Gloucester Road, 1969/70
I came back to Gloucester Road after a spell at Epsom in the original High Street branch (102). Harry Coppen, who was the Branch Manager at Epsom had moved to Gloucester Road to take over from Mr West and he asked me to come back to help out. I spent some time in the Wines department which included Mr Froude (ex Surbiton) and Mr Field (ex Gerrards Cross) and Michael Cocoran (who later transferred to John Lewis in Oxford Street). This was in 1969/70 and Mr Froude commuted from his home in Saffron Walden taking up to 2 hours each way. I would have never addressed Mr Froude or Mr Field by their first names !
I’m sure I’ve seen a b&w photo of these gentlemen in the Wines department but cannot remember where.
The Wines department which was entirely counter service, was relocated into the end shop unit vacated by Budgens on the corner of Queens Gate and included soft drinks and a cigarette kiosk. The original Wines department included a credit desk ‘manned’ by Judy (surname ?) who would hand out 2 part bills to account customers and take payments due.
One of the most popular wines was Chateneuf du Pape (Chateau Le Beane in the photo) sold for 12/9d a bottle and the most exciting times, apart from Christmas, was Budget day when queues would form around the block. Directors would be drafted in to help out and us ‘boys’ would spend most of the day taking wines and spirits by the case load to cars parked up and down the road.
The Wines warehouse was in the basement and the only way a delivery could be put away was by using a 4 case dumb waiter hoist, occasionally overloaded to 6 cases to get finished, a truly laborious task.
I did get some counter experience guided by Mr Field, but when I asked a customer if they’d ‘like to know the damage’ when totting up their bill I was banished to the cigarette kiosk most of the time ! By the way the most popular cigarette brands were Gallious, Gitanes, Camel, Rothmans, Pall Mall and Peter Stuyvasant.
Eventually I became Checkout Manager, dependant on the 49 bus for a full checkout line in the mornings, southbound from the Shepherds Bush area and northbound from Battersea and Wandsworth. In times of traffic chaos it was down to myself and a few of the local checkout operators to get things going. Thankfully most of the customers in the area were late risers.
There was a trial to open until 7pm on Monday nights which began at quite short notice, David Ramsey, who was Branch Manager by then, stepped in and ensured we were properly compensated for the extra hour. It turned out to be one of the busiest periods of the week as customers who had gone home out of London for the weekend flooded in to top up their fridges. Hordes of customers, all with baskets (mainly steak, milk and potatoes) queued at all 9 checkouts to the back of the branch throughout that extra hour. Needless to say the trial became permanent.
Although the Wines department already stayed open until 8pm every night, was this the forerunner to a general extension to trading hours beyond the traditional Friday night, 40+years ago ?
And finally, I met and then later proposed to the present Mrs Hammond whilst helping to fill the Fish Fingers …………… !