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Tired legs and the smell of celery

“Me and my three sisters all worked on Loughborough market.  My two older sisters worked for Mr Cohen selling fabric. Backing on to this stall was was a fruit and veg stall owned by Keith and Janet Hall. This was where I worked in the late 1970s and my younger sister after that.

It was an early start, and very cold in winter.  We stood on broken cardboard boxes to keep us a little bit warmer.  My Gran knitted fingerless gloves for me with mitten covers to keep my hands warm which was fine until you put your hands in a box of wet Brussels sprouts.

Keith provided food and drink for all the workers – a flasks of hot, very sweet, milky coffee with one cup which was shared by everyone on the stall!  He bought us all bacon butties for breakfast at 8.30 when everything was set up, and burgers and fries for lunch. I loved being asked to go and get lunch as it gave me a chance to have a warm in the Wimpy!

I was paid £5 for the day and we sometimes got a bonus of £1 if we sold out of veg, plus we were allowed to take 1 carrier bag of fruit and veg home for free.

There were regular customers to avoid! Especially one lady who always wanted 1lb of spinach which was a lot of cold wet leaves to hand pick and pack into a bag. All the adding up was done in your head. It was a sign of weakness if you added up with a pencil on a brown paper bag! The scales were somewhat old and out of touch with modern day prices. As you weighed the goods in the stainless bowl, you had to look at the blue and white grid and multiply a factor of the price per pound whilst keeping the rest of the order’s running total in your head. I discovered that if you said the cost confidently, most people didn’t question the amount!

I always came home with tired legs and smelling of celery. A Saturday night treat was a hot soak in the bath and watching TV with my legs propped up against the wall!”

  • Esther, Loughborough resident