Toy shop training in Philadelphia : 25-27 Nov 64

Wednesday 25th of November 

Well, we started today at Lit’s 8th Avenue <Lit Brothers>, and spent the whole day in the classroom learning how to write out dozens of different bills and receipts etc, and learning how to work a cash register which is about six feet long.

I have been told so much that I am so confused that I haven’t a clue what to do.

We have another day’s training on Friday (we have tomorrow off as it’s Thanksgiving Day) and start at 12 noon on Saturday until 9 o’clock, on the toy counter. Apparently Saturday is like a war on the toy counter, so what will happen when I have to do some of these complicated bills heaven only knows!! 

Being English here is a great novelty and some of the girls almost swoon when we speak, and almost all say that it sounds ‘just like The Beatles.’ We have been invited to one girl’s house for Thanksgiving simply so that her mother can hear us speak. 

<NOTE: My father and Colin sounded NOTHING like the Beatles, as the Beatles had thick Liverpudlian accents, while Dad and Colin had very neutral ‘received pronunciation’ English accents!>

It’s a very friendly place and I’m sure it will be very pleasant working there, although we will only be there just over a week as we shall have to leave when we go to Florida. 

As Vi is now coming, Herb is now thinking of staying a bit longer and staying over Christmas, so I may spend Christmas Day sunbathing on a beach. How about that – picking bananas and peaches, and having a great time, I hope. 

We are also planning to fly from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas for one night and two days. As I write this it all sounds like fiction, but believe me it’s all true, although I have to make myself believe it sometimes too. 

Thursday 

Well, today was Thanksgiving Day and it was just like Christmas at home (without the presents). Herb called for us at 9:30 and we charged off to see some friends of his and stayed there chatting, drinking the inevitable coffee, and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade from Philadelphia on TV. The woman of the house at one point was called to the kitchen to inspect the turkey and said she couldn’t come as she was ‘talking to The Beatles.’

We then left there and went to see another family and then to Philadelphia where we saw the end of the parade. It was something like our rag processions but is full of high school children, and represented the original Pilgrims and Indians, with bands and majorettes etc, thrown in as well.

When this was over we saw a bit of history by going to the Independence Hall, which is the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed. We saw the actual room and furniture and even the pen which was used to sign it.

We bought a copy of the Declaration which is a fantastic piece of writing. It explains in detail why it was done and tells in detail how they were treated by the British. I will send it home soon with some other things, so that you can see it for yourself.

Also in the same building is the famous Liberty Bell. Everything here seems to represent Liberty. We then had a look around Philadelphia and then drove up to Vi’s for lunch, which we eventually had about 4 p.m. which apparently is the usual time.

We had turkey, potatoes, peas, cocktail onions, sweet corn stuffing, sausage stuffing, cauliflower, creamed turnips, cranberry jelly, yams, lettuce, celery, red peppers and some special sauce.

This was followed by pumpkin pie and real English tea served from a silver tea service (£40 in Selfridges and worth hundreds in America). We then collapsed into chairs to watch TV.

Vi told me a lot about the 14 years she nursed her husband, and now I admire her a lot. In 11 years she spent a total of $95,000 in medical bills. This was her own money, as no medical company would accept him for insurance. Last month she paid off the last payment – and he has been dead for 4 years.

For 11 years she walked back and forth between her diner and the house 8 times every day to tend to him, and worked until midnight every night. In the end he was going out of his mind as well, and once tried to set fire to the house.

Just before he died Vi was down to $5 in the bank (each time he was taken to hospital cost her $1,800).

When he died he was buried here, but when she had enough money she had his body exhumed and she, herself, took it to England, and he is now buried in Pontypridd.

I don’t know if you already knew all this, but if you didn’t I’m sure you will think highly of her.

She’s very well off again now, and has some wonderful things. We listened to a record of sounds of London on her stereo equipment, and one item was horses walking down The Mall, and you could swear they were walking around the room.

Today was the first Thanksgiving Day she has ever spent at home (and also the first big dinner she has cooked for 12 years) and I think she enjoyed having us there.

Friday 

Well, we have just finished our second day’s training and feel numb with having been told so much unbelievable baloney. We have been shown at least 30 different ways of making a sale, and to complicate matters we have to work out State Tax (5%) and Federal Tax (10%), plus 20% and 10% discount, and many other things.

I personally haven’t a clue where to start, so tomorrow should be a riot.

This afternoon we went down to the department at 3:30 and spent two hours ‘observing’. What we observed was frightening. Thousands of screaming, yelling kids all trying out the most fantastic toys imaginable. The noise was terrific, and I am told that from now until Christmas it will get steadily worse.

Saturday is ‘nightmare day’ we are told, and as we start on a Saturday (and at 12 instead of 9) I am not really looking forward to it very much.

The people in the store are very nice and we are quite well known as the two ‘English fellas’ and have tonight been invited to a party by one of the girls in the personnel office.

Well I had better end this letter so that I can post it tomorrow as usual.

The address of this place is 463 Park Avenue, Collingswood, New Jersey, USA (this is the third state we have been in).

If you like, you can write to this address, but I think we may be leaving here when we go to Florida, but we may continue to pay the rent while we are away, and come back here – as yet we haven’t decided.

But we shall definitely be here until Tuesday December 8th (but even this may change as we don’t know when we are leaving for Florida) so as you can see things are a bit hazy.

So, if you would prefer to use Vi’s address – do so, it’s up to you (Colin’s parents are.)

If we get this job with SKF you will have to send letters to them, to be forwarded to us.

By the way I phoned SKF on Wednesday and Mr Brobyn said he was still working on ‘the deal’ as he calls it. When I asked him what the chances were he said ‘very good’. I have to phone him again on Monday, so keep your fingers crossed.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you are all as well as we are here.

Look after yourselves. 

All my love 

Tone xx 

p.s. I have been so busy I haven’t had time to even think about Christmas, but I do intend to send you something, but the last posting day passed ages ago – so you will get whatever I finally do send very late. Very sorry but I’m sure you can realise how hectic this new way of life is. T.

<Photo: Tony on a day out with Vi and Herb> 

 

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