We chat to au­thor Elaine Ever­est about her novel “A Gift From Wool­worths”, plus money off voucher

Ev­ery month we’ll be chat­ting to a dif­fer­ent writer about their lat­est re­lease. This time, best-seller Elaine Ever­est tells us about writ­ing her novel, “A Gift From Wool­worths”.

The People's Friend - - News -

IT still sur­prises me when I think how my mem­o­ries of be­ing a Satur­day girl at the Dart­ford branch of F.W. Wool­worths – way back in 1969 – would lead to writ­ing the “Wool­worths Girls” se­ries of books.

Back then, we young­sters had to be fif­teen years and three months be­fore we could have a Satur­day job. Only girls from the top stream of my sec­ondary mod­ern school were al­lowed to ap­ply for a job, as we had to take an arith­metic test.

There were no tills that added up at that time, so counter staff would have to use a notepad and then ring up the to­tal sum on a large, im­pos­ing till akin to the one in “Open All Hours”

And yes, I did feel it would spring open and bite me, at times!

Along with a few school chums, I would take the train one stop from my home in Slade Green and walk through the mar­ket town of Dart­ford for an 8.30 a.m. start.

We would have to sign in, and we were checked by a su­per­vi­sor to make sure our hor­rid, sludge­green over­alls were clean and pre­sentable, and that we had a notepad and pen­cil se­curely tied to the waist­band.

I won’t for­get the hor­ror of the vo­lu­mi­nous sleeves that fas­tened into a cuff, and the full skirt – no slim-line over­all for us!

I re­call the staff man­ager to be stern, wear­ing a smart suit, but al­ways ap­proach­able.

If there was a store man­ager, he was never part of the work­ing day for this shy fif­teen-year-old.

This is where my first thoughts came from when I sketched out my char­ac­ter, Betty Billing­ton.

Like Sarah, Maisie and Freda, I, too, worked with my friends. We were pleased when our tea breaks and lunch hours co­in­cided and we could chat over home-made cakes and a cup of tea up­stairs.

The mother of one of my friends worked in the sub­sidised staff can­teen, so I learned about what she did dur­ing her work­ing day.

No doubt this ex­pe­ri­ence came to the fore when my “Woolies” girls had their breaks and shared con­fi­dences over a cuppa dur­ing the dark days of World War II.

The Wool­worths store where I set my books was not far from my home but, be­ing smaller, did not take on so many Satur­day staff.

For­tu­nately all stores had sim­i­lar in­te­ri­ors, and hav­ing vis­ited and shopped there since I was a child, I was fa­mil­iar with the place I now hold so dear.

I only dis­cov­ered after “The Wool­worths Girls” was pub­lished that my sis­ter-in­law and also a cousin’s wife had been Satur­day girls in that very store. What a small world!

I’m sure that my happy child­hood and school days play a big part in my mem­o­ries of work­ing for Wool­worths, just as my first home as a young bride meant that this be­came the fam­ily home of Ruby and Sarah Casel­ton.

Yes, that bay-fronted house in Alexan­dra Road ac­tu­ally ex­ists, still stand­ing after sur­viv­ing two world wars and numer­ous doit-your­self at­tempts by en­thu­si­as­tic home­own­ers.

No won­der I am a happy au­thor who is able to share her mem­o­ries with my won­der­ful read­ers! ■

Elaine’s own mem­o­ries in­spired her books.

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