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Jack Swaab interview: Career after the war

Could you say a little about what you were doing for a living when you first moved to Wimbledon?

Yes, after the war I joined an advertising agency. That's what I was doing when I first came here. I didn't know much about advertising but that's what I was doing.

Can you say a little about what that job involved?

Well at first I was a "gopher" for the boss. I did everything. I drove his car, I worked the telephone exchange, I wrote copy. Then I was promoted to be overseas manager and after that I travelled to about 50 countries in the following years. I was in that agency for about 11 years from 1946 when I came out of the army and then I went to another agency.

So when you first moved to Wimbledon your job was taking you all over the world?

Yes it was.

Can you say something about that?

Well I particularly remember one trip because we had just started our first child. We were keen to start a family and I went on this trip to Cairo and various bits of the Middle East. Unfortunately my wife had the first of four miscarriages so when I got back it was a rather unhappy situation. And that was my first proper trip abroad.

Where else did you go?

Well afterwards I went all over the Middle East. I went to the Far East - Hong Kong, Singapore. I went to South America, United States, Philippines. Pretty well everywhere except Australia and New Zealand. I was going to be going there but then I left the agency and went somewhere else so the trip was cancelled.

On my travels I also went pretty well everywhere in Europe. I went to Russia on one occasion, only very briefly. But places like Sweden and Italy I went to quite often on business because the agency had branches in most of those places so of course I was involved with that work very much. But when I was with CPV I did a different kind of work. I did a lot travelling then as well but mainly to New York where we had a sister agency.

My wife was called Zena. I met her in 1946. It was a sort of blind date organised by a friend of mine who said you've got to meet this woman. You will absolutely love her and she will love you which was the worst possible way to meet anybody. But in fact they were quite right and we got married in 1948 in May - on the VE Day anniversary.

My wife was a Canadian. She came from Vancouver. She worked in Washington during the war and then she came to London to work in UNRA [United Nations Relief Agency]. That was where I met her - the United Nations thing.

We got married in a little church in Chelsea called St Simon's Zelotes.