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In the 1960's you had thousands of young Woolworth customers buying cheap necklaces called 'Poppet Beads', and I can recall my mother saying how much she hated them . At the other end of the price scale you had the likes of Elizabeth Taylor being given jewellery that cost a million dollar's. I know my mother thought such extravagance excessive. This is the story of a gift that delighted my mother, the necklace that I gave to her on the Christmas day of 1965. The joyful look of expectation as she unwrapped her gift is a memory I'll always treasure, much more than Miss Taylor treasured her million dollar Diamonds!
It begins a few weeks before Christmas when I came across my mother in Guildford high street, gazing dreamingly at a jewellery shop window. I was in my lunch break from my job in Jeffery's sports shop and I had never seen my mother show interest in jewellery before. I asked what she was looking at and she pointed out a necklace that she said was very pretty. Then, with a shrug of her shoulders, she changed the subject and we walked on. I had seen the price tag on the necklace and it was way above what I could afford, but I'd also seen the look of yearning on mums face. My teenage mind then rationalised that as Dad had died earlier that year, what I would have spent on his present, I could now spend on my mothers. So, with my decision reached, I proudly entered the jewellery shop and put a deposit on the necklace.
We now move on a few weeks to Jeffery's, my place of employment. During my morning tea break I had been to my building society and withdrawn almost all of my worldly wealth in readiness for my Christmas shopping. Shortly after that, Mr Ashwell, one of the big bosses and the office manager, had handed to all of the staff their final wage of the year in the familiar brown wage packets we all received weekly. The Christmas wage packet always contained a little extra as a Christmas box so I would have looked with extra interest at how big my bonus was. I cannot recall the actual amount, suffice to say there were no shouts of glee coming from me or any other member of staff. I do however, remember adding my building society cash to my Christmas wages and, for convenience and safe keeping, cramming all that cash into my wage packet. It was this, and my always active sense of humour, that once again got me into trouble!
Peter Gerring was the multi skilled man who ran Jeffery's repair department. If you needed a tennis racket restrung or a cricket bat repaired, then Pete was your man. He was about twenty years older than me and we got on really well. The trouble was he was so darned gullible and I couldn't resist pulling his leg, I think it's a Tuffs weakness. In many ways people had become wise to my jokes and so I had to use duplicity to catch them out and here is an example of how I'd achieve that. I'd know, for example, if I was to offer someone some chewing gum they would smell a rat. So I would not offer any, and I'd wait for them to ask for some. Before long, as they watched me happily chewing away, they'd accused me of being mean. So I'd reluctantly offer them the packet to select their own gum without suspicion. Three minutes later, having chewed on the 'joke shop' gum, the victim would be unaware that their tongue and lips would have turned bright blue, and they'd wonder why everyone they met would smile when they saw them.
Using this sort of tactic I pulled Pete's leg on that Christmas pay day morning. I said not a word as I pretended to open my wages within his vision and as I sorted through the overflowing cash, the expression on my face was one of agreeable surprise. He asked if I was happy and with a grin I said I was more than happy, I was absolutely delighted. Obviously later, when Pete was alone, he undid his wage packet with great expectations of a large bonus that was not met, and he was far from pleased. That's where my planned leg pull went badly wrong, for before I could explain that my wage packet included my entire life's savings, Pete marched straight to Mr Ashwells office. I'm told that he then voiced his disappointment noisily, and he angrily mentioned the size of young Ken Tuffs overflowing wage packet. Angry and disappointed was exactly what Mr Ashwell was when he later spoke to me, telling me in the future I must learn to curb my leg pulling. I knew he was right and so I immediately changed my ways ..... sort of!
Now we move on to Christmas morning and presents are being opened in the Tuffs household. As I handed my mother her main gift from me, I was aware she had an inclination that I may have noticed the necklace she had admired in the shop window. It was a magical moment when she removed the paper and saw the jewellers name on the box and her smile of expectation was priceless. At this point I warned her that they didn't have quite the one she'd wanted, but I was certain she'd love this one just as much. She then opened the box and before her in all their splendour were some poppet beads ..... from Woolworth's.
Put them on I told her with a voice full of excitement and as I helped her to do so her face had the most peculiar smile on it. She wore them all morning and she even cooked the Christmas lunch wearing that awful bead necklace. All afternoon I kept telling her how nice they looked and she responded with that same look on her face. It was a cross between a smile and a grimace but, to her credit, she tried her best to look pleased. Later that day I told her there was one Christmas cracker left over and I suggested we pull it together. We did so and suddenly her set smile became an animated one, for there in front of her, together with a toy and a paper hat, was the necklace she had hoped for. The poppet beads were speedily discarded and then my beaming mother put on her necklace and I was the proudest son in the World!
So that's my story of two memories of the 1960's connected by a Christmas gift. I never learned to curb my leg pulling activities and I don't think I ever will. "Emma, do you want to play sitting on a bench?"
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