On Twitter this week I saw a suggestion by GeneBloggers “November 14: Do you remember your first job? Where was it and what type of work did you do?”
Well I suppose my first real job, as opposed to picking up apples for the neighbours was working in the Cafe at the old Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park. I got the job thanks to my Aunt Rita, who already worked there as her husband was the dairyman on one of the estate farms. Cricket was used in the filming of “To The Manor Born“, but I was never there for filming as it was done during term time when the park was quieter.
It was not well paid, even by 1981 standards, as I was 16 I only earnt 60p per hour and 65p per hour on Sundays. My friend Julie who was much older at the grand age of 18 earned 90p per hour, grossly unfair! We did the same job that first year wheeling the big dishes trolley around the cafe collecting plates from the tables and wiping down the tables. Then returning to the back we washed all the collected items by hand and then dipped them in the steriliser, they were then meant to be left to air dry, but on busy days there was no space and not enough plates so they were dried with tea towels and put around the cycle again.
While we did this another “team” would collect the plates, unfortunately the other team were often a pair of elderly ladies who were very slow and by the time we went out again, people would be pushing crocks to the side of the table while trying to sit down to eat their meals.
Our other jobs involved heading over the freezers, which were across the park in the animal kitchens to collect the boxes of frozen chips and fish pieces and put into the small freezers in the cafe, you could never be quite sure what you would find in the animal kitchens, I can remember one evening heading over to find a dead wallaby and beef carcass being cut up to feed the big cats, I doubt these days you would be allowed to store food for human consumption anywhere near the animal kitchens.
In many ways it was a useful job and it gave me my first income which I saved to buy my first Moped for £50 I got an ancient Kreidler 50cc motorbike/moped, it had pedals as it was unrestricted (at that time 50cc bikes were either restricted or had to have pedals), the pedals made riding it quite exciting as it also had it’s back brake and gear change controlled by your feet as in normal motorbikes, but you had to remember to move the pedals to the right place to use them, but it was mine and with a following wind would do between 60-70 miles per hour, where as restricted mopeds would only do 30.
Anyway back to the Cafe, we had lots of time to chat and put the world to rights as we washed dishes, Julie was just starting a degree in English and Theology so we discussed all sorts of topics, while singing along to tracks on an old 8 track player, we did get to know Simon and Garfunkel rather well as by the end of the first summer it was the only tape still working.
I have Julie to thank for getting me started with Family History as she had inherited a one name study and pestered me to get started on recording my past, 34 years on I am still working away on it.
I worked at Cricket for the next three summers earning enough to buy a better motorbike which I rode the 20 mile round trip 6 or 7 days a week from my parents up to the Cafe.
These days Cricket has changed the animals are almost all gone and it’s a very posh hotel and owned by Warner’s, Many of the people I worked with have passed away, but I still keep in contact with Julie who is now a Nursing sister having re-trained once she completed her degree.