These eyes will see you through the week takes me back to the early 1970’s. I was still at school, coming to the end of my academic career, which to be honest, wasn’t very academic. Like a lot of 16 year olds at that time, I wanted money and I didn’t want to particularly work for it. Has anything changed? I didn’t want to work a paper round, that meant 7 days a week with no lie ins! It had to be a Saturday job.
So it was. In the days when there were shops everywhere, selling everything from car spares to teapots, long before the out of town malls. Around the corner from where I lived was a line of shops, Bob’s The Newsagent, Dewhurst Butchers, George Mason the grocers, Fine Fare supermarket, The Fish Bar, another butchers and a barbers shop. I started with the newsagent, asking if they had a Saturday job for a very willing and able 16 year old and continued through each retailer being told they had nothing, but if I’d like to leave my name and address they would get in touch if a vacancy became available.
However, at the last butchers shop in the row my luck was about to change. Old man Lewis who owned the place said he was looking for someone to work Saturday, 9am – 6pm. 75p wages! That’ll do I said, and asked him when I could start.
“Next Saturday, be here at 9, don’t be late.” I was pleased as punched and couldn’t wait. The following Saturday came and I was there at 8:55am, hair brushed and shoes polished. Old man Lewis took me through to the back and introduced me to Ted, his able assistant, who in turn kitted me out in a white cow gown that dragged the floor and a blue and white striped apron that also dragged along the floor. Anyway, I didn’t care, I was earning real money.
I never realised at the time, but it was the start of 2 years of having a ball of fun, although it was hard work, long hours and the pay was dismal. Ted turned out to be a proper rascal as did Old Man Lewis. In those days, butchers were allowed to sell sheeps heads, but they had to be dressed. This meant the removal of the eyes, which would be collected, placed in a plastic bag with a hand written note that said, ‘I hope these eyes see you through the week’, and then the sealed bag would be left on the counter where a customer would slip them into their shopping bag thinking it might be a bounty of sirloin steak! Week after week we would see the culprits look secretly both ways to check that no one was looking, (although we always were) and then slip the bag into the rest of their shopping. Not once did we have anyone bring them back complaining!
Old Man Lewis would say ‘Ooh, here’s Mrs Smith who took last weeks eyes, I bet she doesn’t pick the bag up this week.’ Happy days from a very different time.