Saturday jobs were common place when I was of the age that I needed a job. My first job had been via my best mate, and I ended up working in Burton's second store in Croydon for a piffling £1.46 an hour, or £11 a day. The silly thing was the shop was less then 2 minutes walk from their main store, which at the time was the largest Burtons in the UK. This meant that after 2 months, the inevitable happened. My first ever job, and I was made redundant.
Almost immediately however, I happened to be walking past a small independent sport/hobby shop in the main shopping centre in Croydon, and I noticed a sign in the window. "Wanted, Saturday Sales Staff. Enquire within." I popped in, and the owner asked the usual 20 questions. Fortunately, one of the sport related questions was could I identify the colour dots of a squash ball, and seeing as squash was one of my sports, he was impressed when not only did I specify the colour, I also correctly specified the terms and types of squash played. I got the job.
The shop itself had three main product ranges. Models (of the Airfix variety, not the Abi Titmuss variety), sporting products, and guns. The guns were my main interest, and on my first Saturday I was taken under the wing of my new boss, who took great pleasure in teaching me all about the variety of firearms available, ranging from the sublime (the Webley Hurricane) to the ridiculous (the Gat Gun) and even some of the firearms that fired real bonefide kill people bullets. As time went on, I started to work with these guns on a regular basis. I learnt about the physiology of an airgun, about the air chambers, about the pressures, about the common faults. I also got my firearm certificate (aka gun license) meaning that I could now legally sell these firearms. The boss moved me to their other shop, one of the largest public armouries in the UK, where they sold nothing but guns. I started there a lot more then a Saturday boy, and even though I was still very young, I already had the respect of my full time colleagues because I knew and understood not only how things worked, but which weapon was best for which task.
After 6 months or so, I got promoted again. I was introduced to the boss's son, who up until that point had always been in the sidelines. He was the main maintenance person, and people would bring back their guns to have them repaired. The workload was extensive, and the idea was that with my understanding of things, Rob would teach me how to repair the air weapons. This was, at this point, probably one of the most exciting jobs I would ever have. I was taught how to repair and upgrade air guns of all levels. We had to build the new workshop accommodating the shooting alleys, and two separate soundproof and impact proof facilities, one for air guns, the other for conventional weapons. This took about 2 months, and in that time I was everything from a labourer to a roofer to a chippie. The big boss had really taken a shine to me, and I was invited up to his family home a couple of times for dinner after work. I had meanwhile started college and was working all the hours I wasn't at college. My pay wasn't reflecting my level of hard work, but in hindsight I didn't care. I was loving it. My day would start normally about 9, with a bacon buttie and a cup of tea, paid for by Rob. I'd beaver away diligently until lunchtime, not even noticing the time. Normally Rob would stick his head around the door with the word "pub" and take me for a quick Coke. No, really, Coke was the order of the day because you wouldn't want to work with guns after a pint of anything stronger. We'd return and take 20 minutes to half an hour, just practicing our marksmenship in the newly built alleys, before returning to our solitary workshops for the afternoon, and then I'd either catch the bus home or sometimes he'd even give me a lft. One weekend I even managed to shoot myself in my left forearm (don't ask) and a gentle whimper followed by a cry of "Rob, would you mind calling an ambulance" calmly, and Rob knew something was up. The thing about airgun injuries is there isn't a lot of blood. The heat from the compression of the chamber causes the pellet to cauterize the flesh and blood vessels on entry. It didn't hurt much either, just stinging slightly. I did however take heed to my training, and knew shock would set in. It did, and Rob was by my side as I started to shiver.
It was a good time. Home life was positively dreadful at this point, and so when I broke my hand, I popped into see the big boss. I told him how bad life was, and that I'd probably be moving away to my father's. He assured me he understood, but if I did stay in the area I'd always have a job there. I returned to see him about 4 months later, and was greeted by Rob, the son. Ken had been involved in a shooting accident one weekend, and had unfortunately passed away. Rob was now sole proprietor. The repairs had been stopped. 2 years later, and I returned, to find the shop now a travel agents. The armoury a bit further out of town still exists, but was sold to a new owner. The workshop I'm guessing is still there, but probably converted to flats.
I miss the job.
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