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If you have memories of Lewis’s Bank, please do share them with us at gutinfo@btinternet.com

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Roger and Barbara Hodson got in touch with us, having discovered Lewis’s Bank Archive in Summer 2015.  As a result they were able to get together with George Bly (see memories are further down this page) whom they had not seen for more than forty years.  Roger and Barbara sent us several images, including some of the Birmingham Staff and a lovely shot of Lewis’s in the City in the late 1960s.  You can see these on our page for Lewis’s Bank Birmingham.  Roger and Barbara recall their time with Lewis’s Bank as follows:

 

Barbara Skelding started work at Lewis"s Bank Birmingham in November 1965 followed shortly afterwards by myself, Roger Hodson,  in March 1966. My first job was working on the deposit ledgers situated immediately behind the customer counter and whenever a customer made a transaction  with the cashier the passbook would be placed within our reach so that we could grab it and agree the balance with the ledger. At busy times such as Saturday mornings the passbooks would mount up and the cashiers could become impatient for the return of their books but our team was led by a formidable lady, Edna Jones, who was very experienced at her job and she taught us not to be intimidated by anyone and to take our time putting the emphasis on accuracy. Barbara  had started her career working on the statement counter as most female staff did this job giving them an insight into customer behaviour and interaction with them. She was provided with a small desk and telephone and would make the journey down the long corridor to the machine room numerous times  during the day retrieving statements and balances. Barbara then graduated to remittances where she handled the many Lewis"s cheques and the large cigar account we had where the customer used to arrive about ten minutes before closing and deposit his previous days takings. By 1967 I had moved on the Standing Orders and took over from my good friend George Bly who had trained me in the requirements of this position. I loved this job and very often had finished it by 10-00am especially during the middle of the month when there was not so much activity. I would then float around the Bank offering my assistance if needed anywhere else. Mainly it would be setting up a till as a relief cashier where I would stand at the end of the counter monitoring the need to actually serve anyone. These were pre decimal days and I remember all the nice brand new ten shilling  and one pound notes we used to have. Some customers would only have these in their withdrawals, no used notes. I still have some brand new one pound notes from the Bank exchanged prior to their demise. Going back to the Standing Orders one particular vivid memory is that of when I paid an order which should have been cancelled and the customer concerned rang up and angrily demanded the refund of his funds and stated to me that unless this happened immediately he would personally come in to the Bank and "bash me up"! I reported this to the Manager Mr. Roscoe,  who said he would deal with it as this customer did have a bit of a temper. The customer was a Mr. Bamping and this incident soon became known to all the rest of the staff and he became known as "Basher Bamping". 48 years on I can still remember his address!Mind you, he was the exception, most customers were very pleasant and of course many worked at the store and visited regularly and became our friends. George used to like to have a bit of fun with the staff and Joyce Fletcher was in charge of the machine room . It became known that Joyce hated spiders but one day George brought in an imitation one and placed it on her desk while she was away at coffee. When she  returned she went mad with fright and Stan Walker Asst. Manager came out of his office to find out what all the fuss was about. The incident was soon forgotten by most of us but I don't think Joyce ever forgave George. These were happy days in the 60"s and it really was a pleasure to come into work at the Bank and in a way we had the best of both Worlds also being involved in the atmosphere of being in a large well respected Department Store. Barbara ,  who I later married,  and myself would love to be in touch with any of our former colleagues who worked at Lewis"s  Bank Birmingham and our Email is rogerhodson461@btinternet.com.

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George Bly has a wealth of memories of working at Lewis’s Bank Birmingham, and he would like to get in touch once more with his former colleagues.  Read on now to see if you are mentioned in George’s tale of SQUEEZES WHEEZES, and ERIC.  This is followed by more of George’s memories of Lewis’s Birmingham, and later those of Margaret Tidball who recalls Birmingham, Balancing the Book and Beatles..

 

PART ONE

 

I was also there in the sixties at the Birmingham branch. My word how the memories come flooding back. Mr Roscoe was ably supported by Stan Walker, other members of staff that I worked with at the time include, in no particular order: Ernie Goodridge (the messenger),John Searle, Hugh Booker, Dorothy Wheat, Gladys Cooper, Margaret Mander, Margaret Carter, Sue Billington, Pauline Merrutia, Pauline Killeen, Barbara Arnold, Judith Ward, Barbara Skelding, Jon Howard, Richard Hawkins, Joyce Fletcher, Gwen Williams, Roy Price, Miss Eborall, Edna Jones, Muriel Davis, Janet Godden, Elizabeth King, The Williams sisters, Roger Hodson, Sheila Alford, Jean Chapman, Mary Lane and Roger Freeman (who still today, after all these years remains my friend and the best friend anyone could wish for).  If I have missed anyone my apologies.

 

As Margaret Tidball has said (see below) Eric Roscoe was an intimidating figure, almost a father figure. He wore a bowler hat and shirts with detachable white starched collars, I hasten to add that's not all he wore! He addressed all members of staff as Mr, Miss or Mrs. There was no use of first names in those days. I remember going upstairs to the sixth floor staff canteen one day and finding a very nice fountain pen on the stairs. I handed it in to the lost property office only to discover later the same day that it was Mr Roscoe's. Needless to say I was the 'blue-eyed' boy for a while.

 

Fed up with persistent late arrivals I recall Mr Walker trying to get on top of the situation by introducing a signing in book. He drew a line in the book at 9.15 but many was the time that certain people just seem to ignore it and while not getting into the office until 9.25 had the cheek to put their time as 9.15 or earlier.  Roger F tells me of the time when a female member of staff was confronted about her persistent late arrivals she responded that she had missed her 9.00 train. 

 

First thing each morning the males had to go into the 'bowels' of the store and bring up all of the ledgers. We used a large wooden trolley and had great fun working the manually operated lifts in the store These same heavy, black ledgers came into play again each year when we had to enter the interest. We stayed late earning something like 7/6d per hour overtime. We used to go across Bull Street to Lyons for something to eat. Morning coffee breaks found us sometimes at Barrows or Kean and Scotts or Pattinsons or just simply in Lewis's cafeteria. Lunch was normally taken in the sixth floor staff restaurant, which had a separate section for 'management'. 

 

Certain events still seem vivid like the time the store detective had a punch up with a customer in the 'gents'. I recall a Xmas when Ernie came back from lunch (i.e. the pub) the worst for wear and Mr Roscoe came out of his office to see what the noise was about only to be confronted by a swaying Ernie who turning to Roger F and myself said 'get Eric a drink'. We were mortified as no-one used Mr Roscoe's Christian name.  Mr Roscoe turned to Roger and myself and said 'make sure that he gets across the road to his bus stop safely'. Customers I remember include Mr Cigar Plan who imported and sold cigars from Cuba. He was always smoking his large cigars when he came into the bank.

 

I remember Gwen in her brown two piece with fur collar looking after children's interests from her little booth. She carried a bottle of PLJ everywhere. For a time she dated Frank Formby, George Formby's brother. I recall Sue B dating Stan Jones who at the time used to play for Walsall. Margaret Carter was dating Wally and Margaret Mander was dating Peter Stanley who worked for an up market tailors based in the Bull Ring. I bought my first made to measure three piece suit from Peter. Was it John Temple that he worked for? John Searle worked in the small office, dealing with cheques and other more complicated matters. Jon Howard was prone to coughs and colds and drinking garlic flavoured cough mixture from a bottle he kept on the ledge behind his desk.

 

These tales are just a mere snapshot of life working for Lewis' Bank. I won't bore you with the other tales I have to tell. I end on a very sad note. Those of you who remember Mary Lane who worked in the machine room will be as devastated as I am to learn of her death through Liver Cancer in January 2010. Her smile radiated the kind of sunshine that every man wanted to bathe in. Like a star she twinkled and shone and now her light illuminates all of heaven.

 

Should anyone wish to contact me my email address is geo_bly@yahoo.co.uk

 

PART TWO

 

Good Morning Mr Roscoe

 

The requests for me to follow up my previous effort have been flooding in, OK I exaggerate one has trickled in.

 

You tend to forget that when we worked at 'the bank' in the sixties the opening hours were 10.00-3.00. I couldn't see the customers of today putting up with such a short opening period. We have all come to expect our banks and building societies to open 9-5.  Do you recall the afternoon daily cash drops from the store itself ?. Approx three/four of us, including John (Digger) Searle would be locked away to count the money. I remember wrapping it up and the use of string, hot red sealing wax and a seal came into play. Before you say anything it wasn't a bondage ritual. I don't remember what happened to the money after that. I also seem to recall having to go to Lewis's delivery bay once a week to help unload coins, which I presume were for the store. 

 

In Ernie's absence Roger F and myself looked after the outgoing post. Gladys Cooper would periodically offer us 3d if we went and posted her personal letters. Talking of which when Gwen gave us a letter to post off to Frank Formby, who at the time was visiting America, we were rather bold and wrote SWALK on the back of the envelope. Imagine our surprise and trepidation some time later to receive a letter from Frank. We assumed that he was writing to rant and rave but no he thanked us for the thought and sent us US$10.00 each. We were delighted that our efforts had brought such a good return. A rewarding wheeze.

 

I spent some time on the counter, not literally, rather as a cashier. Gwen occupied the end till and when she was on holiday I bought a false padlock i.e. one made from plastic with a rubber suction cup on the back and the day she returned I stuck it on her till drawer. When she saw it I told her that the inspectors had been in while she was away and insisted that all tills be padlocked and they had made a start with hers. She was bemused and didn't know what to do. Before I could say anything she had flown down to Mr Roscoe's office and they both came back to the counter at a rate of knots. During her brief disappearance I removed the padlock consequently as far as Mr Roscoe was concerned everything was normal. With a knowing smile he turned to me and said I suppose that this has something to do with you Mr Bly.

 

Working on the counter did have its rewards on one occasion someone paid in some very old but valid banknotes. Later when we had closed and cashed up with Miss Wheat's permission I changed those notes for some out of my wallet. I could see that even in those days that the notes could be of value. So it proved to be as I sold them 4 years ago on EBay for a handsome profit. Roger H had a brother who was a meteorologist and I remember Roger telling us of the time when over breakfast he asked him what the weather was going to be like. The response was the classic line 'Give me a chance I haven't heard the forecast yet'. One Christmas lovely Pauline Killeen bought me a blue silk tie with matching handkerchief from Cecil Gee's. Before she gave it to me she substituted the hanky for a ladies decorative one. It took me ages to get the real one from her.

 

Periodically on a Wednesday after work Roger F,Digger Searle, Hughie Booker and myself would go and play golf.  Digger liked to keep his clubs in pristine condition consequently he left the plastic, protective wrapper on the grips (handles for the non golfers). In wet weather he put plastic bags over his socks. We sometimes played at Marston Green. My golf was erratic (nothing has changed) and I sliced my ball over the fence onto the area they were digging up to extend the runway. Golf balls in those days weren't cheap and being naturally mean I climbed the fence and immediately sank up to my knees in mud. I don't think I did find that ball. I never did figure out why or how John Searle got the nickname Digger. He never spent any time in Australia. It was probably coined by Ernie who had nicknames for a number of people, including his wife who he called Pigmy Pearl. Don't ask me why.

 

Lewis's store itself was vast and spread over two buildings. The food hall was on the ground floor and the toy dept on the 5th or 6th floor.  It was a real pain whenever you bought anything having to go down into the basement, along numerous corridors to an office to have it 'passed-out'.  Am I imagining it or were the staff excluded from using the Bull Street entrance to the store?   Socially we had a great time and some of us mixed after work. We could be found at parties or at The Silver Blades ice skating rink. I can honestly say I met and worked with some of the nicest people that it has been my pleasure to meet. Friendships were formed and memories made.  Some people even went on to marry their colleagues. All in all this indeed was a Halcyon time. Thank you Lewis's Bank and Mr Roscoe for bringing us together.

 

It would be nice to hear other people's memories so why not write in and let us share them.

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Margaret Tidball, Lewis’s Staff 1962 – 1966 recalls Birmingham, Balancing the Books, and Beatles!

 

Just came across your website by accident. I worked in Lewis's Bank within the department store from around 1962 for around four years. At that time my name was Margaret Tidball. Sorry, it's so long ago my memory is a little vague, however, what is written in the ARTICLE is quite true, despite its size it was very much a friendly, family atmosphere.  I remember many of the faces in the photograph, particularly Mr Roscoe. He was indeed very much the head of the family, fair but quite strict and definitely we younger ones- I was only 16 - were a little scared of him. We always had to refer to him as 'Sir' and I can remember being very nervous, when he was around.

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I have one memory of there being an incident with a gun at another bank- don't think it was Lewis's - and someone was shot. He gathered all the staff together and told us, unequivocally, that if anyone came into our bank who was armed, we were to give them whatever they asked for. We were not to risk our lives for the sake of cash. I remember too, late nights balancing the ledgers.  And we had to stay until whatever we were working on did, indeed, balance! It was quite exciting being in the store after all the retail staff had gone home, though tiring, as during this time, we still had to report for work early next morning and I had a long bus ride each way to get there. But we were never late. It was so different in those days - people did what was expected of them. No-one complained, it was a job and we were getting paid for it (I seem to remember that when I left I was earning around £450 per annum and I was grateful for that!) I remember being taught how to use a comptometer and dreaming of becoming a cashier- as that was the next step up from my lowly status in the back office. Eventually I was lured away from banking by the higher rewards in IT, but it was an amazing start for anyone to have in the job market. I feel proud to have been associated with Lewis's Bank, although looking back it sometimes seems like a different world and a different me.

 

One other thing that came to mind, although it's not directly to do with the bank, but about one of the other young clerks. I've looked at the photo again, but I'm not sure she is there. Anyway, one day she came in to work looking very tired and I asked her what was wrong. She said she had been queueing all night for tickets to see the beetles and I said 'What beetles?' thinking it was some kind of natural history exhibit and wondering why someone would queue all night to see it. She said, 'The Beatles, the group, haven't you heard of them?'  So, I still remember there was a time when some people - well me at least- did not know who The Beatles were and I discovered their existence while at work in Lewis's Bank! I've looked on The Internet and that must have been February 1963. They played at two venues on February 1st, one in Tamworth and one in Sutton Coldfield- imagine The Beatles playing two places in Birmingham on one night!

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