Working Lives

Counters at Jarrolds (1938-1950s)

Location: Norwich

Mary was born in Buxton, near Aylsham, in 1917, and her parents were farmers. Having attended school in Hainford Olive joined Jarrolds in 1938 at the age of 20.

I worked on the farm but I was one of these people who got bored, with just the men around. I saw an advert in the Eastern Daily Press paper and applied and that’s how it all sprung up from there.

First of all I went for a month as they have extra staff at Christmas and I was working in the chemistry department. Mr Grant the manager asked me if I would stay on, which I did, and I continued working in that department.

When I started working I was paid £11. I was expected to work from 9am -6pm, but getting nearer to Christmas we worked up to 9pm. I worked there for three to four years to start with and then there was the war so I worked with the WAAF (The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) before returning to Jarrolds after the war.

In those days there were counters which had to be dressed every day, we dressed them every morning and then every night we would have to take it all down again. We also had to fill the shelves as well, of course, as serving customers.

I worked in a team, and the dispenser was a very strict lady who told you what to do. You would always be getting into trouble because we didn’t put the counters up or dress them properly. I also worked with the chemist and a boy who had left school at 14.

John Jarrold was a little boy then and he used to come into the chemist with his mother.

Civility and writing out bills

There was so much more civility in those days, you always said ‘Yes madam’, ‘No madam’, ‘Can I help you madam?’ Not like today when you go into a shop they are talking about what they did the night before. We wouldn’t have dared to do that sort of thing. You had to give your full attention to that customer, which you did and you didn’t expect to do any different.

We wrote out bills in those days, and of course you had to add it up yourself, put it in the little tubes, air tubes and they went up to the counting house, the change would come back and we would give it to the customer. Every customer expected a receipt.

Comradeship and social life

I loved the comradeship. We were all very happy, the people were all lovely, I even got on alright with strict dispenser, she kept in touch with me, she lived to be over a hundred and died only about last year.

I was very happy and the staff were very sociable together and we used to do all sorts of things. We had whist drives in the restaurant, day trips to Lowestoft, I can’t even remember how we got there, on the coach I suppose, it really was a marvellous place to work.

My father employed all the men in the village and we weren’t allowed to associate with them. So being an only child living on the farm was lonely, I had various friends and so forth but I made lots of friends at Jarrolds and we went out in groups. I keep in touch with them, talking on the phone, letters at Christmas, there’s only three or four alive now as far as I know. I’m nearly 90 and there’s not a lot of people who live to that age. I have a friend at Hoveton, who is now in a home, she’s even older than me and we met at Jarrolds.

Everyone was friendly, you know, happy. I liked everything about it, you have to remember that I didn’t have to go. I chose to leave home and go. I enjoyed it.

Olive (b. 1917) talking to WISEArchive in February 2006.

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