My First Day
by Bob Fernie
It was the 9th September 1962 when I first joined the 'BMB Family'. I reported for duty at the Shirley Branch of the --- Birmingham Municipal Bank.
9:00am was the allotted time, - so I duly reported for duty at 8.30am --- freshly attired in my new suit -- awaiting the arrival of the staff.
Perhaps the Manager would park his Mercedes at the back of the branch --- and saunter around to meet me??
The first person to arrive was a somewhat elderly gentleman --- on a sit up and beg bicycle --- dressed in a long mac and sporting a flat cap, whom I assumed to be the caretaker.
Soon to follow were other cyclists similarly attired, --- one with a cigarette drooping from his mouth, --- then a plump lady with a fully laden shopping basket on the front of her cycle.
To my astonishment the first arrival said, you must be the new lad Fernie. I'm Mr Shaw the Manager.
The large front door was opened and everybody entered the vestibule in turn, clutching their treasured machines, --- then the enquiry hatch was raised, --- a short wait whilst various doors were unlocked, --- the bicycles were then wheeled through the Bank --- and duly stacked inside the mess room.
The first task was for everybody to disrobe --- to reveal their suited bodies, --- cycle clips to be removed and the kettle to be put on.
After brief introductions work was to begin. --- The ledgers to be brought out of the strong room, placed on the sloping desks, --- then the cash boxes placed on the tills --- in preparation for the money to be counted out --- and methodically placed in the drawers.
My duties were clear, --- have no contact with the public, --- and ensure that the steel tipped nib pens were kept in the appropriate ink wells ---------- these being black and red, (no biros then) ------- and to start 'posting' the deposit and withdrawal slips -- accurately to the ledgers, in readiness for the plump lady to follow me, clutching the dreaded 'extraction pads' and duly pointing out my errors.
This austere atmosphere was my first introduction to the 'BMB Family' --- would I last the day??
Happily things began to relax and members of staff disappeared at appropriate intervals into the strong room, in order to furtively drink their cups of tea.
Lunch time arrived --- and the pungent 'fragrance' of boiling sprouts soon permeated throughout the branch as the first meal was prepared, --- although one window was opened this stale odour seemed to last for the rest of the afternoon --- (I later learned that this acrid aroma in Shirley Branch, to which the other staff appeared oblivious, was a much talked about occurrence by colleagues at other Branches).
Finally the doors were closed to the public at 3.00pm and cigarettes were lit in preparation for the tills to be balanced.
Fortunately this trauma passed without too much trouble and I was allowed to replace the ledgers in the strong room.
Then a strange tribal ritual began, --- some poor chosen subject was employed to enter the individual cash book totals into some type of master ledger, --- the person entering the information was placed under extreme pressure by all the other members of staff gathering around to watch his performance, --- the sweat poured down his brow, --- much fidgeting and tutting ensued - the figure work was thoroughly scrutinised --- and then after what seemed an eternity, --- the much relieved performer relaxed and uttered the triumphant cry --- 'the Big Book has cross-wobbled' --- much to the plaudits of the onlookers.
The once charged atmosphere now changed to one of gay abandonment and a rush was made for the mess room --- in order for the bicycles to be hastily retrieved.
My first day had ended, --- my initiation was over --- and to my surprise I was on my homeward journey earlier than a day at school.