Some Early Recollections of the Bank,
including the Corporation Savings Bank
Golden Jubilee Reminiscences by Marion Robottom
In 1917 Mr Hilton recruited some of his junior staff by going round the schools looking for school leavers. I was one of those.
We were allocated part of the Water Dept. The hours we worked were 9am until we finished, sometimes as late as 9pm. The salary to commence was 10/- a week. We worked on a counter sheet system, two of us together. The ledgers were our particular pride, and are worth looking at today. Any misdemeanour was corrected by being sent downstairs to help Mr De Ville who was sorting out the accounts of the Birmingham Provident Association which we had taken over. One account was in the name of 'Mrs Jones' dog'. To advertise the Bank we had a float in the Lord Mayor's procession and several of us were dressed as fisherwomen with nets. I can't think why.
When we became the Municipal Bank in 1919, and moved to permanent premises in Edmund Street, we all had to do our share in the move. Sydney Brotherton and I were told to take the Burroughs' machine, and we got the wheels stuck in the tramlines. We were soon transferred to carrying parcels. Every article of furniture had to be numbered and Mr Smith spent many hours on Snow Hill station on a machine that produced aluminium numbered strips. So much so, that he was regarded with suspicion.
I was transferred to Sparkbrook Branch when it opened, together with Mrs Facey, Miss Bullock, and Mr Raftery as my fellow junior. It was an empty butcher's shop, fitted with a counter and drawers. There was no sanitary arrangements at all. We ate our lunch under the counter, washed in a bucket, and went to the local Post Office for any further requirements. We steadily grew, attracting customers from all parts of that side of the city, and at the end of the day we would be collecting cash from under the counter and from the floor. There was no private office, and one customer came in with her money in her corsets, and two of us had to give her cover whilst she unloaded.
These were the days when each branch was issued with a revolver and ammunition. There was a splendid cellar under the branch and a target was made for practice. I called in at Lozells Branch one day, and the manager showed me his revolver, and forgetting it was loaded, set it off. The bullet took the surface off the sleeve of my coat, and flattened itself in the wall behind me. Those too were the days when a cashier had to try to find his or her own cash differences. I was a Pound short one Saturday night and on Sunday I went out to Ward End to an address where I thought I had overpaid a man. When a lady answered the door I asked if Mr 'so and so' was in, and she replied: yes he is, and he's married'. I was soon dismayed in those days and turned away when she slammed the door.
We were a small, enthusiastic staff, kept together by Mr Hilton, who was certainly an inspired genius. We had a Bank dinner annually which was a 'must'. Musical evenings in the Gas Dept., golf and tennis matches, and rambles on Thursday afternoons. We had a lot of fun in working in those early days, and am glad to be associated with such an astonishing success.
The machines that produced aluminium strips were common at railway stations and seaside amusement arcades up until the late 1950s. They were frequently used to produce 'name tags' for affixing to possessions etc. The machine issued the tag complete with rounded ends containing a nail hole. The Bank obviously found that this was an economical method of producing identity tags for its Fixed Assets.