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Farewell to the ten bob note.

Byline: By Ray Marshall

It was 35 years ago today - you don't say!

IT was 35 years ago today that you suddenly got less for your money.

When February 14, 1971, dawned you had 240 pennies to the pound, within 24 hours, they'd become 100 new pence.

Decimalisation had arrived and with it came probably the most controversial inflationary period of the British monetary system.

No wonder there was some confusion.

Before decimalisation we had been used to increases such as a penny on a gallon of petrol or a pint of beer.

But suddenly a new penny was worth 2.4 old pennies, so putting something up a penny sounded the same, but it was more than double.

It was not new, successive governments had been toying with the idea since the early 1800s. The idea was for us to help world trade by falling into line with foreign currencies, but as we governed most of the globe, what was the point?

But 35 years ago today that changed with D-Day - D for decimalisation.

If in 1971 someone said you would be paying anything from 12/- to 18/- (what we're paying now) for a loaf of bread you would have thought they were bonkers..

But going back to that day when decimalisation was introduced, the country waited with bated breath for the confusion.

For the most part, though, according to the Chronicle, it was an anti-climax.

"No problems," reported North East traders and shop assistants.

Apparently, there was an atmosphere of almost war-time camaraderie as shoppers and staff helped each other work out the decimal change.

"Things are going very smoothly, and by the weekend when trade is getting much brisker, the minor teething problems should be overcome," said a supermarket manager. Everywhere, however, there were grumbles that prices had edged upwards.

By lunchtime complaints came pouring into the Chronicle offices of hefty increases in many cafAs and snack-bars. Some places had abolished the half-pence by rounding it up and made unashamed increases on others, amounting sometimes to 30%.

Public transport caused its own confusion. Inexplicably, most bus services did not go over to decimal until the following Sunday and chaos ensued as conductors refused to accept decimal small change and, in turn, were giving change in pounds, shilling and pence.

A group of South Shields trade unionists set up a decimal "doomwatch".

But one of the biggest rows involved motorists and parking meters. Motorists reacted angrily when they discovered the old sixpenny fee (2 1/2p) for one-hour parking meters in the centre of Newcastle had been doubled.

"I'm not paying 5p for an hour," said one disgruntled businessman in Prudhoe Street.

In her weekly column in the Chronicle, Sue Hercombe said that 34p was, by her reckoning, 6s 8d. It seemed, she said, about average for a gallon of 95 octane petrol.

Not so. "Thirty-four new pence; 6s 10d, please," said the garage man. No compromise of 6s 9d could be reached.

"I suppose I was at fault," she wrote. "The women's magazines had been advertising this `double the new pence and stick in a stroke' technique."

Apparently it was not infallible. "And these days, as any seasoned shopper knows, the customer is practically always wrong.

"Even so," said Sue, "I pocketed the change smugly when I noticed the petrol attendant had accidentally given me an old penny extraa"

In a shop Sue was confused by a cashier who shrieked: "Twenty-six new pence, please," and tried to charge her pounds 1 6s.

"Only after lengthy consultation, complicated mental arithmetic and reference to ready reckoners, all to the extreme agitation of over-laden customers behind, did we discover that her till had not yet been converted," said Sue, who ended her piece: "I regret the passing of that British institution `cod and six', and the fact that spending a new penny, as well as being more expensive, is going to sound just a bit more coy."
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 15, 2006
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