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The Chester-Perry Co

Inside the Offices

Highslide JS
Strip was published in the Evening Standard in September 1964

The offices at Chester-Perry’s are equipped with desks, filing cabinets, telephones and typewriters. Manual calculating machines and dictating machines are used by some. A loudspeaker system conveys the wishes of management to the staff from time to time.

There are no computers, faxes, or photocopiers. Actually some modern machinery does make an appearance in strips in the 1990s but it has no impact on Bristow -his desk remains untarnished by anything electrical. Bristow sometimes types his work himself, or he dictates it to be transcribed later by someone in the typing pool. If anything is hand-written it is probably a draft of a dramatic expose of office life entitled "Living Death in Goods Handling" or some-such. On a strip on Frank Dickens' website in 2009 we see Miss Sunman working at a computer screen, rather than a typewriter (though it looks like a 1980s style VDU rather than a modern flat screen) - but then there is a discussion about the quality of her typing.

A house journal is circulated quarterly - this seems to be professionally printed. Everything else is typed and copied using carbon paper - possibly duplicators using wax stencils are used for mass production of memos. Bristow is forever rejecting typing that is covered with carbon smudges, and typists weep over pages typed with carbon back to front.

C-Ps may have computers these days but the clerks seem to ignore them.. There is a computer room but when Bristow visits and logs in with his name, naturally every computer crashes. Printouts are never circulated.Bristow continues to place and urge purchase orders on the phone, never by email or online. If calculating machines are not to hand, then arithmetic is done using fingers and thumbs (as learned at St. Mary’s Mixed Infants).

There are no direct telephone lines. Switchboard operators process all calls. From time to time management tries to clamp down on unofficial calls and Bristow must prove his bona fides to the suspicious operators. If Bristow has a mobile phone then he keeps it very well hidden.

The offices themselves are remorselessly dull. There are no common rooms, no water cooler areas, no rooms for presentations or product display; one either works in a standard large room or is a manager with a panelled wall.

This is office life as it was during the fifties and early sixties when the strip was born. Towards the end of the sixties large companies were installing mainframes and terminals became common where mass data processing was required. By the end of the seventies no company the size of C-P would be without a computer system. Many smaller ones still used traditional methods and indeed as the strip has gone on, it has become stuck in a time warp. Today no business that needed to employ buying clerks would be without the modern devices so conspicuously absent from the Chester-Perry Building. The world that Bristow inhabits is one of the past, growing less familiar year by year.