Entertainer and all round worker

Location : Norwich

I left school at 14. I was 14 in the February and I left school in the March. And then that was  when I started work. I started work at Sexton, Sons and Everards. That’s a shoe factory. I worked there for a while. I was there, and that was when I met my husband. He was in the forces. But actually that was bombed, when they had the first bombing, that was bombed so I was out of a job for a while.

When was that first bombing?

Gosh, that was early weren’t it, Norwich was bombed early. Actually I can’t hardly think what year it was. I think I must have only been about 15, maybe just a bit more when we were bombed out, when my part was bombed. So I was out of work for a while. And I think I got a temporary job at Caley’s:, that was Caley’s the chocolate factory. I worked there a while. Actually I got bombed out there, we got bombed. So anyway after that, well, I didn’t work for a while and of course I was then courting my husband who was in the RAF. So then we got married and after that for a while my husband went overseas, I didn’t work and I had a son, my son was born while my husband was in India. He went to India. He was there for two and a half years. (And, of course, during the war years my dad joined the army.) He was 40. He was only at home three months and he went off to India. So I was the kind of mainstay of the home. You know, ‘cos my poor old mum couldn’t write very well, I used to have to write my mum’s letters, my letters to my husband, I had to write letters to my dad. We got along from the war and then my dad came home. That was after the war. My husband came home. I lived for a while with my mum, dad, and my husband Terry, my oldest son. Then we got a house, up West Earlham, which was our old house, we were thrilled.

Well I never told you about where we lived at the beginning. I’m afraid I haven’t told you that, I would love to tell you that, can I tell you that? We lived in Barrack Street and it was a no-go area and they were all yards. And we lived up this yard. Where we lived it was like Dickens. We lived up like stairs, one room, mother’s bed and father’s bed one side and our bed, with three of us in it, next. The ceiling held up with boards. No water, only the tap down in the yard. No electricity, no cooking facilities or nothing. That was a real shambles. And I was told, which I didn’t know, that I fell out of the bedroom window there when I was two year old and they picked me up for dead. But I survived. So I was the eldest one of the family and therefore, I should tell you that ‘cos where we lived that was poverty, we were so poor. People all round us were so poor but all the relatives were there, we were all friends. No matter how poor we were, people in those days were all friendly, they never saw you go without, they’d all help and share. I must tell you that because they were very very poor days, and I had a very happy childhood, really. Running about with no shoes I suppose at times, school shoes and things. But they were happy years, with good people. And those people, more or less, all moved when they cleared the slums, all moved at the same place where we lived. So we all knew one another. I must tell you that. You practically knew everybody on the avenue. That was how life was in them days, we were all friends. And from then, when my husband got our house and got a job.

So this is after the war? He’d come back from India?

Yeah and well I thought I was in a palace and I was in my little house (LAUGHS). Anyway, then of course I started to have my family. I had a daughter at my mum’s, when I lived at my mum’s. Of course I went on to have three more children. I had another son, another daughter and another son. I had five children. So at that particular time I couldn’t work, I didn’t do no work then. Because, well I couldn’t ‘cos I had my children to look after. So anyway, my husband, he finished up as a coach driver and his job, where he had to go, he used to be late, he had to go right to the Boundary, oh he had to cycle all that way late at night. And he decided that we should move further to where we were. So, of course, we moved further to Mile Cross, back to the place where I lived before in another house. And then I decided, my youngest son was then five year old and was then gonna start school, so I decided that I would start work so we could better ourselves. And from then I got a job at Mackintosh Caley’s there. And I worked on a belt and I really really enjoyed my life there with girls. We were all friends on belts working on the chocolates. And I remember, that used to be lovely, we used to go on outings together. And I remember, lunchtimes we all used to trail down St Stephens up to the market. And that’s where we used to go and have our lunch, a cup of tea and a roll and off we’d go again. That was only part time, I only did part time so I could be home in time for my children. They all had their little jobs to do for me for when I came home. And then I worked there for quite a few years, I was happy there and my husband, you know, he worked. And my children were all growing up. And then finally they stood us off, all of us part timers were stood off.

So how long did you actually work there for?

Oh about 6 years. They stood us off which they used to do normally but certain people, but I was one of the lucky ones. But this time they stood the whole lot of us off. So after that I decided, oh I must work. So actually I got another little job in shoe factory, Haldinsteins, for a while. I worked there and I remember my daughter, at the time she started working at Sainsburys. Sainsburys was the first supermarket to open up in Norwich, the big one up St Stephens. She was working there and she said “Mum why don’t you try and get a job here, they do want part time workers”. So I went and had an interview. I had to go up London mind, yeah for this interview. And I was accepted. I worked upstairs, we did prep there, we used to preparation cooked meat, cheese and pack it all and put it all down. And I eventually was on this cooked meat, oh I loved it there, I done 9 till 4. I used to work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday one week and another week I’d do Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I done alternate weeks which suited me fine ‘cos my children were all grown up. Then, you know, I worked there and I really enjoyed it. I worked on the cook meat, in fact I was in charge when I was on. I got on very well and I think they accepted me there. I really got happy.

Was it good pay in Sainsburys?

Very good, yes and all the little perks to go with it. And then we used to go out ‘cos I always loved to sing you see. We’d been to different places, I’d been to different pubs that play. Well ’cos we went… Oh I got to tell you about how we used to go to Butlins with me family. I’ll tell you that bit. We always went as a family. We started to go to all these Butlins, you know, ‘cos I loved to sing. And I got to Butlins and I won talent competition there. Also I was a grandmother then, my oldest son got married, he’d got a little girl. So I went in for the glamorous grandmother competition. And I won it three times on the row and the second time I came second – I went up to Brighton and all the bright lights. And anyway, through going out and singing, I got into a competition down in Yarmouth and you know I won. And a gentleman came to me and he said to me “I gotta get up a group and I’d like you to be my lady singer, would you?”. I said well I’ll try. And we had a try out, I got on. And then I was singing and I was getting paid, but apart from that I’d been to different places. I’d sung with a jazz band. I loved modern jazz and that, I used to sing that with Mike Capozzi. He was one of the jazz. I done a lot of jazz and all sorts.

Can I just ask what was the group’s name? Was it all one group?

My group was called Cat’s Eyes. Well we went about to different clubs. I just loved entertainment, I loved singing. Anyway I used to work before that, I worked as well as sung. That was a bit hard work I can tell yeah. I then worked, because of that job it was a bit awkward the times, the Saturdays. To support my band work, well I thought I’ll have to get another job so I don’t have to work Saturdays. So I applied for this cleaning job at a hotel, you know where I’d only have to work till three in the afternoon, didn’t have to work weekends, which suited me fine. I worked there for quite a while.

They’re called Hotel Norwich on the Boundary Road. That was the first one. I worked as a, you know, doing cleaning bedrooms and that and then I used to go singing. And then, I left that job and then May and Baker’s. Then I moved again, I moved to a tower block. Some friends of ours persuaded me. All my children had left and I’d got this four bedroom house so I thought we’d move to the tower block. I moved to the tower block, in Norwich. It was fine for a while. And then I decided, somebody said, why didn’t I get this job at May and Baker, which was a chemical place, so I went there to work. And I was still doing part time and singing. I’ve then told you about all the places I’d been to, have I told you? See one of my sons moved to New Zealand and in between times I’ve had holidays, I’ve been to New Zealand three times, Singapore, Los Angeles, and in between all places on the continent. I can’t name them all – Greece, Spain…

Did you sing in these places?

I have done, yes. Especially in Benidorm, I got up and sung there. I’ve been singing around.

In the meantime, my band leader, he had heart trouble so we decided to give him up. And Peter, our drummer, he decided he was going to go back to Kent where he came from. So I thought, oh well, I’ll give up now. So anyway after that we used to go out, I loved it, we used to go down places, anywhere where I knew where there was a group where I could sing with, playing, I got up and sung. Margie knows that, I loved it. And anyway, after that May and Baker, I was made redundant, we were all made, us part timers were all made redundant.

How long had you worked at May and Baker?

About 5 years.

And did you enjoy it much in the chemical plant?

No no, the thing of it was I was never kept in the same place all of the time. When we run out of work, we used to do chloroform and things, and powders, a lot of chemicals. And when there was no work for us we had to be moved to different departments and they didn’t always welcome you, you know they didn’t, you know.

What did you actually do then?

Pills, I did some filling pills. I done chloroform and different powders.

Fill them, put tops on, labels, packing. We did all that. Anyway I was made redundant from there which was quite happy for me, I’d been there a while and I was happy to do that. Anyway I got bored, you know a bit, not doing anything.

You’d stopped your singing for a band?

I had and I was getting on and I thought, well… A friend of mine said to me, we used to go out Saturday nights with, she said she was doing some cleaning down at Wroxham in some holiday homes. Would,’ cos my husband was retired then, would him and me like to go and work on a Saturday morning. Sure, lovely, ok, so we went down to Wroxham. And we were allocated so many houses to clean, me and my husband, and it was lovely. We all used to come together for lunch and we had to clean our houses and they had to be inspected. We did for seven seasons and then, after that, I cleaned boats. I went on boats and cleaned them.

That was at Wroxham, I cleaned boats. Then that stopped and then I was out of work again for a while and then I thought oh well, I don’t know, I’d like a little extra money so we could go on holiday. Anyway, I saw an advert in the paper that they wanted cleaners at Mills and Reeves solicitors, so I went and applied there. I was getting on a bit then I can tell you. I went and applied and I got the job there, cleaning in the evenings.

I was getting on for 70 then, 60 something. And I worked there and I had my offices to clean, certain offices. I enjoyed it ‘cos cleaning is something when you can see satisfaction what you’ve done if you know what I mean, You get satisfaction out of working. Yeah I enjoyed that working there actually. And I worked there for a few years. I done the bosses. I was lucky I had the bosses’ office to do and I think they were very happy with me. Anyway, then I got a letter from my son. He wanted us to go to visit New Zealand again. So I decided I’d pack up my job and go to New Zealand. So I did and they threw me a party to go there. I was the only one they’ve ever thrown a party for. I left there and I was 70 when I left and went to New Zealand and after that didn’t really do any work at all. After that that was the finish of my working life. There could be a lot more that I’ve missed out, I’m sure there is but at the moment the old brain doesn’t keep telling me jobs I’ve done. Oh yeah, I worked at the telephone exchange. I helped to do the lunches there for a while, for a few weeks.

Anyway that is the end of my working life, but as I say, I still went singing. You know I still go singing when we can get a band and I enjoy it.

Dot (b. 1925) was interviewed for WISEArchive at Doughty’s Hospital Norwich on 13th November 2013









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