Banstead 1971 to 1973
After a 2 year spell as Checkout Manager at Gloucester Road it was time for a change and I went to Banstead branch 112 in 1971 initially as Non-Food Manager subsequently replacing Andy Bright as Grocery Manager.
However, I’d gone from needing a bus and 2 trains to get to work in Gloucester Road to 2 buses and train to get to and from my home in Hayes, Kent.
The upside was the bus stop outside Sutton station was next to the Len’s legendary transport book shop and is where I bought my first bus magazine (issue No.1) and began a life-long interest in transport. I’ve just read and filed issue 179 of that magazine published quarterly !
My previous commute was in and out of London which was fairly easy, but this commute was east to west across the Kent and Surrey borders and became an issue out of hours, especially as a key holder.
Having failed my driving test 3 times due to nerves, the next best thing was a moped which could be driven on a provisional licence with no time limits in those days.
I had to go and see the bank manager in person for a £100 loan and was questioned intensely on why I needed the moped. His dry humour concealed the fact that he could see the benefits straightaway but didn’t let on !
Mr Humphries was Branch Manager and Mr (Fred) Mowbray his deputy but I’m struggling to remember the section managers names apart from Larry Spearman and Doug Mortimer mentioned below. I think the Checkout Manager’s first name was ‘Dot’ and Bob Prince First Hand Meat. Can anyone help ?
The branch had checkouts front and back but the rear exit was up a short flight of stairs leaving customers with a choice of waiting for a ‘volunteer’ off the shop floor to carry their shopping up the steps to the car or go through the front checkouts and endure a windswept walk to the car park.
At the time the 3 day week was causing huge issues as on the those days without any power Camping Gaz lamps were rested on the top spine of the shelving and we all carried torches. A scary thought these days. The Sweda checkouts could be operated manually using a handle to register the items being purchased.
I also remember being one of the branch decimalisation trainers too.
Our Operations Manager was Mr (Gerry) Kelliher who was very strict as he would check each layout for accuracy and missing lines as having a gap on the shelf and the product in the warehouse was a sin. If it happened twice on the same product then you were put on a purple disciplinary report.
He put me under a lot of pressure to point where I was going to leave but was persuaded to hang in there as things got better. When I went into Merchandising at Bracknell in the late 1970’s I would see a lot of him as he was in the Development department next door and were then on first name terms discussing our favourite Jazz artists ! How times change.
Our next Operations Manager, Mr (Brian) O’Callaghan was even less forgiving at one time arriving for a 3 day forensic layout check, product by product, across the entire shop floor. With hindsight it was probably the right thing to do at the time.
He finally completed his checks and left the branch at around 4pm on day 3 and we all sighed with relief but he returned at 4.20pm to start the process all over again. Understandably my lips are sealed at this point.
I later became Warehouse Manager and one unenviable task was waking up sleeping lorry drivers who were waiting in a queue to unload. One angry looking driver got out of his cab and promptly pushed back his hair with a hair-grip, the image is still vivid !
The warehouse was upstairs and just like Epsom the loads had to be fed case by case onto a belt. If the belt broke down then a human chain was formed by standing on the belt to get the delivery up to the first floor – not very ‘elf n safety!
There were lifts to the shop floor but only space for one replenishment trolley at a time.
Unfortunately the concrete warehouse floor had never been properly sealed so grime would build up into ruts making itdifficult to push replenishment trolleys across the floor to the lift next to the price marking bench.
Clearing up an accidental spillage of orange juice one day revealed a nice clean concrete surface and so I instigated a programme of cleaning the floor in sections using cans of orange or grapefruit juice, a scraper and a thorough rinse afterwards.
I always enjoyed Friday afternoons as the deliveries had finished, the warehouse was tidy and the team split up to help around the branch. My favourite place was out by the loading bay in the sunshine trimming cauliflowers with Doug Mortimer !
The branch expanded into the vacant shop next door and relocated the service counter Wines department into a self service arrangement. On opening day of this new extension I happened to be passing a run of shelving and saw a gap between 2 bays that was gradually getting larger.
I called the Development Manager, Mike Kempton, over and just as he arrived the shelving collapsed on the floor smashing several bottles of sherry. An elderly lady had been looking at the sherry range and Mike and I had to lift her clear of the shattered bottles onto a dry patch of shopfloor.
Whilst at Banstead my wife and I got married and in 1973 we moved to Reading for another chapter of Waitrose history.