Sunday, April 22, 2012

Further down memory lane

Continuing with my nostalgic theme from yesterday (scroll down to read post, please), I'm posting a scene taken from the back of the bike on our recent visit to South Africa and Kwa-Zulu Natal in particular. When we travelled from Pietermaritzburg and KZN interior after visiting Grant's mom and later his aunt and her husband, we headed back to Muden where we were staying our old school friends' guest house. To get there along this route you have to pass through Greytown.

This town is significant in that I spent some time growing up there. I went to high school in Greytown and returned home to Dalton over weekends. It was at this high school that Grant and I met and fell in love. Later, after we were married, we moved to Greytown where he was doing his time as Apprentice Motor Mechanic with Kempster Sedgewick, the Chevrolet dealer. (I think Chev is now Isuzu in SA) 

I worked for Barclays Bank DCO.  As Ledger Supervisor I was in charge of two ledger clerks who "posted" cheques and deposits to various accounts on large, ancient IBM machines which broke down often. My job - apart from pacifying clerks when said machines misbehaved or their runs didn't balance -was to check the signatures on the cheques were in order and that they weren't "stale" (more than six months old- datewise) or "post dated" (any date newer than today.) I checked that alterations were properly signed (today you are not allowed to make an error on a cheque) and that the deposits had been charged with correct commission.

These vouchers came through to our department from the "Waste centre". Don't ask me why it was called that - it just was. The "waste" clerk would collect all the vouchers from the slot trays which hung outside the teller's boxes and also from the supervisor of the General Ledger department. She set up "Payment Bills" for large companies, stop orders for the individual  and updated/paid-up fixed deposits.

The waste clerk had to balance the debit and credit vouchers before passing them to us. This position was an entry level to the bank; the clerk was always a young person straight out of school so I would end up having to help her/him balance the waste batches else my ledger clerks would not get the vouchers in time (more pacifying irate machine clerks!)  and end up working after-hours, which none of us enjoyed. Helping the waste clerk with regular backlogs of waste bundles, I became very quick and proficient with adding long rows of figures in my head, and also posting them, using an old-fashioned NCR adding machine. I could eventually do the latter without looking at the keyboard!

Once a month I calculated the interest due on the overdrawn accounts and personal loans which the clerks then posted to the relevant accounts. Every day after the clerks had updated their overdrafts registers, marked A-M and N - Z respectively, I checked it and took it through to the bank manager who, in those days, was very important and greatly respected. He subsequently checked that the customers were towing the line by staying within their limit. For those that weren't, he brought me a list of names. The clerks had to type a Form 10 to everyone on this list A Form 10 which was a reasonably polite letter asking the customer to adjust his balance a.s.a.p! I had to check these for typing errors (the manual Olivetti was standard issue in the bank), and that the matching envelopes were correctely addressed after which I took them to the manager for his signature. Eventually he would return these less-than-desirable missives which I would take place in the postal out tray in reception!

Ten years later, due to a disinvestment campaign against South Africa because of its apartheid policies, Barclays was forced to reduce its shareholding and sold its remaining shareholding in the bank in 1986. The bank was renamed "First National Bank of Southern Africa Limited" in 1987 and became a wholly South African owned and controlled entity.

Meanwhile, years before this happened, while I reported to the bank with great enthusiasm, Grant continued to work for Kempsters.  He later wrote his trade test, an examination which he passed successfully. He  became a journeyman with this humble, but versatile and very necessary trade, under his belt. Today Motor Mechanics carry the fancy title of Mechanical Technician.

In 1977, Grant, I and four-year-old John moved to Zululand where Grant had his first taste of "big yellow machines" (heavy earthmoving) and I had my second son, Angus!

Three and a half decades later I'm sitting in a remote mining camp in western Tanzania,  writing a post about "the old days",  while Grant is on site running the entire project of the earthmoving contract for a large diamond company.  He's come a long way from his days as a motor mechanic -er - mechanical technician!

As for me, these days I do the shopping for the Guest House which entails - among other things - large sums of company money. The financial managers (who used to be called accountants, remember?) all praise my money skills. If I spend x-amount of money, I have the cash slips and receipts to prove it.  I also return the exact amount of change to the finance department. By exact, I mean exact - to the last shillingi (Tanzanian Shilling). Apparently it has never been done like this before and FM's love it! They say  it makes their job easier. Obviously my years at the bank paid dividends, if you excuse the pun!

Phew! I cannot believe so much nostalgia has been evoked by this scene below...

The autumn veld (grassland), cosmos and grain silos just outside Greytown where I spent my formative years as a teenager and young adult

I'm linking to Scenic Sunday where you can view other beautiful scenes (but maybe not such a long post!) here

BTW I'm still using the old (good) version of Blogger. I see many of my blogger friends have been forced to change. I've tried to change/update before this happens to me, but now my browser apparently won't support blogger, or vice versa. I'm totally confused about it all. Anyone else have these issues with the NEW version of blogger? Or better still does anyone know anyone at the top of blogger (would this be the webmaster or is there a CEO?) who could ask him why he had to fix something that ain't broke?

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.


  1. I enjoyed your reminiscenes and I was so delighted to see the silo in your photo. You may recall I took many photos of them on my northern trip in September.

    As for the Blogger changes, I really don't know why they had to change things but Google is making changes to so many of it's products. It seems to be the thing to do in the social media world. I have been using the new interface now for some time so I am quite used to it but there are still some things that I think the old interface does better. I think I can still change back to old interface but for the most part don't.

  2. I enjoyed your memories ! I hate working with numbers ! Mr. G is quicker than a calculator, but I am better to manage money and spend it wisely ! Our men really made a very nice career ! Mr. G. from working at the Hilton as a waiter to Analyst programmer in 1971 when computers just started. He made programs for all kind of companies or city adminstrations or hospitals. I worked 10 years as European Sales Assistant and then half time always for English, German, French and sometimes Italian.

  3. I really enjoyed your memories of banking. I started work in a Bank of Nova Scotia data centre and then moved to Bank of Montreal in IT. then to a company that did the cheque processing for all the major banks in Canada. I am very familiar with the processes you mentioned.

    Here's my Scenic Sunday!

  4. You two have come a long way.

  5. Jo, I never tire of your reminescences! Loved reading it, partly because it explained some of the observations I've noticed between the way American Banks and European Banks operate. I was so frustrated upon arrival in Kenya because Barclay's (the bank in which we had "mashilingi mingi" would not honor my American Bank's check to purchase a car! I went down to the newer American bank in Nairobi and cashed the check, then took it to Barclay's to deposit the cash so I could write a check for the car purchase - only to be told I could put the cash into the bank but it would have to be two weeks before I could write a check on the amount! Oh, What frustrations I experienced over it all!!! I laugh about it now - but then I was soooo angry! Ha.

  6. I once typed on an Olivetti:):) The computer geeks have to keep up with the "fashions."


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