Allowed to leave school and start work at 12
ALTHOUGH I was getting close to leaving age at Greenbank school, my parents appealed to the Bristol Education Board for me to be released at 13, owing to family hardship.
They were successful, but I already started work, as a 12-year-old, at a greengrocers in Cheltenham Road – Friday nights and all day Saturday for one shilling and sixpence – a lot of money in those days.
When I finally left school they employed me half-days, Monday to Thursday and all day Friday and Saturday.
On my spare afternoons I did odd jobs or errands for a carpenter's shop which brought my money up to six shillings a week – nearly one third of what my father was earning working at a boot and shoe factory.
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In those days most of the big factories were in the centre of the city – Fry's (chocolate), Wills' (tobacco), Mardon's (packaging), Robinson's (paper) and some boot and shoe factories.
With few motor cars about in those days I had to walk, bike, tram or take a train from my home in Easton to Temple Meads.
My trip to Cheltenham Road took me half an hour.
After speaking up for my brother, Tom, at a butcher's shop which we served, he got a job as an errand boy delivering joints of meat.
He got on fine and was there a good while.
My other brother, Harry, worked in the bakery shop next to us.
With me at the greengrocers, Tom in the butchers and Harry in the bakers, we had a week-end loaf of bread, all the vegetables we wanted (except spuds), a few pieces of fruit and a piece of meat.
That used to help the larder along a bit.
I worked for an old lady who was ever so kind and good hearted but her son, the boss, was a proper driver for work.
They had two pony carts for deliveries and, besides me, they had another man working for them, a real rough-un – a proper fiddler in making up the orders to take out.
The old lady had relatives in Cardiff and one, I believe, was Chief Constable of that city.
She had another son, just my build, and she used to send up suits of clothes that he had grown out of.
Drain pipe trousers were in the fashion in those days and I looked a proper toff.
Our boss's wife was a servant in one of the big houses in Clifton and when she got to serving behind the counter things began to hot up a bit.
When the old lady passed away this young mistress began to show her authority, accusing me of idling and not delivering orders.
It was hard work – four baskets, perhaps 10 pounds of potatoes in each, besides other things, and plenty of hills to climb.
Every Boxing Day I went around to the customers, touched my hat, and offered them the compliments of the season.
After three years service I did well for tips.
When I got back to the shop after my deliveries the boss was always at the market looking for fresh greens or special fruit.
The boss dressed the vegetable window with sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage etc. with his mother, or wife, dressing the fruit window.
I never liked Sam, one of our horses, as he often lashed out with his hind leg whenever I went to get in the cart.
Yet, strangely, he never did it to the boss.
He was just the same in his stall and I kept well clear of him.
The other pony, Kitty, was very docile.
I often gave her a good clean down, water and feed, and lay down her straw bed.
But not our Sam, I kept well clear of him.
The stables were around the back, in a lane, and if we were wanted for a special order they pulled a rope to ring a bell.
We had our dinner in the loft but tea down in the kitchen with the servant.
I used to supply a poultry farm with cabbage leaves for the fowls which gave me few more coppers in my pocket.
My errand boy job lasted a couple of years, but, as I wanted my Saturday afternoons off, I got a job on the Midland Railway for five shillings a week.
My horse drawn trolley delivered goods to warehouses and shops from the railway station in St Philips.
They were big horses – I was proper dwarfed stood by them and when their heads went up I was lifted off my feet.
But my earnings there were not so much, and that never suited me, so I left for more money.
I then landed a job at a baby linen shop in Castle Street, working from 9am to 6pm.
The wages were six shillings and six pence a week, a bit more respectable, but I wanted my half day Saturday to play or watch football.
After meeting my pals on Sunday afternoons or evenings and we would spent our time parading in Castle Street or going around College Green to have a bit of fun.
I soon got another job in a saw mills and cabinet works.
I started off by fetching furniture for repair from private houses, helping the man behind the circular saw with the long pieces, and then learning to fret saw.
I got on well at that, but when I went for a rise there was nothing doing.
My employment was near my father's boot and shoe factory in Portland Square.
After I told him there was no chance of improving myself at the saw mills he got me a job there going from one bench to another as a useful lad.
Keeping my eyes open I watched the men working their machines and my chance came one day.
A fellow was home ill, and the machine he operated, a loose nailing machine, had been loaned from the British United Shoe Machine Company (BUSMC).
The company had to hire a specialist to do the work, something which cost far more than having a man of their own, so I got them to get the BUSMC man to teach me.
They had a few patents on this machine – one being the short nails changing to long nails whilst the machine was in motion.
Short ones were for the waist, long ones for the forepart of the soles of the boots or shoes to the uppers.
I got on quite well with my machine, which I could pull to pieces and put together again if it went wrong.
Learning a trade as a fully fledged boot and shoe loose nailing operator as I neared my sixteenth birthday, my future prospects were certainly looking brighter.
I got so competent that I was offered a job with the BUSMC but I considered this for later on.
Our working hours, Monday to Friday, were 8am to 1pm, a dinner break and then 2pm to 7pm.
Saturdays were 8am to 12.30pm.
â More George Pine stories can be found in Trenches to Trams – The Life of a Bristol Tommy by Clive Burlton.
Published by Tangent Books and costing £14.99, copies can be obtained from the M shed museum and other Bristol bookshops.