Mike, Freda & David

Out In The Big Wide World

I must confess, I would not want to be a teenager today - it really was so very different when I was young. Recently, whilst regaling an eighteen-year-old colleague of how things were when I was a teenager, back in the 1950's, she surprised me by saying "I wish it was like that now!"

Young people have so much freedom today, they can to do pretty much what they like - the taboos of yesteryear have all but gone. This whole 'sex thing' has now been turned around, although it would seem that not everybody is thrilled skinny by this freedom.

We were all so incredibly naïve - that was the way our parents wanted us to be, they thought keeping us in ignorance would keep us out of trouble In some cases it was no bad thing, what you didn't know about didn't bother you, it was the curious ones - with a little bit of knowledge, who wanted a little 'hands on' experience who got caught out - culminating in very early marriages and '7 month pregnancies'!

In those far off days, kissing and cuddling were the standard elements of 'boy-girl' relationships - and very little more. Walking down the street arm in arm or holding hands was usually a sign that you were 'courting' - today's anything goes free for all has put an end to that lovely romantic interlude. There's just no anticipation any more. In my day, it was ok to have lots of boyfriends, but only one at a time, otherwise you were considered to be a flirt (I hold my hand up!) and if it was discovered that you had let a boy 'fondle you in a rather intimate way' ' - you were considered 'easy', and if you had 'gone all the way' (shock, horror - no, really?) you were virtually ostracized. Parents didn't want their own offspring being tarred with the same brush by association. How did we know who had and who hadn't? Well, if a not particularly attractive girl had boys buzzing round her like bees round a honey pot - you knew!!

Despite having a healthy interest in biology, and even being quite good at it, at school, I knew virtually nothing about sex. It took my friends, Pam and Cynthia - the Marriott twins, to enlighten me on the basics of reproduction (I was 14, by the way!) I decided there and then to remain a virgin...

At fifteen we all leave school, (well, nearly all, the Marriott twins decide to stay on, they want to become nursery school teachers) and we're terrified of being out in the big, wide world...Our first job - and some quit in the first week! This going out to work malarkey is no joke!

Hairdresser, Comptometer Operator, Telephonist, are all popular choices for the girls. The less ambitious go to work at Woolworth's - well, it's a wage packet isn't it? I had tried doing a Saturday job at Woolworth's - I worked 9.0am till 6.0pm with half an hour for lunch, for which I got paid the princely sum of 9/- (about 45p) after deductions and bus fare, it didn't leave very much, and I certainly had no energy to go out on a Saturday night to spend my hard earned cash! I tried working at the bakery cum teashop in town, but Saturday, being the busiest day of the week, was absolute hell.

Hot toasted teacakes are the most popular item on the menu - we have to put them under the grill, keeping an eye on them - as well as the customers - butter them and then rush them to the customer. I can tell you that hot currants are very hot indeed! - I went home on that first day with every finger on both hands boasting a painful burn. I got paid 6/- as it was assumed that we would make up our wages with tips - mean blighters!

All the boys want to be professional footballers, but will no doubt settle for working in the steel mills.

Rock 'n Roll fever, and Bill Haley arrives in Britain. 'Rock Around the Clock' is on at the local flea-pit - and we get thrown out of the cinema for jiving in the isles! Flat, slip on shoes, tight sweaters and even tighter skirts with hemlines at calf level, are all the fashion, as are jeans and check shirts (tucked in!). The boys slick their hair back into a D.A., wear shoes with thick crepe' soles, drain pipe trousers and long jackets with velvet collars - a style reminiscent of the Edwardian period, so they are called 'Teddy Boys' - a name that will become synonymous with thugs and trouble makers.

I want to be a telephonist, the G.P.O. is the place to go, they send you on a three-week training course in Halifax, but I have heard many off-putting tales about being a G.P.O. telephonist. You cannot talk in a friendly manner to callers, you can only use standard phrases, you are timed when you go to the toilet, and the supervisors are akin to Attila the Hun! Never the less, there is a waiting list, and, because my father works at the G.P.O. I get an early interview, but I still have to go on the waiting list! Well, I'm happy to have my six weeks holiday, just as if I were still at school - but Mum is having none of it, and finally I agree to go to work at Swann Morton, where both my sisters work. It is an internationally known company that makes blades of every kind; although commonly known as 'the razor blade factory', it is famous for producing surgical instruments.

The factory is situated on Penistone Road, there's a large park conveniently close by, for walking through at lunch time, although the factory does have it's own lovely gardens, where we can sit and eat our lunch on fine days. Barbara is a supervisor there, and the manager of the company is kind of related to us - she is a third cousin once removed, (whatever that might mean!) I soon find that factory work is definitely not for me - I object to having to wear a turban (Hilda Ogden - eat your heart out!) and an overall. I'm also not too keen on having my finger ends shredded. My heart isn't in it - and I'm certainly no good at the job, I last about a month before I give in my notice. My third cousin (once removed) tries to dissuade me - hasn't she heard I'm pretty useless? But I'm determined to leave. As luck would have it, mum has spotted an ad for a trainee telephonist at The Grand Hotel, in the centre of Sheffield. I go for an interview, and I'm overawed at the old-fashioned, rather shabby elegance of what is supposedly Sheffield's most premier hotel. I'm taken on and start next week!