Can you tell me where you were born?
Well, I was born in Norwich actually. In 1944.
And can you tell me where you went to school?
I went to school, first of all to the Dowson School on Bignold Road. No, the Dowson School on Valpy Avenue. I went up to the Norman Senior School, secondary modern, and I left school in 1958, I think. Went onto British Railways as a porter and after a while we got made redundant at British Railways.
The railway porter
Were they making a lot of people redundant?
They were making a lot of people redundant then,
Was that when all the railways were closing?
Yeah, that was, around about that time.
Did you like working on the railways?
I did actually, I used to like when the London trains come in, because we used to get more tips then!
So you’d go and meet people?
You’d go and meet people with a trolley sort of thing, off the London train. And the tips and that we used to pool and then share them.
What were the pay and conditions like when you started?
Pay then, I was on three pound a week.
I get more than that in pension now! I was on three pounds a week.
And did that seem like quite a lot of money, then?
Well, that was quite a lot of money then.
What sort of hours did you work?
All sorts of hours, actually. We used to do split shifts, shiftwork.
Did you do night shifts?
We did do night shifts, the early morning shift (six till two that was), and then after six till two was nights, and onto two till ten then, after the nights.
What did you do on nights?
The paper trains come in.
The Milk Marketing Board
You unloaded things?
Unloaded things, yeah. And actually I went to the Milk Marketing Board after I got made redundant. My father worked there as well. They called him Darkie H.
Why was that?
In the summertime he didn’t used to go brown, he used to go nearly black! Same as me. Me and my older sister are more like my dad and then my other sisters are more like me mum. (Shows photo.)
That’s your mum over there?
He was “Darkie”. What did he work at there?
He worked there on the dock. Unloading tankers …
Is that by the river? Oh, they just called it the dock, where the lorries came in. I did interview somebody who was a lorry driver, I think he did tell me that. So he was unloading it all?
Would that be T. the lorry driver?
No, this was P. So did your dad put a word in, or did he tell you there was a job going?
He put a word in for me actually. I went down and had an interview there, and got the job.
I bet you were pleased!
I was pleased I got the job as soon as I was made redundant. I didn’t have to touch my redundancy money.
So you did get redundancy money in those days?
Yeah, a little.
Still you didn’t have to touch that, that’s very good news.
Then I started there for about twelve pound a week – that was quite a good increase actually.
But then you didn’t get your tips.
I didn’t get any tips though! [Laughs]
What did you do when you started there?
I worked in what they call the creamery. Used to have to load up the bottles in the bottling hall and work in the cold store. Then they opened the yogurt room and I worked in the yogurt room for the rest of my time there.
What did you do there? Was it mainly loading things?
No. Making yogurt.
What was that like?
That worked fine, actually. We used to go in really early on a Friday night so we could get a weekend off. We used to go in more or less all Friday night really, and from there, Friday nights, we used to leave off and then go down for our breakfast down the cattle market.
And then you kind of had the weekend off? So you could work it ..?
And we had the whole weekend at home.
That was pretty good, then.
They allowed us to do that ‘cos we used to get a bit of a hand in the works, sort of thing.
What did you actually do in the yogurt …?
There used to be some culture in churns and whatnot, all different flavours, like strawberry, raspberry. We used to make yogurts for Marks and Spencers. We used to … there was a lot of lifting actually, yeah. It ran through the machine into the little pots.
So the machine did that? You had to lift the stuff out?
The machine did that, yeah. There were supposed to be two of you lift the churn and that into the container where the pots were going round and being filled up. I was like my dad, I was fairly strong. I did a lot of weightlifting. I couldn’t do it now! I used to do a lot of weightlifting, and I used to lift them up on my own and that. Then the churns used to go off onto the dock there. There was a churn washing machine sort of thing.
That washed them automatically?
That washed them automatically, yes.
So was the yogurt, was a lot of that done by machine?
A lot of it was done by machine. They also made cheese and that as well. We also … that was so long ago that I was there. I used to help my father on the dock sometimes.
Lifting and things?
With the tankers and that. We used to get inside the tankers sometimes and wash them out. That was a hot job, actually, hot inside there.
It was a bit of a smelly job, too?
That was a smelly job, yeah. Had to have a bath when you got home.
That’s the only trouble about working with milk and cheese and things like that. It just gets a bit smelly! That’s not the best job, really. Was it a big place when you started there?
The Milk Marketing Board? Yeah, that was. You know where Tesco’s is, at Harford Bridge? That used to be a little bungalow there as well where the manager lived.
Actually there, where Tesco’s is? The factory?
That’s where the factory was, ‘cos, they pulled it all down and built Tesco’s.
And when you started there?
When I started there, I only lived up the road.
So that’s brilliant.
Only lived up the road from there. It took me about a quarter of an hour to get to work, actually.
Did you find it a friendly place to work? Did you know a lot of people?
Yeah it was a very friendly place to work, a very friendly place. They used to have a dinner and dance up at the Norwood Rooms every year, sort of thing.
I heard from P., he said it was his favourite job.
Yeah, it was my favourite job.
People looked after each other, the managers weren’t too bad.
The managers weren’t too bad. They used to give you a drink at Christmas.
Was it mainly men working there? Or women as well?
Women worked here as well, in the offices. And there were women in the cheese room and that. We used to have women open all the tins of flavours for the yogurt.
What did you like most about working there?
Well, the camaraderie, mainly. Friendliness of the people.
Did you get a meal at lunchtime? Or you were on shifts …
On shifts … they had a canteen. My mother worked in the canteen sometimes.
Did you work shifts there? Or did it depend?
It depended how things were going. Or you could take sandwiches and that and eat them in the rest room sort of thing.
Did you like that job as well? Cleaning out the …
Did you find it changed while you were there? The job itself?
The job itself, towards the end when I got made redundant it started to change a bit, actually. It changed a bit more then. They modernised their cold store and that. They had some forklifts …
To do a lot of the lifting?
To do a lot of the lifting, yeah. Because when the milk churns come down the chute into the cold store and that they’re quite heavy. When you get them up on the barrow and load them … all done by hand. Then forklifts came along. It took a lot of the work away.
So did you think, oh well, there might be some redundancies?
I did have an idea that there might be, yeah.
So how did it happen? Did it close down?
They closed the yogurt room down, actually, and the cheese room. The other part went on for a little while.
Why did it close down?
I don’t know.
Because the yogurts were very popular.
Yeah, they were very popular. I used to like the natural ones. I used to make strawberry and raspberry and well.
Could you have some to take home?
You could buy at a reduced price.
So you were made redundant there. that must have been a bit of a blow.
That was a bit of a blow, yeah.
On all sorts of levels, if you liked it. your friends and things.
Yeah, in people’s cars down to the cattle market to have our breakfast, sort of thing.
You had breakfast there?
Yeah that’s all gone now. It’s the big B&Q there now, isn’t it? ‘Cos that used to be the Norfolk Dumpling, where we used to have our breakfast. People I worked with’s cars. And then we used to go back and finish up and then clock out till Monday then. A full weekend off, yeah.
So you were fancy free!
Yeah. Mind you I was married then. I did marry while I was down there.
From the Milk Marketing Board?
No, someone I met … I used to go out with a mate I met in the army and we used to go down to Yarmouth and that quite a lot. Then me mate introduced me to this girl. That was it. Got married and I have got a son as well. But I hardly ever see him now because we split up and they moved up north somewhere. I don’t think about them now. It was a long time ago.
At the Milk Marketing Board, you had been there about 13 years?
Thirteen years, yes.
And that was about the same on the railways, 13 years.
No that wasn’t quite as long there. I was there for about 9 years I think.
I was thinking about what year … roughly?
I left school in ’58, [so the late ‘80s]
Mackintoshes and then Brooks meat
So that was a time of recession then?
Yeah. I worked up at Mackintoshes.
How did you get to work there?
I used to go up the job centre and have a look and I see this job for Mackintoshes. They were interviewing at where they are … Chapelfield. They were interviewing there. So I went for an interview there and then a little while afterwards I got the job.
And what were you doing there?
Packing chocolates actually.
Were you on a sort of conveyor belt, or were you packing the boxes?
I was on a forklift actually. On the forklift and take them up to … loading lorries and that.
How did you find that? Had you driven a forklift before?
How did you get on with that?
I got on ok with it, actually.
Did they train you?
They didn’t train me, but I weren’t there for long. I got made redundant again.
It was just that time, when things were closing. Was that the time when the factory was closing down completely?
Yes, it was when the factory closed down. And from there I went to … I got a night job at Brooks’s, the meat people. Little Melton. That’s where I finished my time off, actually Brooks’s.
And what were you doing there?
I was in the what they call the tray wash. Where they come in to like a big cold store and a big washer in there, where we washed all the trays out. They were full of blood and that from the meat, we had to wash them through a machine, sort of thing.
So it was hot water?
Very hot water.
That sounds quite a tough job.
That was a tough job. We used to have big gloves on, up to here. Rubber gloves, big thick rubber gloves. You can’t feel your fingers when you put them on.
You just get gradually used to things?
Yes, to the hoses and things.
So it was mainly the hoses that do the cleaning, not your hands?
Yes. Washing the band saws and that down.
So did you do that with your hands? Obviously not.
No, that was pressure washing.
That was another pressure washing thing.
We used to wash our own cars as well! Put all foam and that on the cars – foam ‘em all up and it used to take the paint off your cars, but it used to give ‘em a good clean!
That was a perk!
It was a perk, yes.
It was quite tough doing nights. Did you have to do nights the whole time?
That was nights the whole time. But that weren’t too bad at nights though, from 6 o’clock at night to 2 in the morning.
So it wasn’t the whole night.
But we used to get paid for the whole night, actually.
So the pay made up for it. When you got home, you did get a night’s sleep
Yeah, when you got home you did get a night’s sleep.
How did you find working there, then?
I found it quite good actually, they were friendly people again down there.
I suppose, if you are working nights, you are with your group, your gang …
You get on with your job and that. It is sort of a bit lonely, really. But we used to meet up on weekends sort of thing, and go out for a drink together.
So when you were doing your job at night in the cold store, cleaning things, were there two of you, or were you just you own doing it?
There was two of us in there, actually.
Did you find that affected your skin or anything?
I’ve got sensitive skin, actually. I mustn’t have no … if I put a plaster on that turn septic.
Were you alright with that?
Yes we were well protected.
So you were pleased really to have that job?
We used to have a big rubber apron, and gloves and that again. Didn’t need the gloves really, ‘cos that was pressure washing … more like watering the garden sort of thing!
So once you got used to that … quite a hard job, though …
That was quite a hard job. Steamy.
Perhaps a bit smelly.
That was a bit smelly, actually
It’s who you’re working with a lot, isn’t it. With a good group, in a way it doesn’t matter what you do, if you can have a laugh …
We worked as a sort of a team. Us two in the cold store and that. We worked as a team, so that was a help.
Not too far away is it, Little Melton.
No, that’s not too far away, they had a free bus go up there. Mind you I used to drive then so I used to go in my car and I used to pick another bloke up on the estate where I lived. I used to pick another bloke up there and he used to give me petrol money and that.
Brilliant idea. I’ll just see if there are any other things I want to ask you. Your pay, when you started off you were on that £3 a week … so you saw a big change really from when you started off.
Yeah. Twelve pound a week down the Milk Marketing Board.
So you carried on at Brooks’s until you retired.
And how was your health there? Were they good about looking after you if you were ill or anything?
No, we didn’t use to get paid if we were sick. What I done, I used to have an insurance man come where I lived and I done an insurance whereby if you’re in hospital you get paid and if you end up ill from work, they pay you a lump sum. That was a good thing. I’ve got my private pensions and whatnot.
And did you have to retire with your health, or did you carry straight through?
I actually retired through my Parkinson’s actually.
So you were glad of those insurance policies.
I was glad of them. Then you get the old age pension.
Do you have a long day?
Well, you’re the only one I’m doing today. The other people are all away. All gone on holiday! So the pension from the Milk Marketing Board must be good! I don’ know … they just happen to be away at the moment. I can’t do any more. I’m doing one next week.
It is quite a good pension.
Looking back on all the jobs you’re done, what would you say was the best memories?
The best memories are from the Milk Marketing Board.
Really, just because of the people you were working with, and the way it was run?
What do you think was good about the way that place was run, then?
Well, the management was really fair sort of thing, you know. How they treated you as well. You couldn’t wish for a better management really. … They didn’t expect too much of us. As long as you got your job done.
They didn’tmind if it wasn’t exactly on the dot .., so if you finished …
If you finished early, if anyone was behind sort of thing, you would go and help them, and they’d help you.
What were the low points in …
Low points? Nothing. I enjoyed the jobs I’ve done because when I start a job I like to finish it, sort of thing.
I suppose being redundant was the worst thing …
Getting redundant was the worst bit, yeah. And that was when my marriage split up and I was at the Milk Marketing Board. But that’s all forgotten.
Would you say, looking back on your working life, would you say things changed for the better during that time? Things like health and safety and conditions and things?
Things have changed for the better. Since I’ve been retired and all, I find it a lot better, financially as well.
What about things like health and safety. Did that improve? Did you feel when you started you were put in any risky situations?
No, not really.
You weren’t expected to work too long hours without breaks?
No, there was nothing like that.
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