08:00 to about 16:30/17:00, remember in those days the store closed at 16:00 on a Saturday and Thursday and Friday were the only late nights and if I remember correctly the store was closed all day on a Monday. I was given a grey overall, and a dark blue clip on tie. The overall had detachable buttons and if you lost one or two which was quite frequent you'd surreptitiously remove the buttons from any other overall left hanging in the small changing room.
Trolley duty was my early task. Rugby store had 3 car parks close by, one directly across the road, one behind the Granada Cinema at the bottom of North Street and one behind the store, so on a Thursday evening, come rain or shine, you'd find me pushing a string of poorly functioning abandoned trolleys back to the store, no £1 deposit and locking mechanism in those days. Moving on from the stellar heights of Trolley collection I was also trained in the use of the Hugin Kassaregister. We loved a stint on the tills as it was a chance to sit down and interact with the customers but as a male student those times were few and far between, the majority of the till duties fell to the female staff and students, a sign of those times I'm afraid. As I recall those tills had a plastic cover over the high value buttons to prevent you inadvertently pressing them and accidentally overcharging the customer, which I managed to do on one occasion, something to do with frozen poultry if I remember correctly.
Saturday was a busy day, you'd normally find me on the Grocery department. At the end of most aisles you'd generally find a set of wheeled dump baskets 3 high, the bottom being the biggest basket, the middle slightly smaller and the top one smaller still. I'd have to manoeuvre those baskets down the narrow aisles through the milling customers back to a small area just off the shop floor through some very heavy plastic swing doors. It was then my task to empty each basket, putting the remaining contents in a series of trolleys having first scraped off the meto price label affixed to every tin and packet, packets were a nightmare. Then I would refill each basket with the current next weeks offers according to a set of sheets the Grocery Manager gave me, pricing each unit as I went, finally hanging a 'swinger' on each basket with the appropriate price.
Rudi Cefai was the Grocery manager at that time a small man of Egyptian extraction I'd say and if there is one thing that he said to me that I have always remembered to this very day it was 'WORK TIDY young man' a mantra that I 'try' and adhere to to this very day. If I wasn't filling baskets you might find me sweeping the Sugar room a particularly favourite task handed out to new students by the Produce Manager Mr Partridge, I'd like to think that during my time at the store I earned his grudging respect with my efforts.
Wines and Spirits occupied a very small area at the front of the store to the left of the tills no one liked being given the task of filling the shelves as the 'Cage' where the Wines and Spirits were stocked was generally a mess. Delivered roll pallets secured with white nylon string were generally just pushed into the cage to get them under lock and key, no attempt was made to unload the pallets. It was here that I suffered my one and only accident. We were given hook bladed knives in order to deal with the pallet string and the plastic packaging of other delivered goods. In removing a particularly bad build up of string from a pallet I slipped and cut my right thumb. An entry into the 'Accident Book' was duly made and I was despatched to the hospital of St Cross A&E for a small number of stitches.
Lunch hours on a Saturday generally ran from 12:30 to 13:30 or 13:30 to 14:30 depending on your scheduling. It was at that time on a Saturday that a member of the Office staff would sit in the canteen with a small wooden box filled with small opaque paper packages containing your wages for the prior week, yes, real coin of the realm, there were no BACS transfers or faster payments and anyway I didn't even have a Bank Account. We all queued up to receive this bounty, each signing for our received wages. My first wage was the princely sum of some £6 plus loose change for 11 hours of work.
Now, I can't have been too bad, as more often than not the Store manager, a Mr Wesson, would frequently ask me if I would stay on after my Thursday late night had finished and help out with the Evening Shift which I was always happy to do as it meant a little extra in the wage packet the following week. We rushed to finish by 10:00pm and I was frequently found with the scissor broom scooting around the shop floor. After the alarm was set and the store locked we 'warehousmen' as we were called, with the Evening Shift Manager, repaired to a nearby local hostelry for a soft drink just in time for last orders.
The stores Deputy Manager, whose name escapes me for the moment, was a robust gentleman with a Tom Selleck moustache, he went on to be the Deputy Manager at Cannon Park store in Coventry where I also worked as a Trainee Manager, but that's a story for another day.