'That Reminds Me' - Jobs & Working Life

This week we are taking a look back at people’s jobs and considering the ways in which working life had already changed, even before the current Corona virus related upheaval.

Let’s start with some of your earliest working memories, beginning with the first money-making activity you can remember…  Where was this? How old were you?

If you did a job like this, was it before school, after school, at weekends or in the holidays? Perhaps it was a paper round or a Saturday job in a shop? Maybe you had to earn your pocket money by doing chores?

Next, let’s move on to the first “proper” job you had after school or further education. The one that brought in your first regular income (probably paid in cash in a small brown envelope). Did you stay in this line of work (and if so how long for)? O did you move on? Did you do any further training or gain any qualifications?

Even if you have had a number of different jobs during your working life, let’s focus on one for a moment. What was it and what was it like doing it? Include the physical working conditions (e.g. were you in an office, outdoors, on the factory floor, in a hospital etc). Did you use a typewriter, were you operating machinery, did you answer the phone, operate a switchboard or use an adding machine? What hours did you work?

What did you wear to work (e.g. did you need to wear uniform or protective clothing or were you obliged to follow a particular dress code?). How did you get to and from your job, and how long did the journey take? How easy was it to communicate with your work-base, clients or customer before the widespread use of mobile phones and email? Were you working during the transition to new(er) technology? If so, how did this affect the way you worked?

Even if you did unpaid work e.g.as a volunteer or supporting a family business without receiving a wage as such) the chances are that whatever you did (or do) there have been some significant changes over the years. Have a go at answering the question: “Was it better in the past, or is it better now? Or is it just different?” Come to think of it, these might very well turn out to be the same questions many people will be asking as lockdown eases and we all begin to re-assess the world of work.

Who, or what, has influenced your choices (e.g. teachers, family, friends?) Did you mostly do the same thing ow throughout your working life? Or were there lots of different jobs? Did something bring about a change, like the closure of a business or industry, or starting a family? It wasn’t so very long ago, after all, that some married women were actively discouraged from continuing to work in some jobs and professions.

It is fascinating to hear about other people’s jobs and how or why they ended up doing them. In one of our sessions we found we had a former traffic warden, bingo caller, milkman and a seaside landlady in our midst. Who’d have guessed? One of my favourite programmes to listen to is Radio 4’s “The Life Scientific” which features the stories of people doing jobs I barely knew existed!

Hopefully, as the details emerge from your memory so too will the stories about the places you worked in and the people you worked with. Do share these with someone else if you can, and jot them down for inclusion in your personal memory box or scrapbook. See if you can find any photographs or other mementoes. Perhaps you still have a long service award or certificate, or some pictures of work “dos”? What about leaving presents?

YOUR CHALLENGE (Should you choose to accept it…)

Is to make a record of all your jobs. Writing down a straightforward list is fine (and better than nothing) but for a more creative exercise draw round your hand and use the fingers to count off the different jobs you have done.  If you run out of hands start you will have to start adding your feet!  Get creative and introduce some colour coding. Or add some star ratings for the work you liked (or feel you did best).

Start with the earliest jobs you recall and work your way around your fingers. Don’t forget to include a finger (or a whole other hand) for all the unpaid work, like parenting, housework, DIY, gardening, cooking and caring for elderly dependents.

Leave space for your dream job! Looking back, is there a different job or career you would have chosen if you had the chance? Perhaps you would have loved to become a ballet dancer, footballer, racing driver, brain surgeon, artist, pop star, supermodel, museum curator, Olympic athlete, writer, zoo keeper, train driver, scientist, doctor, teacher or astronaut? Or maybe you would have liked to have run a pub, restaurant, shop or other business? 

Don’t worry about the practicalities. We won’t be checking your credentials. Have some fun and reach for the stars, as they say!

    We’d love it if you could share your stories and photos with us, and make this a fun community activity with loads of people taking part and sharing their stories, photos, comics – and anything else!


    What jobs were done by the following fictional characters?

    1. Dixon of Dock Green
    2. Captain Mainwaring
    3. Mr Chips
    4. Clark Kent (when he wasn’t being Superman)
    5. Mary Poppins
    6. Ross in “Friends”
    7. Mrs Tiggy-Winkle
    8. Jane Eyre
    9. Popeye

    Answers next week

    Last weeks answers:

    1. The film “Summer Holiday” starring Cliff Richard came out in the January of 1963. The lads in the London bus were heading for the South of France and ended up in Greece.
    2. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck starred in the film “Roman Holiday”. She played a princess, he was a news reporter.
    3. The popular song “Eviva Espana” originated in Belgium and was written in Dutch. When the Spanish (and British) versions followed the title was changed to “Y Vita Espana” (there being no such word as Eviva in Spanish!)
    4. David Copperfield was born in Suffolk. To give Charles Dickens’s novel its full title: “The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery” was first published (in serial form) in 1849. There is an actual village called Blundeston near Lowestoft.
    5. Jane Austen began (but failed to finish) writing “Sanditon”, which was set in a seaside resort. Numerous bids have been made to complete the fragment she left behind, including a recent TV series.
    6. The blazers were worn by the holiday camp staff in “Hi-de-Hi” were
    7. The composer Claude Debussy apparently finally finished “La Mer” whilst staying at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne. (Very well done if you answered this without looking it up!)


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