Unsure what to do next after leaving school and deciding not to go on to do A levels after CSE & GCE's. A levels would have meant going to the Queen Elizabeth school -and I was not keen on the prospect with no one else from our school going on there that year. So I applied for a couple of clerical jobs in local government in summer 1967. Oldham Borough Council took me on in the Finance Department of the Education Committee.
The offices were on Union Street West (see map) and were adjacent at that time to Oldham Royal Infirmary and I started in September 1967. The Finance Department occupied the ground floor to the right of the entrance in the centre of the building; fronting onto Union Street West There was an Accounts desk a Wages desk, a Salaries desk and another team (Comptrollers?) who I got to know very well but never really understood what they did. Each desk had 3-4 members of staff. A Mr Potts ran the Department (towards the end of my time there he told me that he had tried his hand at surveying at an earlier stage in his life)
I was assigned to the Accounts desk though I did occasional jobs for other teams as well. One of my first tasks was to go out and buy a box of cigars (only the once) for the Councillors on the forthcoming Education Committee (a navigation test?). It was nice to get outside - which I did several days a week often taking documents to the Town Hall. Other ad-hoc jobs included taking National Insurance cards, eg all the "D's", to social security offices near the junction of Huddersfield Road and Ripponden Road.
The Accounts desk had a monthly cycle: my main job was to collate all Education invoices and enter each one to a typed list for sign off. I noticed that a certain butcher (who for a number of years invested in a football team [just outside Manchester] did very well out of the school dinners. A small white haired chap called Jack ran the Accounts team and he treated me very well. Friday was pay day for all those on wages, (caretakers, cleaners, school dinner staff etc) they could be paid at their school or call into the office. It was also my job hand the wage packets to those who came into the office. They rang the bell in a wood grained vestibule and waited until I opened a small frosted window and gave them their pay packet [I cannot recall seeing any net pay more than £30/week].
The Wages team cycle was weekly. The lead was towering guy in a black three piece suit, watch on a chain, cropt hair and who had part of one hand missing from a mill accident when he was young. He was also a Justice of the Peace. The team started on a Monday morning by typing up a large pre-printed gridded sheet that had two carbon layers. The name was added forst and then the gross pay and as the week went on tax, national Insurance etc was added, The culmination was Friday when pay packets were taken out to the schools and colleges around the borough. There was north run and a south run.
Two people (always male) spent the whole day delivering wages being ferried in a pair of official borough black Austin Cambridge cars - complete with uniformed driver. One of the wages team, a lad in his early twenties, was often off sick and I was increasingly called to stand in for him - with a spell of nine consecutive weeks from 12 January to 8 March 1968 - which I note was described in a diary as "fantastic!".
I felt that the wage runs were liberating since I got out and about while everyone else was either in school or at their work. We also got a free school dinner on the wages round and I have to say that these were always excellent!. On the south run Limeside Junior School provided the dinner and on the north run it was Strinesdale Special school. This school had been a place of convalesance for young children since it sits high up on the edge of the moors overlooking the Ashton-Manchester plain.
Other tasks included ferrying records backwards and forwards to the Borough Treasurers offices at the back of the Town Hall. While punch cards and all sorts of mechanical information management was evident there - this period also coincided with the council commissioning their first computer which was initially used to pay salaries.
At the first Christmas in 1967, late in the day, I was asked if I would deliver the "Committee Papers" to the Councillors on the Education Committee for the upcoming meeting. These turned out to be fully bound and printed booklets (around A5 size). So the black corporation taxi was back in action that evening and the job completed. Unfortunately I was unable to inform my parents (no home phone at that time) - who were so anxious regarding my late arrival home that they had been to the police station. Similar to the winter evening when the got got so thick the bus services were all cancelled and I had to walk home to Slattocks in Middleton.
I made friends with some people on the Comptrollers desk: Betty Ackroyd who lived at Moorside, [Edith%?], Frank and Elaine who was younger. Four of us were at different stages of learning to drive with Steve Donohue of DSM [Oldham], in a Fiat 850. I don't know if we all eventually passed at Failsworth driving test centre as I gradually lost contact later in 1969 - but most of us had at least one retest along the way.
While I enjoyed some aspects of the work - I could not see it satisfying me into the future and I picked up on a 1967 Careers Convention link and met a lecturer at the Civil Engineering Department of Salford University. He suggested Ordnance Survey as one option. I will always be grateful to Oldham for giving me a job - it was useful grounding in many ways as well as providing a bench mark with which to measure all kinds of tasks in the future.
Updated KM 14 July 2013
Oldham Education Committee,
Union Street West, Oldham, OL8 1XU (nearest today).
Started: 25 September 1967
Ended: 28 February 1969
Oldham Eduction web pages: Oldham Council Education