52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History for Week 30 is Employment – working at Pellegrini’s Bookstore

A book label for Pellegrini & Co from the virtual collection at Seven Roads on http://sevenroads.org/Bookish.html

The topic for Week 30 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is Employment. Describe your first job. What did you do? Were you saving for something in particular, or just trying to make a living? Did that first job provide skills and make an impact on your life today?

My first job was selling school books at Pellegrini’s[i], a Catholic supplies and educational book store in Queen Street in Brisbane. This was a school/uni holiday job in January, the time when Aussie parents have to restock their children’s school books and supplies. Pellegrini’s was the main supplier of texts to schools within the Catholic education system.

I’m not too sure how I came by the job. I suspect that these holiday jobs were offered primarily to my school with which the owner had an affiliation as I have no recollection of having been interviewed for the job. The front-of-shop casual staff in the bookshop were all female students while the behind-the-scenes storage and sorting (a storeman’s job really) was done by seminarians (trainee priests) from Banyo Seminary. I guess I did this job for about four Christmas holidays and the money I earned was useful to supplement my school/university scholarship and paid for some “extras”. Like all teenagers the opportunity to have some discretionary money was much appreciated even though I never felt I lacked anything I needed: it’s just that you’ve earned it yourself!

We casuals used to have a good time even though we were kept very busy during the day with the back-to-school rush. We’d have quick chats with the blokes when we went out the back to restock the front bookshelves and after work, probably once a week, we’d all go bowling or go to the movies. It was good fun all round.

What did I learn from this job apart from knowing all the school books in use around Brisbane? Well I got to pack a pretty mean box of books, a skill I’ve kept to this day…probably because I get plenty of practice with all our books when we move and pack up. Books do fall into the category of be careful what you wish for as there’s a tendency for our books to be like the sorcerer’s apprentice’s broom in Fantasia..they breed and run amok.

The other thing I learnt very quickly was never to refer to a customer as “the man”. I was very firmly told by the manager that I had to call them “the gentleman”. To this day in any work situation I will refer to some unknown/unidentified person as “a gentleman” or “a lady”. Sadly I’m nowhere near as particular in private life.

Another outcome from this employment was that one of the seminarians, one year off becoming a priest, assisted at our wedding ceremony. It was nice to have a friendly face behind the altar as our parish priest could be very fierce and particular about the rules he applied to any church event, even (especially?) a wedding.

[i] Apparently officially Pellegrini & Co, which had branches in the eastern Australian states.

5 thoughts on “52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History for Week 30 is Employment – working at Pellegrini’s Bookstore

  1. Thanks for the memories – I had forgotten what an important spot Pelligrini’s in Elizabeth Street, Sydney was for Catholics. Not just school books but holy cards, rosary beads and religious statues were purchased there.


  2. I remember Pellegrini’s in Brisbane very clearly. We used to sneak in there to buy the tiny blue enamel St Christopher medals to put on our watches. And why did we sneak in there? Because we were St Aidans girls – and it was pretty well forbidden for us little Anglicans to go into Pellegrinis because it was – yes – a Catholic shop. But the staff there always served us happily. And we turned the watches round so the blue didn’t show.

    I was born in Toowong, my dad was the dentist at Toowong for 20 plus years, and we lived in Auchenflower. Toowong State School, then St Aidans. Happy days.



    1. I laughed out loud at this one Sue! I’d forgotten about doing that with medals..how funny that you renegade Angicans snuck in to get them.. I must share this yarn with my good friend also from Brisbane and who now lives at Toowong. Thanks for sharing this story. Pauleen


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