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(Familial Adenomatous Polyposis)

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Starting Work

August 1959 Hillcrest Hospital Leicester

This was the month when as a 17 year old I started my first job as a welfare clerk at what used to be Leicester's Workhouse and then a geriatric hospital.

After an interview at the Leicester City Council Welfare Office in Pocklington's Walk I was assigned to the hospital and a friend to the Pocklington Walk Office. I remember the look on people's faces when I said where I was to work and wondered what I was letting myself in for. My friend was soon gloating that he had the better job. He turned out to be quite envious.

Hillcrest Hospital was just over Swain Street railway bridge in Sparkenhoe Street. What a daunting place for a 17 year old as I went through the gates into The Lodge. Things changed as a friendly porter took me to the Welfare Office, which was to the left of the main entrance. Such a small office painted green and cream if my memory is working OK. Here I was introduced to The Chief of the Welfare Office Mrs. Rayns and her staff Miss Cole and Mr Wright. Geoff looked about 35 and would be who I worked with. Quite a relief as Miss Cole and Mrs. Rayns seemed rather stern and frightening.
Hillcrest Hospital Leicester

Whilst being shown around by Geoff on that first morning a mutual interest in football emerged as he had played for Walsall at one time. Also in the main office Mr Clegg was a local football referee. Then followed Mr Healey the Superintendent, Mr Booth his Deputy, Matron and Deputy Matron who might have been O'Hearne and MacAllister, Chief Clerk Mr Higginbottam, Mrs. Rayns husband who was the chef and the 8 or so ward sisters. It was impressed on me, except by Geoff, that I was an office junior and all of them were higher in all respects.

Hospital resident

The Hospital had separate residential sides for male and female and 2 or 3 male wards which ran along the railway side. The female wards were in two blocks 3 high.

My job was to help get pension books signed and hand out patients on the wards their weekly money allowance (if they were deemed fit enough), type out the account sheets and any standard letters that were needed. This sounded boring but soon I was to realise that being so young compared to the patients and residents had its benefits as I suddenly had that many 'mums and dads' looking after me!

It seemed an impossible task to remember names but several of the elderly ladies used to point out who was who and gradually over the months I could venture out on my own and find the majority of them.

On a Friday morning Geoff disappeared down the main post office with all the pension books and in a conference room every counterfoil was stamped and torn out by the PO staff. Woe betide us if the figures didn't tally up. How many books? Seemed thousands and thought about 5-8 hundred but haven't been able to find out.

One of my duties was to man the lodge and its switchboard every 4th or 5th weekend. For this we had 2 days off in the week. So training on the marvels of a ball and socket switchboard was one of my first challenges. Interesting that even then you could arrange a 3 or 4 way conversation. Well others could. The days off were strange as all my pals were working but I started playing golf at the Western Park Municipal Course. Never that good but it's something I enjoyed.

At the weekend it was also the duty clerks responsibility to issue the daily milk ration to the wards. Needless to say it was easy for the nurses to make sure they had more than enough milk from a very nervous young lad.

Christmas Day was a special time as it has been the only time I have ever worked on that day. As well it was voluntary as far as I remember.

I started with Geoff about 9am. Our job was to give sweets and things to the patients on the 8 or so wards. He warned me that it was very strenuous work and we were expected to wish everyone a happy Christmas and not refuse a drink from the ward sisters. I remember accepting a few but not an awful lot after the first few wards. I do remember commenting afterwards that I found out a ward linen cupboard was big enough for two people.

Christmas Drinks

Also I remember helping to ply the residents with ale from jugs filled in the kitchen at their Christmas Dinner a little later on. Again I seemed to serve the same fellows quite a few times as they insisted it was their first drink.

I had my first motorised bike whilst at the hospital. My older brother's Norman Nippy. It was the rich mans cyclemaster as it had fairings and a covered in chain. It was the days of no crash helmets until a cyclist was injured outside the hospital gates and Mrs. Rayn's insisted a wore one or didn't go to work on it!!

Workers Playtime the radio programme was recorded one lunch time with Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent. We were kept out of the way though so couldn't have been classed as workers.

This was also the time to think of the future and promotion prospects. So with my pal from the main office we entered the delights of Night School. On a Monday I worked from 8.30 until 6pm but was allowed to leave at 5pm as evening lessons started at I think 5.30pm.

I started to learn about who paid for street lighting, the police, dustbins etc. Also the many acts of parliament that affected local government. After a while it was that boring we used to extend our tea break for a pint in a local pub. Then it was a case of not going back for the second part. This had a profound effect on me for after a chat with Mrs. Rayns about my lack of ambition I found out a little known exam taken at school gave me two increments on my starting pay and the need not to take the first two exams!!

School Kids
This exam was The Local Government Entrance Exam and our Headmaster at Ellis Avenue School, Mr Date (He had also taught my dad at The Wyggeston Grammar School) had made us take it before our GCE's to get used to the process of sitting exams. Another exam he found for us was The College of Preceptors Exam a trial for leaving school at 15 with some qualifications.

More interesting was the odd party at the hospital that started at 10pm and finished about 6 in the morning. These were held in the Chief Clerks apartment and the boardroom.

After just over 2 years I left this paradise when I decided to join the RAF even though National Service had finished. I had learnt a lot and feel much of that has helped me since having cancer.

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