The three-mile walk home went in a blur, and when I arrived I proudly presented my mam with the thirty-seven-and-six pence week’s advance wage. Of course she spent the lot, but I didn’t care. I had a job.
Getting that job was one of the turning points of my life. Mr Deverill was wonderful. I liked him from that first meeting and quickly learned to respect him. It was a busy office with nine or ten agents under its control. If any of them were off sick, there was no cover. Mr Deverill would have to rush round and collect the premiums himself.
Despite this workload, he invested a lot of time in helping me. I picked up the job quickly, but knew that the company policy was to employ junior clerks for no more than a year.
Being a nice man had its downside for Mr Deverill, though. My mam soon realised that he was an easy touch and continued to borrow money in advance of my wages. This would sometimes mean we were six or seven weeks behind with our debt payments to him. Mam was constantly borrowing more.
This didn’t cloud my happiness too much at first. I loved the job and was really happy. The learning period of any job is the most interesting time, and I was learning not only about work but about how to read and write. There were humiliations, but instead of the sneering laughter of school there was some encouragement.
Night school was at Anfield Commercial College. I was booked in to take English, maths and bookkeeping. At first, I was reluctant to go, imagining that it would be like St Cecilia’s School with the added embarrassment of being amongst adults.
My first impressions of the college seemed to confirm this. The English teacher read out words and asked the class to spell them. Everyone except me began to scribble away, while I painfully tried to use what little knowledge I had to construct the words. The students passed their papers to the person sitting next to them, while the teacher ran through the spellings on the blackboard.
Sniggers met my inept attempts. Each member of the class tried to spell a word before the teacher wrote it down. When my turn came, during one of the lessons after perhaps a couple of weeks, I was so full of shame that I leapt up, and shouted: “I don’t know how to spell. You’re the teacher, you teach me!” With that, I stormed out.