RT Tanner & Co Ltd

Arthur Derek Tanner

Within a year or so I will be celebrating 60 years of working with my Company, which itself goes back to 1859. The time has therefore come for an old manís complaint of reminiscing and fantasising the past. At least one can boast of living in an era of the greatest change that anyone has experienced in the country including two major wars. So much has happened in this period that I feel that I should share some of the knowledge with my staff.

When I left school in July 1931, at the time of the great depression, my Father did not consider that the Company could afford to give me employment till May of the following year even though my salary was only £0.75p per week at the age of almost 19 years. My Father paid my weekly season ticket of £0.50p and I walked a mile to the station and another mile from Waterloo to Fleet Street and back again in the evening as I could not afford a bus fare. I had an excellent 3-course lunch in a large well-known restaurant in Fleet Street for in old money one shilling and sixpence and they gave one a token valued two old pennies. When you had collected nine of these you paid a lunch with them. All this may sound spartan and it was, but oneís friends were similarly placed and it had certain advantages. For instance being a rugby player I had a thirst for beer and still have! However a pint of bitter was seven old pennies or approximately three p in todayís money - hang-overs were cheap in the thirties!

The hours for the office staff were 9am to 6pm and 9am to 12 on Saturdays and you were allowed by arrangement one Saturday off per month. Statutory holidays were standard (no May-day or New Years day). Christmas Eve you finished work at 2.30pm and returned as normal the day after Boxing day, except when either of those days came on a Sunday when you were permitted to return a day later. The standard holiday was 14 days.

The factory hours were 48 per week 8am to 6pm 5 days and 8am to 12 on every Saturday. There was a lunch break of 1 hour and a break of 10 minutes for tea though this was not provided! Holidays were 14 days but they had only just become paid. Up to that time your holidays were unpaid, so that many of the lower paid work force come to the warehouse as usual to sit on the steps to talk to their mates who were at work.

It all sounds hard and it was, but on the other hand everything was in relation. For instance newspapers were mainly 1d (old penny), so by picking it up at the station on every working day you only paid a fraction over £2 a year. A cup of tea was generally 2 old pennies.

To give some indication of values the pay for a young envelope machine operator aged 16 years was £1.60p a week and for a qualified operator £2 per week. A warehouseman received £3.50p per week and that was for a 48 hour week.

There were no cars provided for reps, though one or two had old bangers of their own. There was a small Austen with driver for the London reps who had one day a week allocated to them. Otherwise you used tram, bus or train. When I had worked for about 3/4 years in the office I was told to go out and get some business, and I was allotted a patch of South East London and part of Kent. This area had been the territory of a rep. aged 80, who believe it or not was retiring! London was easy to cover, a tram from the embankment just by the office covered most of the area, and a shilling ticket lasted the day irrespective of how many times you alighted or got back on another. The Country was rather different and frequently involved a great deal of shoe leather. You allocated the County into twelve areas which you visited once a month and the customers soon got to know when you were arriving. Those that did not wish to see one or owed money which they had not got were invariably out. After a year or two of this I persuaded the Company to get me a second hand car costing some £70, and was told I had to cover the cost in one year. This made it easier to cover the territory more effectively but I was not permitted to use it in London - too costly!

By dint of hard work and I feel some luck I was earning after 6 years £350 per annum. When I married, in 1937, we rented a super house near Guildford with half an acre of garden which cost me £70 per annum. I soon began to increase my sales though it was not easy. The old business (89x152) envelope were selling at around 2/6d in old money per 1000 the very popular 9x4 (229x102) were sold at 3 shillings and 6d old money. Paper was also on the same scale, woodfree was approx. £28 per tonne and coated some £35 per tonne. It needed considerable sales to reach reasonable figures and it must be realised that profits were on the same miserly scale. To do a stock turnover of around £1000 per month meant that you were a super salesman.

This website is subject to copyright © Alistair Tanner 2006