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Working as a kid and earning your first bob

Posted on 3 April 2017

Memories of earning a few bob as a kid

If you’re old enough to remember when 240 pence in a pound made perfect sense, then the chances are you were taught the value of money from a very young age.

At home, pocket money was rarely handed out, it had to be earned and child labour (some might say slave labour!) was positively encouraged, even during term time. Most local businesses relied on a ready supply of energetic kids as young as ten, eager to earn a few bob.

From pocket money to paper rounds, errands to Saturday jobs, we remember how kids once earned a few shillings way before they were old enough to officially start work.

A tanner for a tooth

Whether the tooth fairy left you a three penny bit or a tanner probably says a lot about your age. Getting paid for a milk tooth was the first time you got money in return for something and finding that shiny coin under your pillow in the morning was as exciting then as it is now.

young-girl-in-bed-sleeping-holding-her-doll

No help? No pocket money

It was as simple as that. Helping around the house was expected of children from a young age and you certainly didn’t get any pocket money without pulling your weight around the house. From ironing to chopping kindling and laying the fire, if you were old enough to say it, you were usually old enough to do it!

mother-teaching-her-young-daughter-to-iron

Cinema, sweets and a savings stamp

With chores done and pocket money in hand, it was time to spend. First on the list was usually the Saturday morning pictures, a bag of sweets, a comic or all three if you could make your pennies stretch that far. You couldn’t blow it all though, sixpence on a savings stamp was a must and you felt really proud when you saved enough to buy mum some posh bath salts for Christmas.

cinema-usherette-selling-ice-creams-to-a-little-girl-and-two-teenaged-boys

Jobs for the neighbours

Everyone on the street knew each other and mums regularly offered their children’s services out to elderly and poorly neighbours. Running errands, doing chores or walking the dog, you didn’t bother putting up a fight because the neighbours usually paid better than your parents did.

young-boy-standing-on-the-pavement-carrying-two-bags-of-shopping

Paper round before school

A paper round was a rite of passage for many boys and girls, some not even in double figures! It was tough work, up early in all weathers, lugging a heavy bag of newspapers around before heading off for a day at school. The extra heavy bags on a Sunday were the worst and pity the kid with a tower block or two on their route.

a-schoolboy-and-schoolgirl-chatting-carrying-newspaper-bags

Deliveries galore

Everything was delivered to the door, often courtesy of a young child who was (more often than not) a boy. Delivering milk was an earlier start than a paper round and staying awake at school wasn’t easy after getting up at 4.30am.

After school and on Saturdays, the local economy was powered by small boys on bikes with baskets loaded with anything from groceries to prescription drugs.

a-delivery-bike-with-a-large-wicker-basket-on-the-front

The empty bottle bank

There was no need for bottle banks because kids took care of recycling and earned a few pennies for their efforts. Streets were scoured for discarded pop bottles that were then taken to the shop for a refund. The more ‘entrepreneurial’ would wait for the bottles to be put out the back before ‘recycling’ them again at a different shop. The poor shop keeper usually got wise to it eventually...

a-shop-keeper-and-his-wife-standing-behind-the-counter

A lot of job for a bob

Around Easter time, cubs and scouts would be out in force for bob-a-job week. Some paid generously for a shoe-shine whilst some got the fence creosoted or a jam-packed cutlery drawer polished for a measly shilling! Still, it was all for charity, although a few boys finished the week somewhat better off than when they started…

three-cub-scouts-polishing-a-ladys-shoes

Weekends and holidays

Almost everyone had a Saturday job in their teens if not before. Factories, shops and trades like butchers and hairdressers made the most of cheap labour at weekends and in the school holidays. Most jobs meant long hours on your feet so going back to school felt like the holiday! Woolies was a particular favourite, especially if you made it onto the sweet counter.

teenage-girl-working-in-a-shop

10 bob note in a birthday card

There was only one way you came into money without having to work for it and that was on your birthday. Do you remember the anticipation you felt opening a birthday card and praying a crisp 10 bob note would be inside waiting for you? Getting one made you feel like a millionaire for the day.

a-10-shilling-note

And then suddenly you were a grown up

How many of you left school on Friday and started work on Monday? You had to grow up fast. Of course, you still went home for your tea, only now you had to pay for your bed and board!

How did you earn your first shilling? Did you get up with the larks to deliver papers? Did you get the dream job on the sweet counter in Woolies? We’d love you to share your memories of how you earned your first shilling and learned the value of money.

If you enjoyed these memories of how kids used to earn a few bob, you might also like our look at first jobs and wage packets, Saturday morning pictures and playing outdoors all day.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services. Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

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The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

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Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.