If you sold £200.00 of toys it meant you had a good pay, because you got a good commission. The trouble was getting the money off the clients after Christmas.
My first driving job was a Tickie Wife, as I was known – a woman who went round the doors collecting money. You’d sell stuff to the client, then go round every week and get the money off them. That’s if you could catch them! The best way to do it was when the bairn came to the door and said, “me mam’s not in.” I would say, “go and ask your mam when she’ll be back” and the bairn would turn round and say “mam, when will you be in?” We used to catch them every time with that one. At Christmas you were laughing because you got all the kids’ toys. I used to have the van packed and you could hardly see out of it. If you sold £200 of toys it meant you had a good pay, because you got a good commission. The trouble was getting the money off the clients after Christmas.
I had a van for the job and if you used it out of hours it cost you 2d a mile. I used to pay about £11.00, which was a lot of money a week, to use it. There was one van I had, it was a yellow mini and you could see it all over the place – you couldn’t hide anywhere! I soon got rid of it. It was supposed to be a full-time job, but it never worked out like that. You had to go out in the mornings, to catch people just after the kids had gone to school. Then again at dinner time then again at teatime. Sometimes in the winter it was a bit dodgy. I’m talking about the late 60s and early 70s and £150 or £200 was a lot of money to be carrying around with you. Those were the days when tickie wives and milkmen used to get done for the money they carried – mugged you’d call it now. We used to hide money in different parts of the van, so you didn’t have it on you if you were caught. I was never mugged but I was at some flats – I won’t say where – and I was told by a customer that the word was out for me. I came straight back to the office, put the keys and books in and said, “you know what you can do with your job – I’m getting coshed for nobody – not for the wage I’m getting.”
Some people were very grateful for what I did because they were really stuck for money, they could be desperate for shoes for the kids and I would set up an account for them. It might be that their husbands were on the sick or on strike. Sometimes I was a lifesaver. Of course, you got all their stories too. Some of them you couldn’t write down in a book, they were so unbelievable.