During my last year
at St. Ninian's High School, 1957, it was anticipated by both parents
that, like my brother, I would join the family firm of Callister
and Quayle. I did show some aptitude towards carpentry and still
enjoy a spot of DIY to this day, but I had other ideas.
The assistant manager of F W Woolworth in Strand Street Douglas was
Stan Wilson and he had been staying with my Aunty May Quayle at Mere Hall on
Loch Prom. I'd met him on a number of occasions and Stan
convinced me to go for a career as trainee manager with Woolies and my
parents were quite happy with my choice of career.
I was due to sit my
GCEs in June that year but the trainee job became vacant just before Easter and my application was accepted, despite having no exam
results. Manager, Jack Harrison was so helpful in getting me started, but I
had to start at the very bottom and learn the business inside out.
Training began with stock room management and as the junior, I was
expected to sweep the old wooden sales floors just before closing
time. Pride took a terrible tumble when my mates spotted me in a
brown duster coat with brush in hand - "Hey Bernie, thought you
were a trainee manager!"
|It wasn't until the
following summer that I got to don my best suit and parade up and down
as a "floorwalker." Pictured right, in my very first
business suit with Mum & Terry.
Following basic training managing departments, I was transferred to to High St. Belfast, one of Woolworth's busiest stores. A year
later, it was Church St. Liverpool to the very first store that Frank
Winfield Woolworth opened in Britain. It was a tough life with
10 hour days, 6 days a week on very low pay and grotty digs.
I envied the
sales reps who used to visit the store selling their wares. I'd be
to lunch in their company cars and made to wonder why I was slogging my guts out for a fraction of what they were earning.
I'd been telling the rep for Mackintosh's confectionary (makers
of Quality Street, Rolo etc) about my
plight and he informed me there was a jobcoming up in the Manchester area. I applied, got the job, the
and the expense account. I was now a "commercial traveller."
I moved to Manchester in 1961,
Mackintosh's put me up in a commercial hotel for a month while I found
The sales manager then struck on the idea of making me the company's
"floating rep," one who could go to
any area of the company and take over the work of a rep off sick or on
holiday. For two years, I literally lived out of a suitcase,
with no permanent address, I clocked up almost 50 different addresses
in those two years, most
of which were commercial hotels or B&Bs. It was a great
experience travelling the length and breadth of the
British Isles but very tiring.
My old school chum, Malcolm
Curphey was in the accounts department of Bear Brand Hosiery and told
me the company
needed an additional rep in the London area. It offered better pay, better car
and other perks. I got the job and moved to London, and what a time to be
there - the swinging sixties pop scene was really taking off in a big
My first three months with Bear Brand were spent in their show
rooms in Conduit Street, less than a hundred yards from Carnaby Street
and most of my lunchtimes were spent there - literally.
Mrs Ford, the very dynamic owner of Bear Brand, stopped me one day in
the showroom, she thought I was inappropriately dressed. She
advised me to pop down the road to see her husband's tailor in Saville
I couldn't believe my luck.
||A Saville Row suit
was like a badge of honour for an aspiring young
and I have to say it was the best suit I ever
owned. The picture at the very
top of this page
was for Bear Brand and I'm wearing that suit, but there
snag. I had
naively thought that Bear Brand was paying for the suit
as Mrs Ford
had sent me to the tailors! I had to
borrow the money to pay for it which cost
three months salary. One of the fun sides to the
job was driving the
six foot company teddy bear to big London stores in Mrs Ford's
Parking outside Harrod's you can imagine the looks on peoples
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