A few days ago I was in conversation with a friend of mine and during the conversation he happened to mention that pay day was about to happen and he was looking forward to his next pay packet. Well, although he was not speaking literally, as a far as I know pay packets are a thing of the past. But, none the less, his words got me thinking. I well remember when most of us got pay packets. Things are so different now, when I first began working we were paid weekly and in little brown packets. The amount within was written, by hand, on the outside of the packet together with details of National Insurance and tax deductions etc. This went on well into my working life, even when I joined The Prison Service we were paid in the same way at Wandsworth Prison. There, every Friday, a large, shallow box would be brought to the detail office containing all of the pay packets for the uniformed staff. A large sheet of paper with all of the staff names upon it had to be signed when the pay packet was collected. As far as Kingsley was concerned most working people in those days did not have a bank account, everything was done in cash. It is hard now to imagine no "holes in the wall", credit and debit cards, direct debits and standing orders etc. Nothing like that then existed.
In fact quite a lot of the people's needs were provided by delivery, for example, we had bakers, milk men, a butcher and various other trades men who did the rounds of the villages once a week and all were paid in cash. The system then was quite clear, no money, no goods. I don’t think credit was likely to be considered. In addition to the tradesmen weekly visits to collect their money were also undertaken by the rent collector and the insurance man. The customer was provided with a little book which was signed up by the representative each week when the money was handed over. In those early post war days money was not plentiful as far as rural workers were concerned but neither were so many of today's consumers goods which we all take for granted. Cars were few and far between and television was in its infancy, not to mention expensive. We didn't have a television for several years after they became readily available. This due to the fact my parents took the rigid view that if you couldn't pay for it you didn’t have it. Of this they were very proud. Credit, in the form of, what was then known as Hire Purchase, was just beginning to become available and again the customer paid by instalments which were logged in a little book which the customer retained. Many people viewed this development as little short of disgraceful, my how things have changed!.
Eventually television became more widespread due to the fact that many television rental companies sprang up and offered televisions on a week rental basis also with the little book. This appealed to many as the televisions of the day were by no means as reliable as they are today and breakdowns were common. Those machines had valves and they were prone to blowing. Repairs were costly and renting did away with all those problems as the provider repaired the sets free of charge. But, bit by bit, the use of banking began to become the norm and slowly but surely we all became customers and in some cases, had to. I well remember when The Prison Service decided to pay its staff by bank credit, all those not having an account were told to get one. There was a transition period but, at the end of the day, we had no choice. A matter that didn't go down very well at the time and in addition to the bank account, wages were then paid only once a month, no longer weekly.
Another of modern conveniences, the telephone, was not widely available. I recall when I applied for our first phone, again because The Service said I should, in order that I was on call, I was offered a party line. Due to the lack of available connections customers shared a line. By no means ideal as when the phone rang both parties would often pick it up, only then becoming aware of who the call was actually for. This situation went on for quite a few years before we could get our own line.
Similarly, when we applied for our first mortgage, we were told there was a waiting list and it took a couple of months before we got ours. It would appear building society branches were allocated their funds on a monthly basis and there was never enough to meet each month's demands. We were lucky, in so far, as the branch manager was a personal friend of ours and this did help to speed things up a little. Not what you know but who you know as they say. So, so different today when we have had the credit crisis and money is little short of thrown at the unwary client. I am not sure life is actually better, I think we valued the things we had far more in the days when they were so hard to come by.