It’s September 1956 - we leave the school gates behind and out into the big wide world of earning our living aargh - it’s scary!!!
The boys would like to be footballers but will probably work in the steel mills, the girls want to be hairdressers, typists or telephonists, most will work in shops. I can’t decide between being a Writer or a Biologist, so I settle for being a telephonist! Most would-be telephonists go to be trained at the G.P.O (General Post Office), and they have to go to Halifax for a three week intensive course - there is a long waiting list. I go for an interview and get put on the list. If I were still a schoolgirl, I would be enjoying a 6 week holiday now, and I’m happy to do just that - but mum insists that I get a job. She finds an ad in the local paper - The Grand Hotel in the centre of Sheffield are advertizing for a trainee telephonist, I go for an interview and get the job, but it turns out that I will, for the most part, be a lift attendant - cum general dogsbody, and occasionally get to go on the switchboard.
I have to wear a dowdy brown uniform that’s obviously been worn by many before me, it’s too short, too tight and totally demeaning. I feel pretty miffed at how the job has turned out, I feel that I’ve been conned. But then I find it quite interesting meeting the people who stay here - and wonder at how they can afford it, after all it costs 25/- (£1.25) per night for a pretty basic room plus 10% service charge, and everyone expects a tip for anything they might do for the guests. When Martin, the page boy, takes a packet of cigarettes to a guest’s room, he sometimes gets as much as a shilling tip! (5p).
I will have to work in shifts - 7.0am til 2.0pm one week and 2.0pm til 10.00pm the next, I alternate with Anita, the other lift attendant. I have to work every other weekend on the switchboard. For this I will get paid £2.4.5 a week. (£2.221/2p ) minus tax, insurance and bus fares. I give what is left of my wages to mum and she gives me a £1 pocket money, which is probably more than she got to keep me for a week!
Most of the guests are very nice, only the minority treat me with a quiet contempt. The porters tell me that many famous people stay here, and I am looking forward to meeting them! Apart from the cinema, Live Variety is the most popular form of entertainment - not many people have a TV, and we have The Lyceum Theatre which is mostly for plays and opera, and The Empire Theatre where wecan see the likes of top comedians Max Wall, Ken Dodd, Frank Randall and Al Read. Our favourites are Albert and Les Ward, who sing ?There?s a Hole in my Bucket? and no matter how many time we hear it, we always have a good laugh. I also love sand dancers Wilson, Kepple and Betty.
The manager of the Empire lives at the Grand, he is a very large Jewish man who expects excellent service, he walks around as though he is a very important person, but he is always very kind to me and gives me two free tickets for any of the shows I want to see, and they are always on the front row, right in front of the stage. Mum and Dad could only afford to take us up in the ?gods? - which always used to scare the life out of me, the rows were so steep up there, I was always afraid I would topple over if I wasn?t careful!
There is great excitement at the Grand - Johnnie Ray is appearing for one night at the Sheffield City Hall, which is just across the road from the hotel, so he is staying here!! I cannot wait to meet him - he is a very big star, and my sister Mavis?s favourite singer, so I must try to get a signed photograph for her. The fans start to gather outside the hotel at mid-day, by evening it is pandemonium and the porters close the glass entrance doors and keep guard to make sure none of the fans can get in, the guests have to run the gauntlet of the fans. They are mystified by all the excitement, this sort of thing just doesn?t normally happen!
When Johnnie arrives he is rushed through the hotel and into the lift by a posse of managers and body guards. He is tall and very thin, he smiles at me and says "Thank you Ma?m" when I deposit him on his floor, but it happened so quickly, it was all a bit of a blur. I did manage to get his autograph before he left the next day, but unfortunately no photograph for Mavis.
I met many famous people whilst working at the Grand, including the Duke of Edinburgh, but eventually it was time to move on. Working in shifts played havoc with my social life - and I just had to get out of that uniform!!