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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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…
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.
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.
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.