My father, Kenneth Neighbour, escaped active war service by virtue of his age, and sight criteria may have also have affected his ability for service. However, he did belong to the Oaklands platoon of the Home Guard. This situation allowed him to continue with a full time civilian job which he had previously acquired as an employee of the Law Stationer’s
Society in the City of London. Basically, it was a desk-
complete round of journeys on Saturday mornings, was an increasing frustration for
my mother after I had been born, for, she claimed, I saw too little of him and was
in bed before he got home. Although she fretted about this, it must have been a common
family experience, and still infinitely better than a father being away at the front
or on other active service. As well as looking after a long garden -
Father’s work routine continued unchanged until the day came when I, his elder son,
at the aged of around seven, was taken on the first of several, probably irregularly
spaced Saturday morning visits to father’s work -
Many buildings in London had cellars and this building, whatever it had been, was no different, for to reach the concrete it was necessary to jump down from the pavement,once the rather inadequate fencing had been negotiated. It was an interesting surface,
for there was not one completely level floor. It was interrupted every so often by the remains of what had been brick walls, odd rectangular or circular holes which now had shrubby weeds protruding, and a barricaded door which must have led to the cellar of the building next door.
There were often one or more other groups of children of various ages. I supposed that we mixed, or asked each other questions, but anyhow, we somehow managed to share this space. One morning a policeman came by and turned us off the site. In this way we
spent our Saturday mornings until the time came for father and I to walk to the station
for the journey home. Father seemed to know one or two people who occupied nearby
dwellings. I was fascinated by the below-
I recall later, in a lesson to do with people’s work, being asked at school what job my father did? While some children gave interesting descriptions of their father’s work, all I could say was that he worked in an office in London. It seemed such an inadequate answer, but that’s all I knew, and, to be truthful, that is still all I know! I recall that I quizzed my mother when I returned home for tea, but I think she knew little more than I.
All of this changed when I was about nine years old. Father got a job locally, which
must have pleased mother no end. What I didn’t know then, but which I have since
discovered, because father never threw anything away, was that he had been writing
endless letters to various firms all over the place in the search for work. Of course,
I have no idea what cv details he included in what would have been meticulously-
your qualifications and experience at the present time. It must have been disheartening. I would love to know how he explained his qualifications and experience.
Eventually he obtained a position with J B Rollings in Hatfield Road, St Albans;
a firm of wholesale confectioners and tobacconists. Again it was a desk-
space, mainly for confectionery items. Upstairs was the office space. Father’s job
here pleased me no end, for it meant, in theory at least, that I would be able to
see more of him. Apart from the fact that I was now older and therefore wasn’t put
to bed so early, I would often use my tricycle, and later my bike, and ride the pavements
until I met him coming in my direction. He was a short man, wore a trilby hat, invariably
had a cigarette in his mouth and held a copy of the London Evening News under his
right arm (he, like me, was left-
During the holidays I might be lucky enough to pass by when a delivery was being
made. My favourite was the large blue van of Smith’s Crisps. Apart from the space
inside there was a rack space on the roof on which would be rows of those large square
metal tins each containing 4 dozen bags of crisps. Three men would be involved; one
would throw down a pair of tins for the second man to catch and, in turn, throw to
a warehouseman. Occasionally, in their attempt to break a record for the fastest
Father’s work for Rollings did not change during the ten years he was there. While
I knew it was financially difficult for my parents, I admire them for having purchased
their home in 1939 and brought up two boys without mother having to work as well.
She was there, at home, to bring us up. Later, I found several old empty pay envelopes
from Rollings. His basic pay seemed to be around £9 per week, to which was added
some overtime and at Christmas there may have been a bonus of a shilling or two.
One year, I remember, a letter from the Director explained that there would be no
bonus that year as the intended efficiencies had not been achieved during that year.
When mother discovered that his boss had moved into a large house Marshals Drive
she “hit the roof” and demanded that father confront Mr Rollings and claim that he
was worth more than £9 a week. I’m not sure that he actually carried out my mother’s
recognised the value of father’s contribution to the company, but they did not. The value of father’s work for the two firms he had served during his lifetime, I am convinced, was far, far greater than the reward they gave him in his weekly wage.