Variety is the spice of life. The secretary’s tale. (2014)

Location : London, Norfolk, Dunstable, Luton

The young secretary – the Gas Board,
hotels, laboratories and West End photography

You left school at the young age of 15
and went to your first job. Did you find what you’d learnt at school helped you
to find a job? Was it difficult to find a job?

No, it was very easy to find work in
those days. I didn’t have any choice. I left school very early because my mother
couldn’t afford to keep me there. I was a scholar at secretarial college, so I
was learning shorthand and typing, bookkeeping, commerce, all that type of
things. As I say, I left school. I was an excellent typist, not a very good
shorthand writer because I didn’t do it for long enough, but I got a job as a secretary
at the Eastern Gas Board. I was very proud, and I earned about four pounds.
When I got there I was full of myself, like you are at 15, and the first thing
I had to do was to make tea for thirty gas fitters! (Laughter)

So I did that, I learnt the
switchboard, I learnt how not to be such a show-off, and just get on with my
work but it was very very boring (laughter) so I left.

Four
pounds a week doesn’t sound very much by today’s standards. You were still
living at home. Did that leave you anything left over after travelling to work,
etc?

Yes. I could walk to work, and I took
sandwiches for lunch. I had to give my mum £1.50 – £1 10 shillings – a week for
my board and she insisted that I saved £1.50, so that left me with the grand
total of £1 a week to do with as I wanted.

Did
you make friends there? Did you have a good boss?

No, not really. There was just me in
the office. All the gas fitters, who teased me unmercifully as you can imagine.
But it was a boring job, it didn’t have a lot going for it.

So
you left mainly because you were bored. And in 1958 you went to work for a
hotel.

Yes, I did. I went to work for the
Regent Palace Hotel, right in the centre, in Piccadilly. At that time it
belonged to Joe Lyons. I worked there as they called you a junior secretary, I
actually worked for a senior
secretary. So I was a dogsbody really. Which you were in those days. Didn’t
matter what schooling you had – or didn’t have in some instances, but you just had
to do as you were told. If it meant sweeping up you swept up. Just got on with
it. They had other hotels; they had the Strand Palace and the Cumberland, and
occasionally we were sent to the other hotels if they were short of
secretaries. And I can remember one day being sent on the bus to the Strand
Palace, which was fine. I did whatever I had been sent to do and on the way
back on the bus I realised somebody was following me. So I sat down at the end
near the conductor and told him – bearing in mind I was only 16 – and I
thought, “How am I going to get rid of this bloke?” I decided that when I got
to the Regent Palace I would walk into the front entrance – which I wasn’t
allowed to do, we had to go round the corner to the staff entrance – and I knew
the commissionaire would come out and tell me off. Which he did; and I quickly
whispered to him that I was being followed and the man was at the bottom of the
steps. “Right,” he said. “Get round the back. I’ll deal with this.” I don’t
know what happened, but I didn’t see the man again… Because they were all
ex-soldiers, weren’t they, the commissionaires. I wasn’t frightened, that was
just one of those things.

You
were using your skills as a secretary. It would be interesting to know in the
days long before word processors, you’re dealing with carbons and so on, how
that was different and how much you had to retype things.

Well, paper was still in short supply,
believe it or not. If you made an error, of course you couldn’t overtype so if
you were making two or three carbon copies, you had scraps of paper that you
tucked behind the paper all the way through so that you can rub them out. You
had a special rubber to rub out the typeface – you hoped. And tried desperately
not to make a hole in the paper, which was quite thin. Of course, if you did
you had to start all over again. The secretary I worked for was always not best
pleased.

It was mainly letters that people had
written to the hotel complaining about something or other. Our department dealt
with those complaints, so that is the sort of thing that we typed. But you
weren’t allowed personal phone calls or anything like that. If you went to the
toilet they made sure you weren’t loitering around. It was very regimented, but
that was what they paid you for.

Did
you see much of your boss?

No, most of it was the secretary. We
sat opposite each other. I never took dictation from any of the top bosses. She
did though, and came back and dictated to me. Which was a terrible waste of
time when you think of it, but that’s how it was then. You were a junior until
you were 18.

Of
course you were commuting? Did they pay you a bit more than your first job?

Yes, they paid me about £6, I think.
It wasn’t very much. I used to get the bus from Borehamwood into Burnt Oak and
I would get the tube from Burnt Oak into the West End. And the same coming
back. I thought it was very exciting!

As
it was a hotel, did they give you free meals?

Oh no, nothing like that. You either
took sandwiches or, in our case, I made friends with some other youngsters
there and we used to go round all the coffee bars for our lunch break and
listen to music. We probably didn’t eat anything. I don’t remember that, but we
certainly didn’t spend any money there.

In
1959 you left there. You started working for a laboratory.

That’s right. I’d got fed up with the
travelling by then and I went to work at the laboratories at Elstree. They
tested anything to the straining point. You know, like concrete, or iron bars
or that type of thing. Again that was a pretty boring job, I’ll be honest. It
was just secretarial work, answering the switchboard, which I knew how to do
because I’d learnt it at the Gas Board. Those old doll’s eye switchboards,
which you could very easily cut people off. It was alright. I was only there
about six months. As I say, it was quite boring and I had itchy feet by then.

What
about what was involved putting calls through. Did you have plugs?

Yes. When you got an incoming call –
you had however many calls incoming – and they would ask for Mr Bloggs and you
would find the appropriate plug. It was a sort of two-plug system. One plug was
plugged into the outside line and the one sitting opposite you would plug into
the extension. You worked with little keys. And if it was in use you had these old
doll’s eyes as they called them, used to flick down that the line was engaged.
So that was quite exciting. You had a headset which you plugged into the
switchboard. You’d go to get up and you’d forget that you were plugged in and
try and pull the switchboard off the wall as you went to get up! That was quite
good, quite exciting.

So
it’s 1960, and you still only a few years out of school, and you’re looking
round for another job because you’re bored. Was it easy to get jobs? How did
you get them?

It was very easy to get jobs in those
days. I would usually go to a secretarial agency and you’d fill a form in, with
whatever schools you may have been to. Companies would book in with these
agencies and they used to send you off on interviews. If you were employed, I
think the agency used to charge the company money – I think it was a week’s
money, presumably that was their fee. We didn’t have to pay anything. So you
got sent on various interviews. Generally they would tell you whether you had
got the job there and then. They didn’t say “We’ll let you know, we’ll call you
back.” Because jobs were two a penny, they couldn’t get the people.

Anyway, I got sent to this fine art photographer’s
that was in Newman Street in the West End. I got taken on there. It was mainly
again reception work, secretarial work, answering the telephone. If I was not
busy I would go upstairs to where they did all the photography work and I used
to put the photographs on the drying drum. It was really just to keep me busy.
It was nice; I liked working there, it was easy. I don’t mean easy work – but
easy to work there. Nice people, friendly.

Good
boss?

Excellent bosses. Mr and Mrs.F.
started the company and they were still working, yet they were well into their
seventies. Their son had taken it over by that time and he was a photographer.
Old Mr F. used to go off to the British Museum, going to the Reading Room as
much as he could, so we didn’t get much work from him. Mrs F. used to buzz
around like a buzzing bee and J., he was the photographer, he wasn’t very well
educated so if he wanted me to write a letter – someone had written to him and
he would write more or less on the paper what he wanted me to tell them. Only he used to use language
that … For instance, he would write on this piece of paper, “Tell them to
f-off.” So I’d then have to put it into diplomatic terms. I don’t think his
education was top notch, but he was a good photographer.

We also, as a receptionist, used to
get people coming in from all the top notch galleries that were having their
pamphlets made for people who were going to buy all this fine art. They used to
bring the pictures in to be photographed. This chap came in one day and he
brought this quite big picture all wrapped up in string and a piece of paper and
he brought it in and dumped it down and said who it was from. And that was it.
We put it in the room, went off to lunch, and all sorts of things. Of course
you didn’t lock doors in those days, you just went. When J. came back and saw
the picture there he said, “Oh I’ll take it upstairs, let’s have a look at it.”
And we found out that it was a Hans Holbein and it had been sitting in the room
wrapped up in paper, and it was worth millions! And we’d all gone off for lunch
and left the door open. (Laughter) But there you go, they were very casual, I
suppose. We had one or two instances like that.

Another man that I used to work for,
he was, or had been, a journalist. He did the advertising type stuff. He used
to say that he could type faster than me, two fingered. At that time I could
type about 60 words a minute. So we decided we’d have a competition, with me
touch typing and he two-finger typing and we did exactly the same speed. Which
was quite good fun. He was like lightening.

So I worked there until I left and got
married. I think I was working there after I got married – I got married in
1961, so yes I was still working there. I worked there until we moved from
Borehamwood into Dunstable, and obviously then it was just too far to go so I
left there.

Vauxhall’s
typing pool

So
you set up home then?

Yes. To start with we lived with [my
husband’s] mum and then we put a deposit down for a property in Dunstable. We
moved in 1963.

Can
I ask how much it cost in those days?

The house and the garage was £3,500
and we were allowed to have an 85 percent mortgage. And that year was the first
year they took into account the female’s wages to go with the mortgage. Up
until then it was only the man’s wages. So my money came in handy.

So
you found somewhere local to work? Still using your secretarial skills?

Yes. I went to work for Vauxhall
Motors and I earned £10. I can remember that quite clearly, because having to
put it towards the mortgage. I worked there as a typist then, not as a
secretary. I was a copy typist. We worked in a big typing pool, which was lots
of young women sitting there bashing the typewriters away, in long lines, with
a couple of supervisors sitting up the front being in charge. It was quite
regimented. You worked to the clock at Vauxhall. A hooter went when it was time
to start work. It went again when it was time to start tea break. It went again
when it finished tea break, which was ten minutes. And so on, lunch break,
going home time. It was all done to the hooter. If you went up to go to the
toilet the supervisor would check her watch and see how long you were there and
if you were too long, she’d come down and find you. There was definitely no
slacking. You earned your money at Vauxhall, there’s no two ways about that.

Did
people get sacked if they took too long …?

No, but you would get a discipline.
They’d talk to you and it would go down on your record. You wanted the money,
you wanted the job and in that area Vauxhall paid the best wages, so you wanted
to hang onto your job. And so you really did as you were told. It was quite a
nice job, you could have a laugh, you could flirt with all the men there,
across the corridor – because it was a big open plan office so you could have a
bit of a laugh and a joke. Which was always nice, but it was very regimented.
We were all young women so they kept you all in order. You’d get into mischief

Copy
typing or taking dictation?

No, just copy typing. They used to
bring all the work to the desk, it was all handwritten letters or whatever.
You’d be given a parcel of work to get on with, which you would do and you’d
take it back to the supervisor who’d give you another parcel of work, and
that’s what you did all day. You might get reports to type, you might get
letters, because it was coming from all over the firm, so you got all different
things to do, which was quite nice. There were some boring things, forms and
things, which were fiddly and everyone hoped they wouldn’t get too many of. But
generally the work was divided up quite evening. In the typing pool there were
some Dictaphone typists. I don’t know why they had those there, but they must
have come in from some area, but there must have been two or three of those. By
I never learned that at that stage.

But
the mechanics of typing were still the same at that time?

Exactly the same.

What
if you typed out a letter and somebody was going to sign it and they would say,
oh no, I’m going to change this, would they send it back to be retyped?

Oh yes, they’d come back and you’d
just have to get on with it and do it again. But they tried not to do that,
because even then money was not easy to come by. Everything was costed out, if
you needed a new pencil you’d take the stub of the old one back. If you needed
a new ribbon for the typewriter the supervisor would check that she couldn’t
turn the ribbon upside down – of course the ribbons were black at the top and
red at the bottom, but if you got a just plain black one, they would turn the
ribbon upside down and use that part. It was very very much a case of keeping
the cost down. I suppose the wages were expensive, but you couldn’t just go to
a cupboard and take stationery out. They always at the end of the day had a
clean desk policy. These old desks that we had, were old metal desks and the
typewriters were in like a well in the desk. The feet of the typewriters were
fitted into certain slots, and when you’d finished for the day, you’d cover the
typewriter up and you’d pull a lever on the desk and the typewriter would go
down and the flat top come up so you had a flat desk. Of course it had to be
left empty.

Can
you tell me something about the sounds … in those days typewriters much have
made a bit of noise!

Especially on a metal desk!

And
a whole roomful of girls chatting away while they were working? Do you remember
there being a lot of noise?

But not chatting. You weren’t allowed
to do that. But there was a lot of noise from the clatter of the typewriters.
As I say, they were all on these metal desks. They didn’t have pads under them
because they were fitted into these slots. So yes, it was quite noisy. You
didn’t really notice it though, because this open plan office was about a mile
long, and so there was lots of noise everywhere. Not excessive – you got used
to it I suppose.

In
1966 you got in the family way?

Yes, I left Vauxhall and had my first
child and decided, as you did in those days unless it was desperate, you stayed
at home and brought the child up. And two years later I had my daughter, and
all the time whilst I was at home I was copy typing for people, I was selling
Avon, I was doing all sorts of bits and pieces. I had a neighbour that worked
in a big computer place and he used to bring home manuals that needed typing. I
used to type those at home and earn a bit of money. Even when I was at home,
apart from housework, I was still working, although intermittently.

And
again it was easy to find work?

Yes, it was then. But you did notice,
obviously, when you had been working at Vauxhall and the wages were decent, you
did notice you didn’t have that money coming in. so that’s why I kept doing odd
jobs for people. Typing envelopes, all sorts of things. Selling Avon. I was
good at selling! I did quite well out of that. But it was a lot of
footslogging.

School
assistant

I kept busy anyway. In 1972, my son
was at school by then, my daughter got invited into school a term before she
was five. I’d been offered a job at that stage, a part-time job at Linmear
School, which was a middle school at the time, elevens to thirteens, as a lab
assistant, which was quite nice. It was something I’d not done before. But
there was still typing involved in that. I used to prepare the lessons for the
staff and then when the lessons were finished you’d wash all the equipment off
and so on and so forth. And I was there quite a long while. I was there about
three years, I suppose.

So
you were working in a school and you saw quite a lot of the schoolchildren?

Oh yes, absolutely.

How
did that compare with the atmosphere in schools nowadays? Were they respectful,
were they disciplined, or were they just like today’s teenagers?

They weren’t like how we were at
school. We were scared to talk to the teachers – you’d get a clip round the ear
if you did anything out of place. It wasn’t like that. Some of them were little
hooligans. It was a very working class area. Some were little hooligans, and
some were nice kids. It was funny because they all called you “miss” regardless.
“Miss” or “sir”. They were all in uniform which I don’t know about now – they
seem to have gone back to uniforms. They were in a uniform of sorts there. It
was quite nice, I quite enjoyed working with the kids, except when they were
bullying; in which case if I saw it I would stop it. Which did happen. There
were some incidents where kids were way out of line, but it doesn’t seem as if
it was as bad as it appears now. I haven’t been in a school for a long while,
so I wouldn’t really know. There were
some incidents that weren’t good there, but generally speaking it was a nice
easy school. The head was pretty easy-going, they just let you get on with your
job.

I
wonder how you balanced your home life, being a mother, with going out to work,
which was a full-time job.

That was part-time, school days school
time and term-time only. So you didn’t get paid when you weren’t there. So I
used to take my children to the school they were at and then I’d go on to my
job. You just used to get on with it and do it. My husband was always good at
helping at home. I suppose when you’re really busy you just get on and do it. I
suppose you’re organised basically. The kids used to go to Brownies and Scouts,
ballet dancing and judo, all the things that kids do. The only thing was, my
daughter used to be poorly quite often which was difficult; but because I was
working at the school and I was in a room that was away from everyone else, I
used to be able to take her with me to school and she would sit in my little
area and colour and what have you. Which was quite good, because otherwise you
would be having time off. My husband couldn’t take time off, because in those
days if they weren’t there, they weren’t paid. So it was term-time school
hours. It was very useful to do that as you were bringing up the kids. I worked
there for about three years, I suppose, and then I decided that I wanted a full-time
job as the kids got older. That’s when I changed over.

Back
to the motor industry and changes in office technology

This
brings us up to about 1975? You went back into the motor industry.

I did. I started at Commer cars. I was
going to say copy typing – it wasn’t, it was Dictaphone typing, which I’d never
done before. I went for the job anyway and when they asked me to take a test
and said “Have you worked a Dictaphone before?” I said, “Oh yes.” But I hadn’t
– a big lie. “But not the model you’re using, so before I take the test I need
to have a little practice, if that’s alright.” Which I did do. And that was all
to do with insurance claims. I don’t know how they got involved with that, but that’s
what it was. But again that was so boring and I didn’t like it there, when I
saw another job at General Motors advertised I decided I’d apply for it. It was
advertised in the paper. I applied and got an interview.

When
you changed jobs, presumably you had to give notice.

Oh yes. It was either a week or a
month. It depended. I think once you told them you were going to another car
company they wanted you off the premises fairly quickly. They didn’t want you
hanging about. So I think I probably gave a week’s notice. I went for an
interview for this job. I didn’t get the job that I went for, so I was still at
Commer Cars, and then I got a phone call one evening from the personnel manager
asking if I would go back for another interview. I said, “Well, is there any
point – because you’ve already turned me down for the job.” She said, “No, we’d
like to see you again.” So I went and I found that I was being offered the job
of the woman that had turned me down. She’d been moved somewhere and I was
getting her job. (Laughs) So I was quite pleased and the wages then went up
quite considerably. I can’t remember how much I earned but it was a good deal
more. And it was General Motors as opposed to Vauxhall that I was actually
employed by. That was in Dunstable in a big factory called AC-Delco. That was General
Motors that I actually worked for. I worked for the management information
services, which is now, I’d say, like a computer department. They called it
then management information services. I worked as the PA for the boss, so I
went up in the world.

It’s
now the best part of 20 years since you started work as a secretary. Were there
changes in the technology?

Oh yes, but that time we had gone onto
electric typewriters which were absolutely wonderful. Except if you leaned
forward and you were big-bosomed you’d start typing without realising it.
(Laughs) The typewriter would start clattering away and you think “Whoops!”

So
it was a more silent environment, if nothing else.

Yes, it was. And then gradually we got
given word processors. I don’t mean computers, they only did word processing. But
they looked like a computer. You had to learn this thing, and I found that very
very difficult, because by that time I was a very very experienced typist. I
could get a bit of paper and I could eye up the paper and work out how things
would look on it, just by eye. But now I was only looking at a screen and my
piece of paper had gone. So it was a whole new concept that I had to learn. I wasn’t
very pleased, I wasn’t very happy, but that was the way of the world. But I was
pleased afterwards – I wasn’t pleased to start with. I found it very very
difficult to do. I suppose they were pre-computer days. Really.

Wasn’t
it more helpful, when you wanted to make changes, you made mistakes and so on?

Yes, it was easy to do and they had
things like spell checkers and so on and so forth you know.

When I was at Vauxhall I moved from Dunstable,
the company had moved to Milton Keynes to purpose-built offices and we were
there for a good while and then we moved to Vauxhall Motors at Luton and then
at the end of my time at Vauxhall I moved over to the parts department at
Toddington. But all working for Vauxhall. So I was there working for about 15
years all told.

You
worked in all these different places. How did you get to work? Did you have a
car?

Yes, I had a car. You could buy a car
from Vauxhall with a discount. Then latterly, when I finally ended up at
Vauxhall, I was working for the Treasurer. If you got to a certain level in the
company you could get a company car, but you paid through your wages. And so
everywhere I went I had to have a car. None of them were easy to get to.

Yes, I worked there till I retired,
and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very good money. When I retired, I was only
51, but Vauxhall never ever make anyone redundant. They have plans that you can
leave if you’ve got the right service and the right birthdate and so on. This
particular plan came up and I applied for my figures and left with a, I
suppose, golden handshake, or in my case golden wheelbarrow.

“Retirement”
and agency work

I stayed off work for six weeks and
then went out and found another job. I couldn’t sit at home, not at 51. I still
had to be busy. So I got a part-time job with Montgomery Transport, which was a
heavy goods transport depot. I was doing typing and cold phone calls to get the
woman I worked for (the saleswoman) appointments at other companies so she
could get work. I quite enjoyed it there. You used to get teased unmercifully
by the lorry drivers, especially when I came in one day and I’d got points on
my licence because I’d gone through a traffic light when I was in Bristol and
had got lost. Of course, they thought that was hilarious. It went all round the
depot. Every driver that came in started teasing and saying that if it had been
them and they were lorry driving they would have been sacked, so why was I
still sitting there? (Laughs) They were a good bunch, it was a nice place to
work. But unfortunately I got made redundant from there.

Any
particular reason why? Hard times financially.

They were a hire and firing company
and they decided that they didn’t want me working there and so they decided
that I would go. I called it redundancy – they called it leaving. But I took
them to the tribunal because they weren’t giving me proper notice and so on.
Just as we were going to court they decided that they would back out and they
paid out. After that I went back to temping. I worked for a nursery school,
social services, all sorts of places. Secretarial-type work. To do temping,
everyone thinks that you can’t be much good, but really to go into someone
else’s job you’ve got to be good at yours in order to pick up what they want
you to do.

So
were mainly filling in for people on maternity …

Yes, that’s right. You booked yourself
into an agency. They’d give you a test to see what speed you had and so on and
then they would find temporary work for you, and then they would pay you. And
depending on where they sent you, if you went as a typist you got a certain
level of wages, if you went as a secretary it was a bit more. But if they
phoned you with a job you could either take it or you didn’t have to, whichever
suited you best.

The
money was good?

No, not really, but it was money
coming in. it was all sort of part-time work, you could pick your times as it
suited you.

The
doctor’s surgery in Norfolk

The
children were getting older by now? You could spend a bit more time with them.

Oh yes. It was quite nice. And then we
moved to where we are now. We’d been in Dunstable for 35 years. We decided that
we were both coming up to retirement, proper retirement this time, and we would
buy a place here before we actually retired, so we could get used to it. I’d
only been here two days, and my sister, who was a practice manager in a surgery
phoned me up and said did I want a job as a receptionist, because she was a
receptionist down, and I said, “Yeh, OK, I’ll do it.” Part-time, again. I said,
“When will you want me?” and she said, “Tomorrow.” (Laughs) So I worked at the
doctor’s surgery doing reception work. Part of the work I did was packing up
pills, prescriptions and things for people. And I worked there until I was 60
and retired. I retired properly then.

It
must have been quite a difference, coming from the South East, Dunstable, and
then coming up to Norfolk. Did you choose it because you’d been on holiday?

My sister actually lived here and we
used to come and visit. Dunstable by that time got really – it was a dodgy
place to live then. There was a lot of crime going on. You lived as though you
were in the Bastille! You wouldn’t go upstairs and leave your back door
unlocked, for instance, that type of thing. We decided we didn’t want that in
our retirement so we wanted somewhere quieter. So we found the place that we
are in now, and it was like going back 30 years. That suited us.

From
being the “little woman” to respect at work (The Tale of the Trolley)

That’s
your working life. So what do you think were the most important things that
changed from starting off at the Gas Board in 1957 and working in the doctor’s
surgery?

I think the change is … attitudes to
women, definitely the attitude to women. Whether they wanted to change that is
another matter, but you were treated previously as a second-class citizen. No
two ways about that. You were treated as the little woman. You’re only a secretary,
what else do you want? That type of attitude. Whereas now people are treated as
equals, not only financially, but in terms of being spoken to. So there is
that, and there is obviously going from the typewriter – the old fashioned
sit-up-and-beg, bash the typewriter, to a computer, which made life very much
easier. Not such hard work. It was hard work pounding the typewriter. It was
quite manual. And obviously using a computer isn’t. Although I was reluctant to
start with I am really glad that I did learn it.

And
what about the money. Obviously it was better, you were doing a more
responsible job, but even so.

Oh yes, the money was fantastic. When
I finally left Vauxhall I was I suppose, you’d call me a general supervisor, I
had about four different departments working for me and there must have been
30-odd people. So I’ve gone from a very humble shorthand-typist who wasn’t very
good at shorthand to well, a really responsible job. Which was lovely. Because,
going back, when I was at school I didn’t learn to read until I was seven and I
found out later in life that I was dyslexic. But of course in those days people
used to tell you you were thick. (Laughs) so I’ve had a good interesting
working life. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve always been a worker; I find now quite
strange. I’ve stopped the voluntary work as well, [15 years for Victim
Support].

[Later, the contributor added the following to
the transcript:]

Whilst I was working on the Typing
Pool at Vauxhall, it used to be that the Tea Trolley was delivered by the
Canteen Staff into the basement and then two girls from the Typing Pool would
go and get it ready for Tea Break.

The trolley was very heavy, it had a
large tea urn on it full of tea, all the cups and saucers and a variety of food
stuffs, it had to be manhandled into the lift and then wheeled to our part of
the office. This office was a big open plan office approximately half a mile
long the girls then had to deal with the selling of the tea and food, collect
the money and after tea break was over take the trolley back to the basement,
having missed their own tea break.

The girls got fed up with doing this
as none of the men would help or take a turn and said ‘it was women’s work’. We
decided that the following week we would refuse to go and get the trolley, we
all brought our flasks in and sandwiches etc. when tea break came we just sat
there and took our tea break, the men were furious and kept berating us to go
and get the trolley, our response was ‘get it yourselves’. This went on all
week and none of the men would go for the trolley and so went without. The
problem was finally resolved when the Management decided that the trolley was
to be dealt with by canteen staff, so we women won the day.

This was the general attitude taken by
the men to the females who worked.

I also forgot to say that I was born
with Occulta Spina Bifida which results in constant and awful back pain. All
during my working life I never took time off from work due to this and when I
hear nowadays that people are off work with back pain I do wonder if they
really know what pain is. If we didn’t go to work we didn’t get paid.

Comments are closed.