I am a product of the National Savings Bank. My parents both worked at its head office in Kew and after a whirlwind 13-year courtship, they decided to get engaged.
The other day I found some photos of the NSB, taken between the late 1940s and the early 60s, when my parents married and my mother accepted a 'dowry' in lieu of a pension. I told my mother about the pictures but she showed no interest in seeing them. However, she did tell me a few anecdotes.
I learned that the women were all expected to arrive at work wearing white gloves and that if a pair of shoes hadn't been polished properly, a reprimand would follow. In the early 60s, a young man, who had clearly fallen under the malign influence of the Beatles, arrived looking slightly scruffy and was given a stern talking to. The next day he turned up in a top hat and tails.
I also learned more about the notorious serial killer John Christie, who worked in the same department as my father. Apparently, Christie had asked my mother's friend Doris out on a date, but after some deliberation she decided to say no. After Christie's arrest and execution, Doris was haunted by the thought of what could have been.
Serial killers aside, it sounded like a very ordered, regimented world. I had to get my mother to explain the many acronyms she kept mentioning - CAs, COs, HCOs, EOs and HEOs and tried to estimate out how many Clerical Assistants and Clerical Officers there were under under Higher Clerical Officer, before I began to get a sense of how it all worked.
At lunchtime, everyone would file into the huge staff canteen and the CAs, COs, EOs and HCOs would all sit on separate tables, never fraternising with each other. If a newcomer accidentally sat at the wrong table, they would politely put straight and shown where they would be sitting tomorrow.
In the early days, the offices were dominated by women that my mother referred to as old biddies. They should have retired, but had kept going while the men were serving in the armed forces. My mother disliked their austere manner and drab clothes and was glad when the office began to fill with younger men.
But not all of the men were fit for work. Some had been irreparably damaged by the War and struggled to get through the working day. One man had been held a prisoner of war by the Japanese and regularly suffered from bouts of malaria, during which he sometimes thought that he was back in the jungle. Another sat alone in the corner, reeking of whisky, looking broken.
Life at the Bank was governed by strict rules and regulations, but it wasn't a completely sterile, joyless environment. It had its own library and organised trips up to town to see the latest ballets, concerts and plays (on one occasion, my father saw my ballet dancing mother-in-law on the stage, blissfully aware that their paths would cross 30 years later).
My parents were both very happy at the bank and regarded it as a huge improvement on the jobs they began they working lives with: an electrician and an assistant in a chemist's. My father even began to think of himself as middle class. My mother never did.
My father would have happily have stayed at the National Savings Bank until retirement, but the Government decided to start moving Civil Service jobs away from London and his job ended up in Glasgow. As none of us would have made very good Glaswegians, my father reluctantly moved to another department and ended up doing something far more enjoyable.
But what's this? Miss Clutterbuck is outside without her white gloves on! The strumpet. I bet she didn't last long.