Next Memory

It was about seven oclock in the evening when I entered a busy branch office in a district famous for its tripe and fried fish. The bank was busy. Men and women crowded to the counter in a kind of desperate endeavour to hand over spare shillings to the municipality before they became squandered.


Among the crowd were workers in neckcloths who had not troubled to wash since leaving work; factory girls who had come straight from the pay desk to the bank; young clerks fingering a slender weekly packet; typists with their gains; and numbers of old men and women who were putting away half-crowns.


Notice, whispered the manager, how many people are saving up to be married. I looked round and spotted them: young men and girls each placing a few shillings a week into separate accounts, their heads bent over balances. Some faces registered no emotion. Possibly the credit side of the account did not justify any optimism! Now and then a couple smiled as they handed back their cards before going out arm in arm with a triumphant hopefulness over them that made you see a front door key and as much of Paradise as any one sees in Hockley, Duddeston, Saltley, or Aston!


When they are married they return and say: We want to open another account, please. A joint account? asks the manager. This puzzles them. He explains. A quick look of mutual distrust flashes between them: Er-yes, they say. To be taken out on either signature! Another quick look of distrust! They go out a bit silent, pondering it, and return on Monday to say that on full consideration they think that both signatures should be required for a withdrawal. Safety first!


* * * * * * * *


An untidy old man who had been lingering on the fringe of the depositors edged a way to the counter and in a rather threatening voice asked: Ave you got it still? Got what? asked the clerk. My blinkin money! he whispered.


The clerk was young and scrupulous. He called the manager. This lit a horrid doubt in the mind of the depositor. He leant on the counter and glared round the bank as if he expected to be told that his money had been lent to a foreign Power for the making of a new war.


Of course weve got it! cried the manager. Youre Mr X. Of course we have! Twelve pounds fifteen and ninepence! The man appeared soothed. Then a dogged look came into his eyes, and, leaning over the counter, he whispered:- Then lets ave a look at it!


I wonder what would have happened in a joint stock bank! The manager, however, appeared in no way surprised. He lifted the counter flap, led his depositor into a back room, opened a safe, and showed him bags of silver and a few piles of Treasury notes.


Do you often have people like that? I asked.


Oh yes he replied, Quite a few.




NOTE: this article was referred to by Arthur Everall in Memory 028. It appeared in the Daily Express on November 26th 1925,

under the heading 'The Heart of Birmingham - At the Sign of the Golden Key'
Let Me See My Money


by H V Morton