Milk Matters – the Lab.

Location : Norwich

Tell me the story of your working life, where would you like to start?

Probably the best thing to start with is that I moved down to Norfolk when I was a 15, as my father used to be a building contractor, and was an area manager. In the 70s – well late 60s he was made redundant several times and so got a job in the building industry in Norfolk. And so we moved here in 1968 and that was the last of my high school education – I was educated in Yorkshire which is where we lived formerly, Richmond in Yorkshire. I felt very privileged to go to a very small private school called French Gate School for Girls and it was a very big culture shock for me when we moved to Norfolk and I had to go to an ordinary high school. We shared playing fields and buses with the boys' school next door! I had never been educated with boys. And I just had one year there as my GCSE, or equivalent – it was O levels, after that I went to City College and did a course in Home Economics, Nutrition and Science and then got a job at the Co-op Dairy in the lab there which was at the Fiveways at Earlham.

From the Coop Dairy to Acting Chief Analyst at Dairy Crest

Having previously done Saturday jobs and a summer season at Debenhams, which was then Curls of Norwich, I went to the Co-Op Dairy which must have been … I was only there for a year, so it must have been 1970-71. And because of the experience I gained there and from having used my qualifications from college I saw a job that was advertised at Diary Crest – in the laboratory there – obviously they are milk and milk products and they were a much bigger dairy and offered subsequently a lot more opportunity to advance my career, which at that time I was very keen to do. Because the Fiveways Co-op Dairy only did milk and cream it meant there was a lot more interest towards the job because they did yoghurts and cheese and cream desserts and all that type of thing at Dairy Crest at Harford Bridge. So I was very lucky and got the job and moved to Dairy Crest's Laboratory, and that was in 1972, and remained there for 15 years. So as far as my career, for what I trained at college was all about, that was my career and I went there as an ordinary analyst and was promoted eventually throughout my time there,15 years, to Deputy Chief Analyst and I was Acting Chief Analyst – because at that time I decided to produce children and I would have carried on being a Chief Analyst if I had not done that. So between all that time I had a huge insight into what I felt Norfolk was all about – that was the farmers that actually ran Norfolk and made Norfolk what it was. So I felt very privileged to actually be within an industry where I was able to really see it at the sort of business end of things.

What time did you start in the morning?

That was indeed a big commitment if you went into the dairy industry – whether it was in the lab or whether actually in the farm – you did have to keep to the animals' time. Our first shift used to start at 5.30 in the morning and it was all year – Christmas Day included of course – as cows don't turn off because it is Christmas Day and you have to be there to test the milk and the dairy products at the same time they were produced by the cows. So the first shift started at 5.30 and the last shift … generally you would like to be out of the lab by certainly 5.30 or 6 o'clock. Before that there would be lots and lots of people that would have been in the dairy and would have been on the early shift, that would have certainly finished by about two in the afternoon at the latest. There was lots of people who finished in the afternoon because they had early starts. And the lab was one of the rare places that did have staff on site in the dairies in the afternoon.

How many staff were there altogether?

In the lab altogether, when I first went there – which was when we had the yogurts and the cheese – we did soft cheese and hard cheese and cream dessert and that type of thing – there must have been 14, in total, and we had seasonal staff so perhaps 16 or 18 maximum. So quite a big operation and we were quite famous for our quality of yoghurt and the taste of it. We won lots of prizes at agricultural shows and that type of thing so there certainly was very much pride in your product and likewise you did actually have a very good bond between your workers and the factory workers as there is something about staying on an early shift that you do actually have a very big bond with people that are up and about at the time of day when perhaps everyone else was still fast asleep.

It was a hugely social environment which you didn't appreciate until we weren't there and we didn't have it and so I began … when we had the reunion recently, it occurred to us that we were actually very lucky to have had that type of environment there and didn't appreciate it because we were living it day to day. And it wasn't until the dairy closed when all of a sudden it wasn't just your working life – it was actually a huge part of your life because your social life was there together with your working life. I think perhaps much more so then than now in terms of people's working careers.

Laboratory testing the milk – butter fat and added water

Did you have a lot of instrumentation there to use?

We did but it was very specific to the product, of course – but, yes we did.

What sort of tests?

The main test we did that we had to do to make sure the quality was right for the products, for the dairy products that we'd been marketing for public consumption was butter fat. In those days there wasn't quite so much choice of just ordinary milk as there is now. So you would have had Channel Islands, which was Jersey milk, and you would have ordinary pasteurised milk, which would have been silver top. We had homogenised milk, which was the same butter fat as ordinary milk but used to have a red top on it and the fat was distributed throughout the pint of milk by a process that basically used to break all the fat globules up – they used to be in suspension – so they didn't use to separate. And there was also the advent of semi-skimmed milk which was really very very popular right from the very beginning when it was introduced. Dairy Crest dairy was at the advent of that, it really took off. And then, of course, skimmed milk which became more and more popular as time went on when people became more aware of health issues, cutting fat down in their diets and that type of thing.

All the instruments were specific to dairy and milk testing so there was butter fat tests that we used to do where we used what was called a butyrometer and we used to use sulphuric acid for that, with a specific quantity of milk topped up with amyl alcohol – in those days we used to actually have a rack that all the butyrometers used to sit in – they were peculiar looking things – rather like a large glass tadpole is probably the best way to describe them, and they were in a rack and of course very dangerous because they were sulphuric acid. And you had a perspex box and you had to shake this mixture up to get it to the next stage of the test and that was to spin it in the centrifuge – which is what we used to do and they used to go into a very hot water bath which was 65 degrees and you could then measure it on the scale, on the butyrometer, as to what the butter fat was. However as time went on, and in the 15 years I was there, there was a machine that was designed called a MILKO machine that actually did butter fat testing and the solids testing, which is the other very important part of milk testing, all in the one electronic motion as it were. However, to calibrate it you did still have to go back to using the hands-on method because of course that was the way of making sure the machine was giving you the right results. So it was very important that you still retained the knowledge of how to actually do the hands-on test despite the fact that you had a machine that did all of these tests for you.

The other thing that was also very much on the advent in terms of new testing was Added Water testing. So we had a machine that actually did that too, and I think we were one of the few dairies that actually started being able to do Added Water tests – because milk of course has water in it, quite naturally, but it's an added water contamination that you need to calibrate. There shouldn't be any added water in fact, but that's the nature of the product. You have to sterilise all the pipes and sterilise all the equipment both on the farm and in the dairy so it's very important to check that you haven't got water contaminations, so we used to have an analyst on duty just simply doing all types of samples that we had for added water – very important test that of course – to make sure there wasn't any contamination as was a British standard for these tests. So you had to make sure that everything was within that and if it wasn't then unfortunately it was rejected – the milk used to go to waste- so again very very important that you were accurate with all your testing as well.

The one key thing that you had to be was accurate and we had responsibility for not just testing all of our milk, when it came into a silo, when it went into various places not least through the pasteurisation process into a holding tank – in those days we used to have Channel Island in a separate tank; ordinary milk, we used to call it, in another tank; and homogenised milk in another tank. I'm sure that now in a dairy they've got many more because there is a huge variety of different milks to choose but you had to be very careful in order to make sure that each of those products were as they were described and there were a standard for each of those.

Testing the dairy farmers

That was why it was very very important but, as I say, in addition to that we had to test, in those days each producer, so each dairy farmer, and so we used to have a rota where we used to test their milk once a month and if there were any problems then obviously we used to test it more than that. And a very important test on the producer's testing was a supplementary test for antibiotics.

It was very normal in those days, as indeed I'm sure it is now, that farmers, because they have to be so all encompassing in order to run a dairy farm, they were very good at prescribing their own medication for their cows if they had any type of illness. But it would unfortunately mean that their milk could be contaminated because they were supposed to keep that particular cow's milk totally out of their bulk supply. And very much of the older generation used to feel that they could milk off three quarters of the cow and leave the quarter that was being perhaps injected with antibiotics and believe that it wouldn't get into the supply, which of course was rubbish.

So there was, to recall my memory, I believe there was over 300 dairy farmers and we had to make sure that all of those suppliers was tested at least once a month and, as I say, if there was any difficulty of any sort – whether it be hygiene or antibiotics – then we used to test them more frequently.

Whilst I was there a scheme called Centralised Testing was introduced and that meant the whole of the testing schedule for producers for the dairy farmers was changed in that we then didn't have to actually legally test any of our producers because samples were taken with preservative in them and were sent off for analysis at a headquarters. Thames Ditton I believe ours was. And they were subsequently tested nationally by one organisation because the samples were taken in an entirely different way by the tanker drivers – they labelled and dispatched in boxes lots of different little samples, and then sent to centralised testing and, of course, the admin work and all of that sort was handled by a different agency.

However, we were quite keen to keep control of the quality that was coming into our dairies so that we did actually do supplementary tests, although it wasn't legally necessary, but we very much wanted to keep control of the type of policy that we felt was very good. And that meant that we did want to know how the farmers were doing in terms of their tests – had we not been able to carry on with some form of testing then we wouldn't have known, we would have only known when it was all mixed up that it was something wrong with somebody.

So we carried on our own regime of testing but it was a bit of sad day in that in the lab we had lots of duties and you were on a rota system so that you had two analysts that were on what we used to call farmers. So you had a lot of admin to do because you had to record officially all the results at the time that we were testing individual farmers, so you got very familiar with all of the names that you were testing the milk of, because you were coming across them so often. So you would spend a week on what we call the farmers' jobs, so there'd be one of you testing and one of you recording so you would work quite closely with your colleagues on that. I found that really interesting and l liked that very much. You recorded the results and sent them off in the post and the farmers subsequently got them in the normal way and no doubt all of that is computerised now.

Despatch at 5.30 a.m.

The other job that we used to have was called Despatch and that used to be the 5.30 shift. And that meant you were first analyst in and subsequently everybody, all of the operators that were in the dairy, were very much on your case because everything hang on you saying that the milk was ok for them to start bottling and start cartoning and for them to start doing their cream production and that type of thing. So that you were very very much under pressure and everybody, all the operators, would be stood with their samples and their bottles and really it was if a starter pistol had gone off in the mornings. So not only was it 5.30 and anybody else that was sane would be asleep, but you were very much racing around because everybody wanted to get on with their job. They'd been there hours before you had in fact, and the boiler man – because the sterilisation procedure used to be a build-up of steam – would have been in a long time before the first operators were there, including the first analyst, so it was all systems go very early in the morning in the dairy. But, as I say, it created a really nice atmosphere because you did have a camaraderie that went with the fact that you were there at that hour of the day.

So once you checked all the milk, it would come through the pipes, you would make sure that there was no water in it, that the hygiene was ok, the butter fat was as it should be for that variety that they were bottling and that it all hang on your word saying, yes its ok – and then the machines would go and the clattering of the bottles would carry on and that I would remember now … in those days you were given pretty much a free hand as to whether you wanted to wear ear defenders or not. There was no body of folks to say you must because of course in those days health and safety wasn't such an important thing. And so everybody got to learn, I think I'm right in saying everybody, you didn't realise you could lip read but everybody got to lip read because you can imagine there was bottles clattering around and at least two bottling lines and so the noise was absolutely enormous. So the men that run the line the entire day could make each other understood simply by catching their eye and mouthing the words and they would know exactly what they were talking about but I am sure that many many were probably ringing with the clattering of bottles for lots of years when they'd left, when they'd finished their working lives at the dairy. And this would have been more sensible if they would have taken earphones having ear defences – they were there to be used if you wanted them.

Checking the churns

The other thing I also remember very fondly, in my first years at the dairy, was we had milk producers that would be churn producers – in other words they wouldn't have automatic bulk tanks as they have now – which would be chilled milk and much healthier, much more hygienic. They would have filled a churn and there would have been a little platforms by the side of the road and the churn lorry would come along and the little platforms, like a little stage generally level with the bed of the truck … and so the drivers would come along to the little sort of staging that would be beside the farm gate generally, with however many churns had been produced and they would get rolled onto the truck. Those trucks would be full and subsequently find their way into the dairy and we would then be assigned to test the individual truck loads to make sure that that milk was ok before it went into a huge mixing tank and was weighed to make sure each farmer got their payment for the amount of milk that they'd produced – because it was a on a weighbridge.

The only thing with that was that, because some of the trucks would have been on the road for quite a long time and if it was the first churn producer that was picked up on a hot summer's day, that would be very warm by the time it got to the dairy! So, of course, it eventually had to be that if you were going to produce milk you had to have a bulk tank that was chilled because otherwise it was a very smelly operation. Unfortunately, I guess, some farmers wouldn't have got paid because it would have been off by the time it arrived to us. But I did use to very much like testing churn producers – it was one of those occasions when you would have a big plunger, which is a stainless steel rod – there was lots of stainless steel equipment, not least because it was steam sterilised and it could also be water sterilised with chlorine and that type of thing. It was the natural type of material for food products and, I am sure, still is. We would have what we called a plunger which would be about a three-foot length of stainless steel rod and it would have a plastic plate on the bottom with holes in it. And you would get the technique together, after a little while, it did take I guess at least 3 to 6 months, where you could actually plug a whole churn, a ten gallon churn, with one hand with the plunger and make sure the milk was all mixed up. Because proportionally you had to take out a ladle depending on how much was in the churn, mix it all up and then get a sample bottle and it would then go back to the lab having been identified with a chinagraph pencil and rubber bung – all of which was sterilised in the lab of course. And would then go off and identified as that farmer's marker and that sample which was well mixed. And there would be two of you on farmers' duty.

Now that was the position in the lab that I described where there would be two of you – one would be testing and one would be doing admin – but when you went over to do a churn load you would be mixing it up. Each churn would have a parcel label on it and it would describe who the farmer was, how much milk had been produced and you would put that information on each sample bottle but the truck drivers got used to the girls that were … – it tended to be mostly girls in those days when I think about it – there was one or two male analysts but it tended to be, in the main, female analysts. But the truck drivers got used to who was actually very good at doing that because they'd been doing it for a number of years and who wasn't so good because they just weren't as quick. And so you could tell by the expression on their face when you went over with your rack of sample bottles, and there would probably be about at least 20 or 30 or even more than that in the little crate, which was a 1/3 of a pint – with your rubber bungs in and you‘d be going over – one of you would be holding the plunger, the jug and the ladle and the other would be holding the crate with the sample bottles on it. And the truck driver would have to have waited because there was a system of a bell that told you that you had to go over as the truck was there with the producer's milk to test. As they'd come over they'd look to see who it was and they would either be very disappointed because you were too slow, in their view, or very happy because you were one of those, what they'd call quick samplers.

So because whilst I worked there for the 15 years I was at Dairy Crest that actually was phased out because, as I said, it certainly wasn't a very hygienic method of doing it. I am sure there was a national policy that you had to be a bulk producer and milk subsequently went into a bulk tank and then, of course you didn't have any sampling or churns because the tanker driver would take the sample after he'd mixed it well on site before he actually pumped it into his tank.

That was a little bit of history that went with it but I very much used to like churn testing, as I say, and all the farmers testing because it meant that you were getting to know various things at source.

One of the things that springs to mind is that there was one particular farmer who had great difficulty in keeping his antibiotic treated milk out of his supply and if you had three antibiotic failures it meant basically the farmer was paying us to pick his milk up so it was disastrous financially to get in that position. And many times it wasn't the farmers' fault, perhaps they would have a relief cowman, that wasn't aware of the fact that a cow had been treated, or simply the fact that a mistake had been made – as happens sometimes. On one particular occasion that I remember is that there was a chap who had produced … a milk producer, quite an elderly man, I guess he would have been maybe in his late 60s early 70s. He simply didn't trust any of us to test his milk so he used to bring his own milk samples in and he used to get us to do an antibiotic test which was a rather long test. It used to take at least two hours because it was incubated after it had a solution added to it and it would then turn to a different colour if it was a positive antibiotic or not.

But he would come in with a sample in the morning and he would hang around for a little while just to make sure that we were heating the sample up, because for antibiotics you have to heat the sample up, and make sure that you were chilling it properly and make sure that you were adding the correct additives to put the test through. Then make sure you were putting it in the right water bath, because it would be incubated to make sure the test was complete, and he would phone up in the afternoon to see whether the test was positive or negative. And this went on for some time and he used to always bring his very old Mercedes and he would always wear the same welly boots and the same shirt I think as well – and he was just almost like a Giles cartoon image of a dairy farmer and he used to come in clutching his sample! I think he eventually did manage to believe that we did know how to do our job and we could be trusted, but we were always very polite to him and he obviously had a conscience about his products and that was the main thing. Despite the fact that he didn't trust us initially I think we ended up being good friends and he did realise we were on his side but we just had to make sure that things were correct and proper.

There's lots and lots of stories. Talking about it I can imagine I am back in the lab. Whilst I was there we had it completely refurbished and had a very very swanky new lab, eventually. Whilst that was happening we had to temporarily shift all the testing into a portacabin and also another, it was an ex cold store, no windows or anything of that sort, of course. And it was on the dairy floor because there was lots of tests, there was measurements of course, that had to be taken all of the time so it meant that we had to be on the shop floor for that. Because our testing laboratory had moved into a portacabin at the top of the site it meant that we had to actually have this satellite station, if you like, that was temporarily built in this old cold store.

And so all the washing up was done there, and various tests that had to be done very very quickly and we had to inform the dairy operators of everything being ok to bottle or pack, was done there. Before that the materials that we used to use on the bench that I described for the butter fat testing, that's one of the things that I recall, and it was a bench – a lab bench- that was probably about at least 6ft in length if not a little longer that was entirely covered in lead because it was obviously a very potent mixture of sulphuric acid that was being spilt on the bench the entire time and it is one of the few materials, of course, that doesn't disintegrate if it was in contact with sulphuric acid.

The sulphuric acid percentage was probably between 90 and 98% so very very strong, and the other amyl alcohol that we used to add to our butter fat testing also had a very pungent smell. I am sure these days, if anybody is still testing in that same hands-on way, it would be in a fume cabinet but in those days it wasn't. You just used to cough a bit and lots of water afterwards. But like the health and safety things have obviously moved on quite a lot but in memory of it now, one just used to accept it. Because now you almost have a sharp intake of breath and throw your hands up in horror but it wasn't particular to our dairy, it was the same for any dairy because that was just the way that you handled your day to day routine.

Testing packages

So there was, I think I told you there was, to my knowledge, my memory as well, there were several lots of jobs. One was averages, that was the measurements that we had to do for all of the packing, cream and the milk and all of the different types of packages that there was. There were third pints of milk in those days, because that was supplied to schools, lots of different products were made – Mars milk was developed at Harford Bridge.

There's all different types of cream that were being packaged so all that going on. There was orange juice as well at one stage where dairies used to produce that too that was being packaged. So all of those things had to be measured and had to be made sure; it was an average weight system so you'd take five packages from each of the lines and made sure that the average weight was the minimum at least and equally not the maximum – because you didn't want to waste product so it was very important that you kept an eye on that.

And then all of those sheets would be collected with the daily averages and then you would make sure that at the end of the day all of the figures were averaged out and made sure that you were working economically and within the law as well. It did mean that you became quite unpopular sometimes with the drivers, particularly if you discovered that there was one batch that actually hadn't been packed to the legal minimum. Then in that case you had to dash over and stop the truck going out and you had to identify the lot that it was, which you could quite easily because we were very good. One of the things you had to be very good at was labelling all of your samples and make sure you know where they were and the operators weren't allowed to continue packing if our checks weren't correct anyway to the legal minimum. And so the drivers used to be held up for some time if we had to actually take off the batches that were wrong in terms of the measurement or indeed any of the other tests. If it was a hygiene test, we used to stop them going out as well so there was some times when we weren't very popular.

My husband eventually got a job as a HGV driver and it was mooted that I used to sometimes hold the drivers up because they were the only people on site that used to get paid what was then called "Waiting time" so they're able to be paid until a new batch had been packed and that was correct and ok. So I think that was just a bit of amusement really because it had nothing whatsoever to do with it!

Ongoing training and promotion

Where you able to progress through the ranks?

As I look back on it now – at the time one just accepted it but when I look back it – Dairy Crest were a national organisation and they were formerly the Milk Marketing Board – they had a very progressive vocational training, I suppose it would be called now, in that you could go onto the next step of actually being trained to a higher level as a milk analyst. One thinks of it as being quite a simple task but it wasn't – there was quite a lot of jobs in between the minimal – and the minimal were that the hygiene tests had to be in order – antibiotic test, the farmers' milk had to be ok, the average weight had to be good. There was also another job which we held in the bacti lab which used to have an air socket – because they used to change the lab over and go into the bacti lab because you were obviously producing bacteria in aged samples that you were artificially ageing so you could see how they were going to react in terms of their shelf life and that type of thing. And also not to have anything that was e-coli, bacillus coli, lots of specific things that were obviously not going to do the public any good at all in terms of tummy upsets and food poison. So we had a bacti job as well and that was quite a high pressure because you had to be very very particular about taking specific samples at specific times and making sure you could follow and identify and follow that journey of that particular sample all the way through – so you had to be very accurate to do that job. That was another job in the dairy that you had.

You'd also be put on assisting the washer upper and the steriliser as well because there'd be obviously lots of equipment that had to be sterilised because you can't contaminate samples by using dirty equipment. And by dirty I mean not sterile – they would be clean to look at but that wasn't the end of the story.

The thing that I also remember, and I am sure this is not used any more and if it is I would be very surprised. But our pipettes – in those days we used to use mouth pipettes so everything would be pipetted by mouth. Pipette is like a straw but is a calibrated measurement of 1mm and so you would be able to get anything to 0.5m but you would mouth pipette it. And one of the laborious tasks, if you were on washing up and sterilising, would be that you would have an unwound paper clip and you would have a big ball of cotton wool and you'd become very expert at it because you would be doing so many – you'd be using hundreds of pipettes a day – and so you'd be able to immediately grab a piece of cotton wool with your undone paper clip know exactly what amount you'd need and then stuff it into the end of the pipette.

So the cotton wool bung in the pipette would stop you from doing that. But toward the end of my time at the lab they were using balloon pipetting, which is obviously much much better, so I guess that used to be one of the things that perhaps every lab used to use in terms of method. But again health and safety … there could be all sorts of things that you could be pipetting that would end up in your mouth that certainly wouldn't do your body any good. So again that was the advent of that type of procedure coming on to rather better methods as well.

And you progress up to…?

I progressed up to Deputy Chief Analyst. I went away to Agricultural College – in those days I guess there wouldn't have been perhaps the type of specific courses being held in Norfolk, because we were seconded out to Somerset – where I met my husband actually, while I was at college there. But in between all of those times we would be picked, selected, I guess on ability to go to a senior analyst course and that would be a long weekend. It would be three nights and then we would go to another large dairy that had a training department that was set up. Then there would be obviously senior analysts that were managers that were examining you and you would have to show that you understood the business inside out at that level. Thinking about it I guess that now the equivalent would be a NVQ and so you would go right up to NVQ 3 and that would be the residential course that I went on when we went to Somerset. Then a position came available as the Deputy Analyst and I applied it and I got Deputy Chief Analyst and then later on, when the Chief Analyst left I applied then but it was just at the time when I was thinking about having a family.

Did you get maternity?

We did. Because it was a national company I suppose government run, everything was done very correctly in terms of that type of thing. Nothing like the type of maternity leave that one gets now but even so I think I was very lucky in comparison to some of my friends that were working in shops and other jobs like that because they certainly didn't get as much of maternity leave as I did. I was very lucky in that I knew that I wouldn't be able to work full time and get up at 5.30 for morning shifts when I had a baby, so I had my eldest son and then asked, or requested, if I could go back part time. Because there was another analyst that was also starting a family – both of us were senior analysts so they had invested quite a lot in our training and so we knew that we were good at what we did or otherwise we wouldn't be there. So we had a discussion together and basically did a job share, which in those days was unheard of, so perhaps we were cutting edge for that type of procedure. So we both produced or wanted to produce children and so did a job share situation. That worked out very well and the other analyst that I did the job share with she found herself in the, I think, unenviable position of producing triplets so she didn't do it for as long as I did in terms of a part-time occupation and she had a very full time occupation at home with her three babies. That was quite, I think, innovative of us to come up with a solution because I had to work at least part time and I would have much preferred to carry on with the work that I really enjoyed. I absolutely, not every single day of course, but I absolutely loved doing the job that I did. I really did like it – I liked being busy and all the research work that I'd applied for… I was glad that I made the decision that was poopooed by a lot of my friends who had gone into the science world – going into quality control. But for me it meant I was making a difference immediately and the product I was testing had a short shelf life so there wasn't anything that wasn't going to be immediate, that wasn't going to be busy. And the days just flew by because they were so busy and full and the type of people that I met were fantastic comrades and I wouldn't have met in the research lab – which was the other option that I could have taken had I gone to that avenue. So, for me, I was very glad that I'd gone into quality control.

Fond memories of social life at the dairy

Christmas time?

Christmas time was very joyous and I think, probably not allowed now, we used to do all sorts of things such as, perhaps, having a sherry and enjoying a bit of a social get together. It was our way of thanking all the operators who were obviously reliant on doing their job properly in order for us to do our job properly. So we used to have, if you like, an open house or aka an "open lab" and so at Christmas time that used to be when the supervisors and managers used to allow a certain amount of hilarity. And that was a good time because it meant also that all of us would have a shift where we were working over Christmas, some of us the entire time. It meant it was a bit of antidote to having a job where you knew you had to be on duty with very few people at work.

But the other thing that was really key to the time I think I remember so fondly, was there was a very good social club that was in operation then and lots of industries in the city such as Rowntrees, or Caleys as I suspect they were probably known then, and Colman's, they had social clubs and we were just the same in the way that we run our social club. And so there would be lots of different events and there was a bowls club, which I was involved with, flat green bowling. We didn't used to be quite so serious as the teams that we played against because we only ever used to play friendly matches in the bowls. And it used to be well recognised when you put the piece of paper on the notice board in the canteen to try and get a team together that somebody would put dry green – dry green meant there wasn't a pub so it used to be really difficult to try and get a team together for a dry green! And so we tended to play twice a week under normal circumstances but if there was a dry green we very often had to cancel that match and ended up playing just once a week. Again it was a great atmosphere and lots of friends got together – despite the fact that we only played friendlies we were there to win as well. We were invited, one particular social club that we used to go to that were very very hospitable, and there was a fantastic time, was the Sculthorpe Mill social club. We used to play bowls there and that was a key event. We used to actually have almost a reserve team for that so it was a very very good thing indeed when we went to Sculthorpe Mill – I do remember that very fondly.

But again it was a different way of actually meeting lots of people outside of the dairy. I remember those days very well and when I returned part time, when I had my eldest son, he too used to come along to the bowls matches with us and we used to get him a small set of woods and he used to come along and play at the side of the bowls green, not on the green of course, because it was absolutely sacrosanct ground. There was some other small children that used to come along, as children of the bowls club can do, and they used to have a good time together along the side of the green.

So my very fond memories of what I felt was a fantastic working life and it was my proper career and ended when I left a few months before the dairy actually closed in 1987 because I was expecting my second baby.

The dairy closed end 1990/early 1991 but which time I was having my third son. My husband was made redundant as a Dairy Crest HGV driver.

[Note: The contributor tell us that all analysts were tested by a Liaison Chemist.]

Comments are closed.