In the 1970’s there was a lot of suspicion that other people were out to cheat and steal from you. It was not considered safe to put a £1 note inside a birthday card because someone – presumably the dishonest postal workers – would likely as not whip it out of the envelope and leave your poor Aunty Sue without.
It was also a very slow time. Things took ages. If you lived in Castle Cary and wanted to buy a 7″ from a little record company, a pair of bondage trousers or even a concert ticket for a show in Bristol, you would have to send off the money through the post. There were no online payments or phoning in a debit card. You could get an adult to write out a cheque for you, but for most young people it was a tricky problem. You could send cash, which would need to be well-hidden with card, sellotape and anything else to ward off any criminally-minded Royal Mail staff.
Or you could send a postal order. The older generation who mistrusted banks seemed to have more faith in postal orders, and you could get any denomination you liked with a combination of postal order with extra postage stamps stuck onto it.
So if you fancied a pair of zip ‘Clash’ trousers from the NME advert below, you’d need to go to a Post Office (Not at lunch time or a Thursday afternoon, or at the weekend because the Post Office would be closed then) and purchase a postal order.
Note from the advert below, if you had an enquiry – say, what size waist are the large trousers? – you’d have to write a letter, send a stamped addressed envelope inside your mailing, wait for the reply and then trot off to the Post Office to get the Postal Order. I make that 3 stamps, 3 envelopes, a postal order and a wait of approximately 3 weeks. You youngsters with same day delivery, contactless payments and online customer reviews have it so easy now!
When I set up my own record company in the late 1980s, there was still a lot of Post Office action; it was just like playing with this: