Saturday, 24 December 2011

Banking memories

I must, I regret, disappoint Skip. He posted a comment after I told the (probably) apocryphal story of the bank officer who bought a calf at market and kept it in the bank strongroom until he went home that night saying that he (Skip) wanted to hear more about the calf. Maybe one day I'll tell you about the lamb we kept in our garden shed, but meanwhile, a few memories from my days in banking - which were long before bankers were looked upon with opprobrium. And I promise that we will end up with a seasonal tale!

My banking career started in 1960 and ended in 1985 so you will gather that these snippets are really matters of ancient history and are never likely to be repeated in the modern world. In those days probably less than half the population had bank accounts. Many people were paid weekly, in cash, and it would be a few years before there was a concerted effort to persuade workers to have their pay paid monthly straight into a bank account. The branch at which I started work was at one end of a busy shopping street and the cashiers were kept busy taking in the shops takings and exchanging notes for small coins. This meant we had to bring in change. A branch across town received more coin than it knew what to do with as the local bus company banked there so it seemed sensible to move coin from that branch to mine. This was done about once a month, using an open-sided, flat-bed lorry. Two of us would ride across town and spend about half an hour humping bags of coin from the other branch's strongroom onto the lorry, then I, as junior, would get to ride back sitting on this stack of coin on the back of the lorry. Then we would spend another half hour transferring it to our strongroom.

We received a surplus of notes. What we didn't need would be parcelled up in stiff paper wrappers sealed with wax. A bundle of these smaller packets would be wrapped together in brown paper to make a larger parcel and, again about once a month, we would call a taxi and take these parcels round to the Post Office for delivery to our head office in London. There could easily be upwards of £25,000 in one delivery, so we did have a police escort for this. Nowadays, of course, security is a bit tighter.

It was a similar story at my second branch. This was a small, country branch but on two mornings each week I ran a sub-branch in an even smaller village down the road. Just me and a retired man as my guard. We caught the bus each way and, if I needed money at the sub-branch or had a surplus to bring back to the main branch, I carried it in a brief case. At least, that was the idea. I decided that if I was robbed I would just let go of the briefcase so, if the £2,000 of notes was lost, well, hard luck. But if I had the notes in my pocket... But I was never robbed so I never did get away with that one.

My guard and I had a very good relationship with the village bobby and he would sometimes appear with a brown paper bag. We let him in behind the screen and thoroughly enjoyed the bottles of beer he had brought with him.

It was at that main branch that we had a customer who was... mentally challenged? She would quite often poke her head round the door, thumb her nose at the cashier, and go away again. One time, though, she didn't go away. She took an inkpot off the counter, placed it on the floor, lifted her skirt and pulled down her knickers and... Well, it was me who ended up wielding the bucket and mop.

I can't remember if it was at this branch or another where a lady customer came in and asked what her balance was. On being told, she took her cheque book and wrote a cheque for the exact amount, payable to cash. The cashier queried this but she was adamant. She took her entire balance in cash across the banking hall to a table and checked it carefully. Then she came and handed it back to the cashier.

"That's right," she said. "You can have it back now. I just wanted to make sure you still had it."

Which reminds me of the customer who complained that the notes he received when he cashed a cheque were not his. He wanted the ones he had paid in the previous week.

As with most businesses, the staff enjoyed going out for a meal at Christmas. To reach my last branch I had to drive 20-odd miles each way, picking up two other staff en route. Our journey took us past a country restaurant and one Christmas we decided to try a meal there. A suitable booking was made. We did think it a little odd that we were checked out through a spyhole before the door was opened for us but it was not until several weeks later that we discovered the restaurant was a front for the main business. I must be one of the very few men who has taken his wife to a brothel.


John May said...

My wife thinks that's where you buy broth.

Stephen Hayes said...

A fun read. I won't ask if your wife learned anything useful there.

Buck said...

I must be one of the very few men who has taken his wife to a brothel.

Heh. Way to close, BP.