Dear Diary – Page 24 (Late 1950’s – 2d/hr labour rate)

Valerie and I were both occasionally recruited to help out with the building project at a rate of pay of initially 2 pence/hour (later increased to 3 pence/hour!). To give that a perspective, a single stick of liquorice cost 1 penny.

As Dad got ready to go to work one evening, he offered a special bonus to us. He would give us 2 shillings (24 pence) each if we moved the complete pile of gravel into the floor foundations so that he could prepare for concreting. However, there was a catch. It had to be moved completely as there was to be no partial payment!

Valerie (and perhaps me!) quickly realized that this could not be done with our little wheelbarrows and still meet our bedtime, so it was time to try and stay up late. Mum understood the circumstances and was very cooperative. Bedtime was agreed to be whenever we completed the job! We were both very happy, very tired, and very late for bed that night.  We may well have gone to sleep dreaming about what we could do with our two shillings each?

*****

Dad was a very proud man. He was a man who had never been afraid to tackle any project. He was a man with a “very healthy” ego. He was also a man who could not accept criticism, totally distrusted people, and generally believed that everybody was trying to stop him from making progress in the world. It was this pride that appeared to fuel his destructive temper.

At one point during the construction, he had to lay the sewer pipes and was not allowed to back-fill the trench until the piping had passed inspection. Inspection consisted of pressure testing the pipework and all joints. Any leak would fail inspection. It was also necessary to build an inspection hole wherever there was a junction, or a curve, in the pipe which (for Dad) meant only one inspection hole. The inspection hole was basically a square shaped hole made of bricks (same concept as a brick chimney) going down to the pipe. Within this brick hole, the sewer pipe would consist of the bottom half of the pipe only thus allowing for visible checking and, more importantly, the ability to clear any blockage in the future as necessary.

The appointment was made to have the inspector out and Dad was quite optimistic that it would pass first time. The Inspector apparently advised him that there would likely be a minor leak at one of the pipe joints which would fail the inspection, but then a second inspection generally results in a pass. As likely as that may be however, Dad was confident. After all, he was always so thorough and no one was going to tell him that his pipes were not laid, joined and sealed incorrectly. He had laid the pipes and they would pass first time! They did!

He was, not surprisingly, extremely happy with himself and offered me a special rate to fill in all the trenching that Saturday afternoon. I worked very hard moving a huge pile of soil back over the pipes ……… all the pipes ……. including the half-round ones in the inspection hole. When finished, I proudly announced to Mum that I had done, and would now be off to Walton Crossing.

Sometime in the evening I returned home and was met by an extremely angry Dad who kept shouting about the soil that he now had to dig out of the inspection hole. “Why did you fill in the inspection hole? When I said to cover all the pipes I did not expect you to fill everything in. Must I do everything around here myself? Haven’t I got enough to do without this? Do you have any idea how long this is going to take me to clean this out?” The tirade went on and on, losing control more and more, until he took a swing at me and caught me on the side of my head. There are clear memories of hitting the caravan wall.

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18 thoughts on “Dear Diary – Page 24 (Late 1950’s – 2d/hr labour rate)

  1. My Dad wasn’t like that but my friend’s Dad was. I was terrified of spending time at her house because he would yell at me as easily as her and I wasn’t used to it. As I got older, we became friends and I found out that I was his favorite among his daughter’s friends. If only I had known when I was young.

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  2. I remember when my dad was in a provoking and unsatisfied mood. You could do or say whatever you wanted or did not do or say anything at all, he found a reason to humiliate and put his anger over…. not fun at all. But I learned that he simply was overwhelmed. He couldn’t help himself. That’s why I could make peace with this part of my past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can imagine that it was probably quite common in the post war years. If my Dad was typical, he had great problems coming to terms with the fact that after “serving his country”, he was struggling to make ends meet while constantly hearing about the money being pumped into rebuilding Germany. He once stated that in order to come out of a war a winner, you must clearly have to lose it! He was very bitter about the loss of life etc. He served in the RN on Corvettes and Frigates mostly as convoy escorts and, to the day he died, had still not come to terms with watching oil tankers blow up (torpedoed) and not being able to stop and pick up any survivors. They either drowned or burned to death.

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