George Mason by Doreen Hall ne Stephens

At the tender age of 14, and having just returned from my evacuee posting in Belbroughton, I returned to the loving arms of my family in Birmingham.It also allowed me to spend a few short months with my brother, Arthur, before he enlisted into the RAF, little did I know that I would never see him again.

It was 1940 and the war was taking its toll on provisions and supplies of food were rationed. I started my working life at George Mason's, a large grocery store on Soho Road, close to Thornhill Road.

I worked there from 1940-1955 as a cashier.

I made a particular friendship with Ivy Bevan, who worked on the shop floor. We made about three annual holidays to Blackpool together, in the time we worked there. Sadly, she developed TB, but was nursed back to health in a Birmingham sanatorium, we lost touch with each other. Due to strict industrial regulations she was unable to resume work at George Masons. The photos show Ivy(left) and me in a car in Blackpool, and also standing outside the guesthouse we stayed in, Ivy and I are to the far right of the picture infront of the house entrance, either side of a very 'dapper' young man, whose name escapes me!

Even during the strict rationing time at George Masons, there were some humorous moments. Food was at a premium, nothing was to be wasted. Each morning the staff would go down to the cellar to remove the maggots from the bacon joints hanging there. If bacon made it to the shop counter with maggots in, the staff would have to work quickly to remove or hide them, it just couldn't be thrown.

If you can recall, butter used to be made into pats with butter paddles. Remember? The paddles were kept wet in a bucket of water, to prevent the butter from sticking to them, ensuring no waste. One of the funniest experiences was when customers asked for the paddles not to be put in the water, "cus the water would get into the butter and mek it weigh heavier". There was no way that you could explain to these customers that water could not be absorbed into butter that way! But, such was life and the effects of rationing on people.


I worked in the cashiers office, no calculators, just good old mental arithmetic. The shop assistants would write out the 'chittys' and enclose the cash, sending them up to the cash desk via a pulley system where all the calculating would take place manually, and the receipt and change returned to the shop floor. Each area had its own accounts sheet, so meat, cheese and butter, dried foods etc.... all had to be added separately onto different accounts.

Doreen and Winifred

George Masons provided a delivery service for the more affluent areas of Handsworth, Handsworth Wood mainly. Orders would be either collected from the customers house or delivered to the shop by a customer - for home delivery. George Masons had its own van and employed a delivery boy to undertake these duties on a weekly basis. Occasionally, if necessary I would go out, by bus, usually to Leopold Ave, Handsworth Wood Road areas to pick up the lists from the customers. If I was lucky, I would be invited into the house. If I was extremely lucky I was provided with a cup of coffee too. It was nice to see how the other half lived! One very large house that remains in my mind, was on the corner of Handworth Wood Road, it had a gatehouse attached to it. Unfortunately, I only ever made it into the gatehouse, never got to the big house.

It was hard work, but I had many happy years at George Masons.

Doreen Hall (ne Stephens)

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