Going on from my last story about my Saturday job at Watford market, I moved from there to Sainsbury’s in St.Albans Road, North Watford, near to my home in the Harebreaks. This store was a”Manual” shop… pre supermarket and was a great place for a 15 year old to learn about food and provisions.
There were a number of different ‘counters” and for anyone who remembers the store run by Mr. Collins, as you walked in the front door to the left was “Dairy”, that specialised in butter, cream, chicken, rabbit, lard etc and it was only a few weeks before that they had ceased patting the butter by hand. The next counter was “Cheese” and as well as serving on this area I was also taught how to unpack, skin and cut up 56lb round chedars from Australia , New Zealand and Canada. I also used to have a crafty taste of all the different varieties to see what they were like!
Next stop was “Provisions” which sold Tea, Coffee, and biscuits that came in big metal square tins and were weighed out by the pound . Then across the centre aisle was bacon where sides came in either Smoked or Green to be broken down and sliced up by the expert bacon butchers. Next counter was probably the busiest “Cooked Meats” they had Corned beef (which came in huge tins from Argentina) liver sausage , luncheon meat, meat pies ( my favourite Chicken and Ham) Pork pies etc etc.
The jokers of the staff
Some times us staff had to slice the liver sausage and lunceon meat by hand and I was always being asked for, because I had a steady hand and could slice really thin. The last counter was “Meat” again nothing pre packed, all the lamb, pork and beef came in bulk and had to be cut up and prepared. We made our own sausages, salt beef and mince daily. The butchers were the jokers out of all the staff and would talk in code sometimes, so you didn’t know what they were saying.
If I remember rightly you had to pay at each counter… I might be mistaken on that as there was a central Till/Office at the back of the main isle. I was really lucky because I eventually became the “floater” and would arrive on a Saturday and be placed to whichever counter needed an able body, so I had to be familiar with every aspect of the store… what a lucky boy I was. I’ll just mention the uniform before I finish, we were issued with a white, double breasted , high collared long sleeved jacket with black buttons held on by little metal rings on the inside, then we had a long white apron that nearly reached the floor, this was about as ‘Victorian era’ as you could get in the sixties and to me the end of a great era, before the modern Supermarkets came in. Thanks for listening.