Even though the British Government passed the Abolition Act in 1833, one hundred and forty years on, slave labour was still very much in evidence in the form of small boys in shorts going from house to house offering their services (experienced or otherwise) for the price of a shilling (5p).
This was Bob-a-Job week, encouraging Cubs and Scouts (these were the days before Beavers – a name clearly resulting in the research group determining the name being made up entirely of adolescent males).
It would seem, after exhaustive research amongst my gym buddies, that I may have got off lightly with the tasks they had to do for a lowly shilling. I didn’t have to walk dogs (or lose them) nor peel the entire crop of Ireland’s potatoes in the early 60s. My task, given I lived in a block of over 600 flats in Balham, where animal ownership was not encouraged and there had been a potato blight whilst I was studying for my Signaller’s Badge, was relatively light. I polished letterboxes; I didn’t lose a single golden retriever, nor did I prepare a single chip.
After these Herculean tasks were accomplished, the donor would hand over the shilling and sign the card you carried. The money earned went towards the needs of the Scout pack; I always dreamed of getting a bigger woggle, but surgery wasn’t as advanced as it is now.
The letterboxes in Du Cane Court, where I lived, were quite small (although luckily bigger than a Post Card) and therefore didn’t have much brass round them to clean. My nan and her sister lived in the flats too and were sufficiently menacing to ensure I had a large database upon which to work. Other tenants would rather part with a shilling than have my nan eff and blind at them in the communal dairy or have my Auntie Vera threaten them with a lighted Embassy.
I still have allergic reaction to Duraglit and am currently suing the Scout Association.
I guess Bob-a-Job was a pre-cursor to Just Giving?
It was ionic that I’d have to charge a shilling for doing things round the flats whereas my mum did most activities for nothing. There was a woman who knew her woggles.