Wednesday 26th January 2022

My First Job. 22/51. #LifeThisWeek. 61/2019.

My First Job. 22/51. #LifeThisWeek. 61/2019.

By the time I was 14 I was already booked for babysitting gigs with our neighbours. I sometimes stayed overnight so I could tend to the darlings while the parents slept in. I think my love of kids and helping them started then. I was paid and I continued to do this, social life and school life not withstanding, until I left home to teach in country N.S.W.

Dad, who had/has the protestant work ethic insisted I come and work in his office (he was chief accountant in a relatively large company) as a ‘mail girl’. Sounds sexist now but back then it was a role for a younger woman. I became a kind of extra for some of my school holidays once I reached 15. I liked a couple of things about that role. It was a paid one AND even though I had a lot of errands to do walking or by bus, I got to know the layout of Sydney’s streets which serve me well to this day! Except that the GPO is now a hotel, and the Bank of New South Wales is now Westpac etc.

But those were not the real first jobs.

Just before I finished my first job, came graduation as a teacher in 1969!

My First Job.

I was a jewellery shop assistant for each of my school holidays in Year 12, and then in my teachers’ college breaks for 1968 and 1969.

It was a family-owned business, and again, Dad had the connections because this family and his were from Wollongong. My place of work was on the Corso in Manly just four shops back from the beach. In those days, the Corso was not a pedestrian mall at any point and the pace of Manly was much more cruisy and not “quite” so touristy.

Brickwoods Jewellers was, I think, where the icecream shop is now, past the vodaphone sign

I learned how to wrap parcels well here. I also learned how to clean the shop windows effectively with newspaper and metho. I also learned that cleaning was a large part of my day. Still, the family was lovely, and when it was time for me to go teaching in the country I was farewelled and treated well.

Then I met my now husband and we became engaged in late 1970.

Where did we go for ring selection? Back to Brickwoods in Manly.

I had always been a silver girl (never gold) and knew my rings would be white gold. I wanted a particular style in the engagement ring. It had a diamond in it but for me, I wanted a sapphire. Fiance said whatever I wanted but gave me a dollar limit. It was, ahem, $90 I think or maybe $100. My jeweller arranged for it to be handmade in the city and the night it was ready to be picked up, we enjoyed a drink at the old Menzies hotel on 23 December and my fiance left me….

To go to Jerilderie for a family Christmas and to discuss the wedding…which was coming up in the following January. To read more about all that, go here.

My job taught me a lot about jewellery over the years that has stayed with me. I may not have much jewellery but my photo here shows two of the rings bought from my former workplace. They have been adjusted size-wise up and then down. They are very special. The eternity ring was made some 20 years later by a jeweller near our then Sydney home.

I have such fond memories of those times. Some lunchtimes, then boyfriend (not the fiance) would arrive at lunchtime when he was on Uni holidays and we would go for a drive to North Head for lunch. Ah youth..what a time.

What was your first job?
Did you like it?


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  1. My first job was in my gap year before uni and I worked as a teacher’s assistant in a private prep school which was more like a house and attended by cute little boys aged between 4 and 7 who were all called James or Henry or Alexander (at least that’s how it seemed.) It was frightfully posh and very old skool, every morning and afternoon the boys would bid the headteacher hello or goodbye by taking their cap on and off. Although I only got paid one pound an hour (less than 2 bucks!) and sometimes even took classes (sometimes as small as 10 boys) I learned so much, had lots of fun and got some great stories to tell! If only all my teaching jobs had been as breezy as that! I love the story about your wedding rings and I’m a silver person too so my rings are platinum – so are hubby’s now I think of it 🙂

    • Lovely to know you have sweet memories of those kids. Kids are kids no matter what their background but…then they turn into adults. Different story!!

      Snap to the silver and platinum. My husband is a yellow gold guy. He has, however, managed to lose more wedding rings …the first one, in the surf at Manly! Irony.

      Denyse x

  2. My first job was in a Wendy’s- style ice cream and juice shop in North Sydney. On weekends I was a rugby league referee – running up to 7 games a weekend during the season. It paid better than the ice cream shop, but we didn’t get paid until after the season was done. My first real job was at Westpac on their graduate trainee program – which was where I met my husband.

    • See, who knew you were a RL ref. Now we do thanks to this question. And that must have been ‘fun’ watching people’s reactions “oh the ref’s a girl”. I love that you did that. More power to you I say. Congrats on the graduate trainee program where love bloomed. Banks, hey!

      Denyse x

  3. Lovely story! And nice to keep the symmetry of it all. Mine was a telephone market researcher. Good money but terribly soul destroying. I always have to do those surveys now, incase it’s a 16 year old’s after school gig….Sorry again for clean forgetting – mind you, I wasn’t free to leave until 5.20 so it wouldn’t have worked anyway. I’m just such a dunce at the moment. Digital Dementia, I blame.

    • Oh yes, telemarketing would be hard “if you were not of the selling type” and I know that is not me but you are kind to others. I don’t mind being called for a poll like close to the elections.

      That’s Ok about Vivid.

      Let me tell you, being back in a changing Sydney is now not my favourite thing to do. I used to drive into the city on a weekend, get a park at the Sofitel (cheap weekend rates) and explore on foot. Since the light rail started and all the streets I “knew” well are not what they were, I felt a bit of an outside for the first time yesterday.

      I found great cabbies for two of the trips I had. My feet and legs were not used to as much of the walking as I did. I found my way to Dymocks though and that was respite with a coffee and friand.

      Glad to be back ‘home’ now.

      Denyse x

  4. Hi Denyse – Your first job at the jewelry shop sounds lovely, especially with the engagement ring story. I’m off prompt today with my May wrap-up. The Wellness Wednesday link up is on for June 12, optional prompt Mid-Year Review. Please feel free to join in if you’d like.

    • Thanks Natalie. It was fun to go back down that memory lane.

      And I appreciate your invitation to join you on Wednesdays.

      Denyse x

  5. My first job after high school was effectively errand girl. Different name, but effectively hadn’t changed!! I used to know the entry codes to lots of secure areas in Brisbane banks haha. I spent so much time waiting for things in them and the staff saw me sometimes daily, that they didn’t pay attention to security around me. Good thing I’m not dodgy. It was an ok job I guess. I didn’t stay long though.

    • I like the sound of that job of yours for a while. I bet you were glad to go once it finished. Waiting around…without a phone back then too!

      I noticed when I was back in Sydney for a day and night that no-one takes notice of an old(er) woman by herself, so I used a couple of hotels (going through the bar) to get to a ladies. Not one asked me if I was OK. I was.

      Denyse x

  6. My first “real” job was at Coles in the city – it was a department store back then (not the grocery store it is now) and I was behind the counter where we sold purses, clocks, and other bits and pieces. The old till with the black round buttons and doing adding and subtracting in my head. That led to another job in Aherns (like David Jones) in the fabric dept for Yr 11 & 12 – learning to mulitply fabric length by dollars was good for my math skills! Then Dental Therapy and then lots of other jobs – life changed and I changed with it!

    • Well I am pleased to say I recall both Coles and Woolworths being like that when I was a youngster and into my working years in Manly. Woolies was over the road from the Jewellery store.

      The manual maths and doing it in your head would challenge many youngsters these days.

      Those cash registers really worked hey!!

      My daughter worked at DJs in the deli section and got a promotion to manchester while at Uni. Shame she spent most of her money on lovely things!

      You have had a range of roles in your working life… and now, rest up and choose your own day !

      Denyse x

  7. What happy memories of your life in Manly. It would have been lovely to have worked in the area before it got so touristy.

    SSG xxx

    • It was like a country town on the off season. We could park cars on the Corso and it was a lovely spot to meet up with friends.

      All so “dollar-centred” now and in a pretty cheap way as well.

      Mum and Dad used to come to Manly a lot once he retired: for coffee and brunch. The place Mum would have gone to before she died is still there and Dad used to go there a lot after her death for a beloved brunch. Recently on one of my visits back to Manly, I dropped by and the lady remembered me. She misses seeing Dad but he is hoping my brother will take him in for brunch one day.

      Denyse x

  8. Great memories Denyse, you have such a memory and capacity for telling your stories! My first job was stocking shelves in a supermarket my uncle managed. I then went on to work in Woolies as a checkout chick and met my husband while there! Happy memories for me too.

    • Thank you Debbie. I think the blog helps me retain the memories and I do print some of the stories so if the family is ever interested they can view them.

      Working at Woolies…such a good job with regular shifts…meeting your man there, nice and romantic!

      There were some days as a principal I longed to be a check-out chick….but of course, every job has its downsides.

      Denyse x

  9. My first job was a check out chick at a little corner store… and I
    Was terrible at it! My maths was shocking and I’m pretty sure I ripped of many customers unknowingly! I’m not sure if I left or was given the “sack” either way it wasn’t the job for me!

    • Oh dear Kerrie. You tried thought didn’t you?

      Had a job and gave it your best. Mental arithmetic came into its own in shop keeping.

      Denyse x

  10. I’m one of those strange people who have never worked retail. When I was at uni, I did tutoring and vacation care. I’m a teacher now, so I’ve always stayed in the same field!

    • That is “unusual” lol. I am glad though you did your tutoring and vacation care as they sure put you in the right place to gain experience before teaching.

      Denyse x