Mr Albert Childs
Staff manager at Welwyn Department Store
By Colin Childs
I was interested to note the other day the comment about my father, Albert Childs. He was Staff Manager at Welwyn Department Store between 1946 and 1951.
He was born in South Wales in 1904 and my mother was born in London in 1903. On marrying in 1934 my parents moved to St Ives, in Cornwall, where my father was employed as a salesman with a silk manufacturing company called Crysede which was part of Cresta Silks, well known to Garden Citizens. The Chairman of Crysede was Tom Heron, a prominent figure in the town. With the approach of war, silk became increasingly difficult to obtain for commercial purposes and my father’s position was at risk. However, he was fortunate enough to be found a position as a floorwalker in the recently opened new Welwyn Stores building, through the recommendation of Tom Heron.
My parents first came to Welwyn Garden City in 1940 when I was a year old. In 1941 my father was called up and went into the RAF as a radar operator with RAF Swingate at Dover’s “Hellfire Corner”. On his demob in early 1946 he returned to Welwyn Stores where he became Staff Manager.
He operated from an office in the bowels of the store (I can’t remember where) and was ably assisted by his loyal secretary, Mrs Byford. Quite a contrast to today’s extensive HR departments! There was also an office for a company nurse attached to his office, in order to maintain the health and welfare of the staff.
As a child my father would take me into the store. I remember the store buyers being very friendly at the time.
My father left Welwyn Stores around 1951 to help set up the newly established Fine Fare Ltd, which grew directly out of the company and started life with the local existing branch stores including Handside, Woodhall, Knella and Peartree, plus five others in the surrounding area.
Fine Fare grew rapidly after its acquisition by the Canadian biscuit tycoon, Garfield Weston.
Over the years Fine Fare, as part of the Weston Group’s Associated British Foods, grew rapidly to rival Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s.
My father remained as Personnel Manager for many years and ended his working career as Industrial Relations Advisor to the company until his retirement in 1969.