So far I have published over 60 short stories in collections and the one drawback to this is the amount of diverse characters required to star in a wide variety of situations.
Luckily, I have a retentive memory stretching back to around the age of three, of the people, places and events in my life. Thankfully the majority of those memories are happy, but there have also been one or two life threatening occasions as well as times when the world seemed very dark. Although over time they were resolved, they too have become very useful for creating plots in stories and providing emotional context.
I was always imaginative as a child… my mother I seem to remember, called it ‘telling fibs’. For me as we travelled around to various countries, my imaginary friends were a comfort and helped me gain confidence as I made real friends. They were eventually replaced with the real life counterparts and very precious they are too.
Fifty years ago I started work on a part-time basis as soon as it was legally possible. I was fourteen years old, and even though I have had periods when not officially employed, I have been working ever since. My intention is to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next world with my keyboard in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.
This new series shares some of the jobs I have turned my hand to over that fifty years, and some were very odd. Not many have sat at a table between two teams of champion dairy cows, selling bull semen! Over the years I have accumulated a massive dossier of characters and events that now take centre stage in my short stories. If you have read my novel Just an Odd Job Girl you will have met some of them but over the next twelve weeks I hope to bring you some of the others that inspired and stimulated my imagination.
Souvenir and ice-cream seller along the seafront 1967 – 1971
Just thinking back to those early spring months of 1967 make me smile. I had pestered my mother and father for months to let me get a part-time job. I didn’t want a paper round as getting up at an ungodly hour before school every morning, including Sunday, held little appeal. Also, my parents were concerned that my schoolwork would suffer so we compromised on a weekend and holiday job.
Just before Easter, I saw an advertisement in the local evening paper for staff for the council run operations along the seafront. The minimum age was fourteen years and three months, which I had just passed, and there was an address to apply for an application form.
Without telling my mother, I sent off for the form, which duly arrived. Being a council application form it covered three pages and virtually asked for your weight and number of teeth. I was proud of my efforts, and presented the completed and signed form to my mother, who also had to sign the form because of my age.
My mother had to accompany me to the interview and she made me wear my school uniform to encourage a belief that I might be a worthy candidate! The interviewer was a nice man and I remember that he had a deep voice and seemed genuinely interested in what this fourteen year old had to say… which was pretty rare!
Three days later a letter arrived stating that I would be employed for the summer season, and weekends once I was back at school, at a cafe and souvenir kiosk by South Parade Pier. I would work for a maximum of six hours a day, at an hourly rate of two shillings an hour. I was rich.
I arrived excited, but understandably nervous, and was greeted by a rather austere cafe manageress. She issued me a nylon overall and so many rules and regulations that I forgot them immediately.. Thankfully she then uttered the words…..‘I am giving you to Betty.’
I was pleasantly surprised to be handed over to a tiny, beaming woman who had been waiting for me outside the back door of the café.
She was wearing the highest pair of stiletto shoes I had ever seen. She must have been under five-foot in height and nicely plump; I had no idea how she managed to stay upright on these thin, three-inch heels. I am nearly six foot and I looked down on my diminutive new companion, wondering how she was going to boss me around. I was soon to find out that looks could be deceiving!
About twenty feet from the restaurant there was a small round building. Little did I know at the time, but apart from occasional relief duties in the main café, this was going to be my work place for the next three seasons. Betty opened a door at the back of the structure.
I stepped through into the dark and stood for a moment on the threshold of a new life. The lights snapped on and I looked around me. It was filled to bursting with leather and plastic souvenirs and beach games, and stored for security reasons, a large double-sided postcard stand that needed to be taken outside to make room for the occupants.
After carrying that outside between us, Betty busied herself at the old fashioned till perched on the wooden shelf. No mean feat as it stood four feet off the ground and she could barely see over the top of the counter. I could now see the reasoning behind the three-inch heels.
Betty then proceeded to introduce me to the world of selling souvenirs which ranged from combs, purses, heart shaped badges and other small items. They either bore the coat of arms for Portsmouth and Southsea or with a male of female name. Good luck if you had been called something exotic!
She was a very patient and lovely woman, who not only showed me a management style that became a benchmark for me in my later career, but also became my friend. Her on job training was second to none, and by the second weekend she pronounced me Assistant Manager of the kiosk. I was solely responsible for stocking, selling to our many customers and cash management when she took her lunch breaks and for her days off.
Betty has featured in several of my stories in one disguise or another and even after 50 years, her influence on my work ethic, management style and sense of responsibility makes me grateful for having her in my life.
As well as providing me with some wonderful characters in addition to Betty, my time along the seafront provided me with plenty of material for future stories. These included her request for me to wear sneakers one weekend so that I could chase down and capture a couple of lads who had been pinching the saucy postcards on a regular basis; a mission that I completed to her satisfaction if not to the suitably berated offenders.
In my third year at the cafe, I was promoted to the front of house where whipped ice-cream was dispensed. I eventually got the knack of creating perfect whirls topped with a chocolate flake, but I am afraid that I consumed the evidence of my early failures which resulted in a need for a larger overall.
The next post in this series will appear on author D.G. Kaye’s blog on August 18th and follows my efforts in my first full time job working in a private dental practice at the age of seventeen (part one).
Several bloggers have invited me to guest on their blogs in coming weeks but I have one or two weeks left if you feel you would be happy to participate. I will send everything over that you need in a word document with any images attached.
About Sally Cronin.
After working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 19 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition. I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company, Moyhill. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.
My latest book – What’s in a Name – Volume Two.
Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them.
Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.
There is also a bonus story introducing a new collection The Village Square to be published in 2018.
You can buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Name-Stories-Life-Romance-ebook/dp/B0748MLZ1W
My other books
I hope you enjoyed this chapter in my varied career and as I mentioned earlier I will be featuring the other jobs again. Thanks Sally