Just before I switched to working in betting shops I worked for Albert Cook & Son. The office was in 801 Wandsworth Road in London. The 'guvnor' was quite a card in many ways. He was a member of The Magic Circle. Specialised in card tricks. Would never play poker with him; you'd lose!
He told me how he started bookmaking back in the 1940s. First he was a 'runner' for a local bookie. He said:
"I noticed that I always collected more money than I ever paid out to my customers. I decided to be a bookie and hang on to the bets I'd been taking and handing over to the local bookie."
"I had a rule book printed. Just a few pages saying what my 'limits' were. Every bookie had 'limits' as to how much a punter could win in those days."
He went on to say that his limits for a winning double was 12-1, 25-1 for a treble and 50-1 for an accumulator. Most punters stuck to having small win or each way singles but if a punter had a winning double they would never win more than 12-1.
He continued: "Because I wasn't too well-educated I had difficulty in reading. For a few weeks if a punter had a winning double I would pay him 12-1, whatever the starting price odds of each horse were!"
"A friend of mine pointed out the error of my ways. He said that some punters were laughing at me for paying out 12-1 when they were due much less than that."
"I thought quickly and replied: 'Yes, I know, but they'll always come back to me for their next bet!'..."
Albert Cook prospered in the bookie business, but he never made this mistake again.
One evening I was on duty until 7 p.m. which was to take a few greyhound bets from those clients who followed that sport. One of them was a butcher, from the Lavender Hill Road area. He called at the office at about 6.30 p.m. to pay his outstanding account. He was in high spirits. Apparently he'd just won the prestigious "Best Sausage" competition. I congratulated him.
"Tell you what Phil, I'll drop a couple of pounds in for you tomorrow evening. Let me know what you think of them." I thanked him and he left.
I finished work at 5 p.m. next day; young Alby Cook was doing the greyhound duty that evening. On the following morning I was having a cup of tea at about 11 a.m. when I remembered about the sausages.
Looked in the kitchen fridge; no sign of them. Back in the office I said: "Did Butch leave some of his prize sausages for me yesterday evening?"
One voice spoke; it was the boss's son, Albert Cook Jnr. "Oh, were they for you? Butch just rang the bell and just 'here's the sausages..' and he left."
I said: "So what's happened to them Alby?"
"Err, well I just took them home and..." he stammered. He obviously knew they were not left for him. I was quite annoyed. Alby was quite well-off financially and I'm certain Butch would have said that he'd left them for me.
"Well thanks a bunch Alby. Hope you enjoyed them!" And I said no more, mainly because Albert Cook Snr was listening to all this and was keeping very quiet. I felt sure he was most embarrassed by this verbal exchange.
I arrived home at about 6.30 p.m. I lived in Brighton Road, Purley, at the time. My wife, Pat, opened the door as she'd been waiting for me and I soon knew why.
She said excitedly: "Look what's arrived this afternoon!" In the living room was a large wicker hamper, choc-a-bloc full of expensive foodstuffs. It had arrived by van from Fortnum and Masons, one of London's most famous grocers and deli shops. There was a note included, from Albert Cook.
He wrote how ashamed he'd felt about his son purloining "my" sausages. I now felt extremely embarrassed myself; Albert Senior was a decent and proud chap. I was quite sad that I'd blurted out about the sausages earlier that day.
My wife had no idea as to how this had all come about. I explained it to her; she said it was nothing for me to feel ashamed about. However, she did not have to go in the office next day!
I had a quiet word with the boss next day and apologised for causing his embarrassment. He said it was not my fault and he just had to try to make amend for his son's behaviour. He asked me not to mention the hamper to anybody in the office and I never did.
The saga of the sausages was thus closed. No hard feelings. Life trundled on.