Dairy Days

Location : Norwich

Shops and shoes in Norwich

My working life began in 1961. My very first job was at a company called Curl’s Wholesale, which existed on the Haymarket in the centre of Norwich city. As a wholesaler they sold all manner of household goods for retail sales at a later stage. My original job was not only to sell to the retailers but also pack up the goods, which was not a very pleasant job because it was a very musty and dusty old building. It exists now where C&A and Top Shop are, next door to St Peter Mancroft church. And that was my very first job. I only stayed there three months because it wasn’t good for my health. Being an asthma sufferer, the dust collected on all these household goods, which included blankets, sheeting, carpets, all manner of textiles. So consequently they did gather a certain amount of dust, even if it was only on the packets. So I left that one.

Once I left the wholesale warehouse, I then went on to retail shoes, and my love of shoes has continued from there. But my experiences were quite good, I enjoyed being a salesman, I enjoyed meeting people and selling the shoes. Again we had rather a dusty old building which existed in Gentleman’s Walk, only a stone’s throw from where I originally started work. I then had at this premises a whole number of stairs … it was a four-storey building and the stock was held on the very top floor. So it was running up and down these steps, which again, with my asthma, was not terribly good. So with that, after another three months, a very enjoyable three months, I then moved on to another retail shoe shop which was in St Stephen’s, it was in the old St Stephen’s, long before the redevelopment we know now, which didn’t include such stores as British Home Stores and Iceland and places like that. The Co-op was there and we were virtually alongside the Co-op.

The shoeshop was Trueform – no, the original one I worked for was Trueform’s – this one was Tyler’s Shoes, which in actual fact were an Irish company although their head office was in Northampton. But yes, again, I had a very pleasant few years there selling shoes, enjoying the new stock coming in each day and of course we were going through a very, very fashionable time. We had the Beatles coming into fruition then, so we had pointed-toe shoes and Beatles jackets to go with them, as it were, and we had all the ladies’ … we had a metallic finish in those days, bronze metallic finished shoes were very, very popular in those days. White shoes for men were very popular with their very, very winkle-picker toes; beetle crushers or teddy boy shoes had then gone out of fashion, and we had more Italian shoes as well, which was very enjoyable. It was a great period to be in shoes and of course at that time Norwich was a huge shoe-maker. It was very relevant, although most of our shoes came from Northampton – coals to Newcastle as it were! It was still a good period to be in the shoe trade but being retail, the wages were very poor, and my first wages were three pounds per week. When I went to Tyler’s they went up to three pounds twelve shillings per week, which in old money of course is about £3.50 – £3.60. But of course everything is relevant and it was much cheaper to live in those days than what it is today.

From there when they redeveloped St Stephen’s the shop was closed and I was offered alternative employment by Tyler’s in Northern Ireland, which I am afraid I declined because of the troubles with the IRA at the time, the political struggles that people were going through in Northern Ireland. I felt it wasn’t the place for me, so sadly I took leave of Tyler’s and I spent a couple of years in manufacturing – that was 1964,’65, I can’t remember exactly, but round about ’64-’65. I went into manufacturing and took a job on as a trainee pattern-cutter and shoe designer and I started my time at Norwich City College to study shoe design.

But again it was not sufficiently profitable for me, I had a lady friend – a girlfriend – and we were saving to get married and there just wasn’t enough money to enable me to do that so I moved on once again and went on the buses and became a bus driver for a short period of time!

The Milk Marketing Board bottling department

Again, once I was married it wasn’t possible to maintain the hours comfortably with my new family existence so consequently again I moved and went into the job that maintained me for the majority of my working life, which was at the Milk Marketing Board. The Milk Marketing Board had a dairy on the Ipswich Road, on the A140 at Harford Bridge and was known as the Harford Bridge Dairy. And the dairy was opened in 1937, specifically for the purpose of taking in excess milk produced by farmers in Norfolk and north Suffolk and it had become a very well established dairy and it had a creamery attached and a buttery attached. So when I first went there they were still making butter. It had a yogurt department which was then becoming the thing, and again it was very, very fashionable with regard to food. We were then moving into yogurts. We had a large plain yogurt department where we just made simple ordinary plain yogurt for our Asian customers and then of course we developed fruit-flavoured yogurts for which the dairy won many, many prizes.

What did you do there?

Well, I didn’t actually work in either of those. I worked in the bottling department and it was very noisy, it was quite hard work, it was very manual when I started. Yes, bottling milk, it was very manual when I started. I originally worked on the dock unloading and loading vehicles. What we did was unload the empty bottles that had been returned to the dairy, dirty bottles effectively, in great big metal crates and they were all metal in those days, they weren’t plastic ones like they are now, and they were full height bottles, not like the little dumpy bottles that people will expect on their doorstep these days – those few people that have deliveries these days. We used to have to barrow them off, with a specially developed barrow – barrow it off the lorry, onto the dock and there we would set it in front of a colleague who would then proceed to throw it down on a roller system, slide it down on a roller system into the bottling hall, and there it would be unloaded mechanically by a special machine that had 20 heads for picking up the bottles. So it clamped the bottle, it picked it up, went across the conveyor system and dropped it onto another conveyor system which the bottles then gradually fed into the back of the washer; and the bottles would be turned upside down and then jet-sprayed into the bottle to clean the bottles through the various stages – of course you had various stages. You had alkaline washes and then you acid washes and then rinses, and then of course the bottles would come out nice and sparkling and clean at the other end.

Once at the other end they would then continue round the conveyor to a bottling machine. Each bottling machine was a big round piece of stainless steel, a big stainless steel tank that went round in a circle, was driven round like a merry-go-round, like a carousel, and the bottles would gradually feed onto a pedestal and spring up into a rubber connector. Then the milk would feed into the bottle and once it had finished its filling it would come off the carousel and back onto a conveyor and then lifted back into the crate in a reverse …

Yes, they were capped, we had the foil caps which were cut as the machine went round – a nuisance they were as well, because the foil was always breaking and so everything had to be stopped and set up again. All fed through and of course on top of the bottle tops you had the date and the stamps and the name of the dairy embossed into the foil. That was done as the cap was being ejected down a little chute to be put onto the bottle top. And yes, they were constantly breaking and they used to cost us quite some time because it wasn’t that high-tech – not by today’s standards. But it worked and we used to have a nice product come out at the end of it. But yes, in a reverse into the way they were taken out of the crate then they were replaced back into the crate. And then they went down a chute and it all became manual again then …

Did they do different varieties – like full-cream and …?

Yes, but we only had the two. When I started in 1968 we just had the two types of milk, and that was full-cream ordinary milk, silver-top milk, and of course gold-top milk, which was Channel Island milk – but not Channel Island milk, it doesn’t come from the Channel Islands of course, it comes from cattle that were originally bred in the Channel Islands, Jerseys and Guernseys, which had a higher percent of butterfat contained within the milk. Ordinary milk is about three and a half percent butterfat, but of course Channel Island milk is nearer five percent, and it has a substance within it known as carotene, which you will probably have heard of. As its name would suggest it gives the colour of carrots, it gives it that orangey-golden yellow colour that you get with Jersey or Guernsey milk – or even Red Poll milk, which we don’t have in this area. Red Poll is another breed of cattle from which you will get high butterfat yield. So we did have just those two when I started. Then as time went on all of the milk that was separated for cream (which was then used either for ordinary cream sales, household cream, double cream, whipping cream, or for butter) – all of the skim in those days was a by-product and it was sold for pig feed at 10p a gallon! Ten p a gallon – it was sold off as pig feed. Because nobody wanted skim, it was absolutely a by-product that nobody wanted. We didn’t have this health and fitness regime that we have these days, it was to come later, but in those days it didn’t exist. The only other thing we had was the little third-pints that we did for schools, which were a bit of a novelty because all of the equipment, basically the lifting equipment, had to be changed. We had different sets of heads because where you had 20 pints in an ordinary crate, with the little ones we had 30 bottles in a crate, and we had to actually have different heads to actually pick the bottles out and put them on the conveyor system. So that was a bit of a palaver [laughs].

What was your involvement?

At that stage, my involvement was quite limited. It was limited to being on the dock and either barrowing the crates off the lorry, or throwing them down the conveyor – or else being at the other end of the process, the final end of the process, and stacking them up after they came off full, into stacks of five and then wheeling them into the cold-store, where they would then stay probably for a couple or three hours when they would be required to go on a wholesale lorry, where the lorry would then distribute the milk to private dairymen again of which there are so few now. Quite a lot – every village in those days had its own dairyman and he would buy his milk from the Milk Marketing Board – and it was called the Milk Marketing Board then, and then he would deliver under his own name. He was selling a product that was marketed by the Milk Marketing Board but he had virtually a franchise and he would sell it under his own name, but as Milk Marketing Board milk.

Working conditions and labour relations

But of course as time went on we had a “disagreement”, as it were, and the Norwich Dairy has the infamous history of being one of the few industries, or companies in this part of the country, in Norfolk, that actually suffered a strike.

What were your hours at the dairy?

We did 42 hours a week then. Six days rota-ed over seven, so we had to work every weekend. Our hours varied to exactly what job you were involved in. My hours at that particular time were seven till three o’clock in the afternoon, something like that.

An hour for lunch?

You had a half-hour for lunch. You only had two weeks holiday – that’s all we had, two weeks holiday and that was your lot. And you had to take it during the summer. You didn’t have four or five weeks like you do today. By the time I got there my wages were £11and twelve shillings. So this was a vast increase on what I had been earning. There was lots of overtime, which was one of the attractions of the job. So it was not impossible to earn £17 or £18 a week, which was a very, very good income by then. It was quite a useful income which enabled me to support my family more comfortably.

This strike actually lasted for … it was about pay, but it was about pay for drivers as opposed to the dairy workers but because the unions were involved together and there were two active unions, the TGWU (the Transport and General Workers Union) and USDAW, the Union of Shop Distributors and Allied Workers … They did work together, and in actual fact they were representing both parties so the dairy did come out in support of the drivers. This caused much consternation, obviously, between management and workers, extra staff were brought in from other dairies, people came in from the local farms to get their milk in and out, because it had to be collected. There was no way … a cow will not say, “oh well, they don’t want any more milk today, I don’t think I’ll bother producing any”! It wouldn’t matter which day it was, whether it was Christmas Day , a strike, or whatever, because they had got to produce their milk.

What year was this?

This was 1969. It did cause problems between families as well. Because different families who had members working there, some agreed with the strike and some didn’t.

So again there were problems caused by individual actions.

And you didn’t get any money when you were on strike?

We got strike money from the union. But it wasn’t enough to live on. It was £3 a week that we got as strike money. We didn’t get anything from social services or whatever it was called in those days. So I personally, my father-in-law was a coal merchant and although I refused to break the picket line, I didn’t refuse to work. And I went and worked for him part-time so that would enable me to carry on supporting my family, which was my priority. Although I was happy to be in the Union and live by the Union’s rules, which was democratic, consequently I was prepared to go on strike I didn’t agree with it wholly. But as a member of the Union, it was democratic, so I agreed to follow their guidelines and went on strike. But it wouldn’t have allowed me to support my family, which as I say, was my priority. So I did, I humped some coal about. Which was very, very hard work. I thought I’d been working hard, barrowing great big crates of milk around, but that wasn’t so physical because although the milk was heavy it wasn’t actually lifted by me personally. All I had to do was push the barrow that it was on and lift it onto my body. I actually had to lift it off the lorry and dump it in people’s coal cellars or whatever. So that was quite hard work.

But fortunately, it was resolved and we did obviously all go back to work. Once we had got back to work we then started negotiations for a different pay structure for the dairy workers as well, that would in fact enable them to earn more income without necessarily doing any more work. It was a clever idea, it was one of which I wholly approved and helped to negotiate the final figures. And through doing so, although I wasn’t a union representative at the time, I was requested to sit on the party that did negotiate with the union, and I helped to negotiate a new wage structure, which was a job-and-finish structure, which meant that you still got paid “x” number of hours but you did it in the shortest time possible and most efficient manner possible. Because, unlike other industries of course, we had to have our products in and out of the dairy within 24 hours, because of its nature. So to get people to do the job much quicker made the whole thing more efficient, not only in terms of the product but in terms of electricity saving, of power saving and utilities, water saving. If you got the job done quicker you weren’t using those things, so there was a saving there which enabled them to pay us back, as it were, for the extra work or the extra vigilance that we carried out in doing the job and so they could improve the salary as a kind of reward for that.

We also had a bonus structure that was based on the quality of the cleaning. So with lab results we had a structure that enabled people to get paid according to the quality of the work that they were doing. So if we had very clean bottles coming out of the bottling machine, but we had poor quality milk going into those bottles because the tanks hadn’t been cleaned properly or whatever, then the person cleaning the tanks would be penalised but the guy who had the nice clean washer, wouldn’t. So that was a very, very good system and quite modern for that time. It was forward-thinking. But then, the Milk Marketing Board was a forward-thinking company.

Health and safety

It also had at that time, in 1972, they had their first safety committee. Long before health and safety laws became applicable; we had our first safety committee where we looked at various problems around the dairy, one of which was noise. With bottles it was an enormous problem and lots of people did suffer hearing disabilities later on in life because they had no ear-defenders. But in actual fact we managed to bring in ear-defenders long before it was required by law. As I say, they were a forward-thinking company, but lots of people suffered hearing difficulties later on in life through the constant barrage of noise.

One of the experiences that we had there was when the clean bottles went down the conveyor they were still inspected for possible faults, or dirt, or foreign bodies. Foreign bodies was a favourite! People do all sorts of strange things with milk bottles – or did in those days – as I say, we don’t have so many bottles delivered these days as we don’t have the dairies in the localities now like we used to. People would put toys in. They would use them for paint, we found them with screws in, obviously.

The dirty ones that came in?

That’s right. So we had a man sitting on the conveyor in front of an opaque screen watching these bottles go past, about 240 pints a minute … (laughs) So he would effectively be mesmerised or almost (in a trance). He would be hypnotised, that’s the word I’m looking for, he would be virtually hypnotised by the bottles going past and he would nod off, especially a couple of guys in particular, a couple of the older guys who really were perhaps a little bit too old to do that particular job and keep that degree of attention. They would nod off, and I’ve actually seen one virtually fall off the stool because he’d nodded off because he’d virtually been hypnotised by watching those bottles. Now, of course, again, they have clever electronic ones with all kinds of rays and x-rays, and all kind of things now. As you say, sensors. So that hasn’t to be manually done any more. But, yes, that was a problem. And we had a supervisor at the time who would get quite annoyed about people nodding off and much to people’s displeasure, he did throw the occasional bottle at them. Not intending to hit them, but at least to smash the bottle and actually wake that person up. Not a very good idea.

Was there a lot of broken glass around?

There was always broken glass around, yes. Because glass is a wonderful medium, I wish we used it more today as a returnable item, it can be cleaned and it can be used, but the average bottle has a lifespan of about 20 to 25 trips. It does deteriorate, glass does deteriorate. If you leave a glass bottle out for a long time then you will see a deterioration. Obviously it gets the weather to it and it does deteriorate. So, of course, put them into a hot washer and then coming out the other end they would shatter, so we did have lots of glass, cullet as it’s called. Broken glass is called “cullet”. And we had a special man who used to actually come and pick it up on a regular basis – pick up the cullet every week, of which there would have been several tons. He would take away, take the glass, and of course it would be recycled again. It would all be reused. Yes, there was always lots of glass around. Cuts were always a danger, within the industry, but surprisingly enough you get quite used to handling broken glass and I’m still able to. I’m still able to handle broken glass without cutting myself, because you do learn the techniques of approaching the problem and the manner in which it is best to pick glass up. It is just a technique you have to learn because if not you finish up being cut all the time.

So you don’t wear safety gloves?

No, we didn’t wear gloves at that particular time. I don’t know if they do now. We did wear gloves, but not within the bottling hall. We wore gloves out on the dock, for the barrowing off, throwing all these crates about, we wore those big old red rubber gloves, do you remember those? They bring back memories! That was one thing that was quite amusing – the guys nodding off watching the bottles go past. That was quite funny.

Where does milk come from?

Visits were always a cause for amusement. We used to have lots of visits from schools, WI units, even the nurses came and saw us at the dairy and saw the processes that went on. And they were always a source of humour. Children those days were no different from children today. There were lots of them who you could say, “Where does your milk come from?” and they would say, “Oh, the milkman.” They wouldn’t have said a cow, because lots of them didn’t know milk came from cows. Alternatively, those that did know that milk came from cows would say, “Where are the cows, then?” Because they expected us to keep cows on site. And strangely enough, on rare occasions, because we were next door virtually to the abattoir, cows did escape and they did get into the dairy premises, not actually into the dairy, but into the dairy site. Which was quite an amusement for most people. They came to the right place, they knew where they were really wanted, not at the abattoir, bless ‘em. But yes, children really did think that we had cows, and lots of them didn’t actually know that it came from cows, some of the city children. Although I don’t think that it is quite as bad in this area perhaps as it is in some of the metropolis cities of London and Manchester and places like that. Yes, half of our fun was when we had visits come round. People were allowed to go and look in a special viewing gallery. We had a special viewing gallery where people could actually overlook, without actually going into the dairy itself, could overlook and actually see the bottles going round and all the plants running, all the processes.

And they could see the churns coming in, because in 1968 milk was still coming in in churns. We had a few bulk tankers but most of it was aluminium churns. Which again needed a lot of manual handling and there were special techniques which you had to learn very quickly, if not you spilled a few gallons, because you’d lost the churn. It had rolled away from you and you lost it. You did cry over spilt milk because you got severely reprimanded for wastage, which was one of the manager’s main concerns, what his wastage was going to be.

But as for me personally, after being involved in the negotiations and also being part of the safety committee, I was approached by the manager, and he said, “Look, it’s fairly obvious to us that you’ve got reasonable abilities and would you consider going to college?” And I said, “Well, yes, of course I’d like to further my career if I could”, and they sent me to college. I did have to go to night school because at the time I hadn’t achieved any qualifications in terms of GCE’s. We didn’t have GCSE’s, as they do today, so you either left with nothing, or you left with GCE’s and I hadn’t achieved any GCE’s. So I went to night school and got them instead. I went to Thorpe, the Thorpe Grammar School, night classes and did ‘O’ level English, History, and Language, and Literature, and for my own pleasure I did ‘O’ level Art, but that was purely for me. But that was sufficient to get me into college as a sponsored student. So I had an advantage over other students in that I was sponsored and I had a salary of course. So it made me a rich student as well. But as I was being sponsored and my position was being paid for, I wasn’t required to have quite as many GCE’s as perhaps an ordinary entry would have had to have. But having said that, I did go on to study food and dairy technology, and achieved all four disciplines with either a credit or a pass, which the company was very pleased about, so their money was well spent.

And from there I went on to be a senior supervisor and oversee the plant that I had been so involved with earlier. Even became a forklift driver at one point, because the idea of barrowing all the products off and round about was getting a bit old hat then and so forklifts were introduced to replace the barrows. Specially adapted forklift trucks, but they would lift nine times the amount that a human being could move, shall I say. Nine times what the average man could move. So of course they didn’t really replace people, but they made the job much, much easier. More efficient. And again of course there were savings there to be had.

And then of course we went into dumpy bottles! And dumpy bottles were a bit of a revelation. Again they saved huge amounts of money because they needed less glass, they were smaller so you could actually stack them higher, and of course they were much, much lighter, as were the plastic crates in which they lived. You could get more on a lorry. That in itself was a huge economical boost to the industry and made things much, much smoother, much less time-consuming, so there were great economic benefits all round and benefits handling-wise for the staff – made the job easier. As you said, more effective, all round. So we were going through a very, very good patch at that particular time.

Then we went onto … we started getting demand for homogenised milk, where the milk is put under pressure and the butterfat is broken down into very, very tiny particles and it is distributed evenly – which is what the word “homogenised” means, even distribution – throughout the milk. So you didn’t have cream at the top. We would get more and more demands for that, especially for milk machines. For bulk milk machines that you saw in cafés, where they didn’t have to worry about cream settling or have an agitator within a bowl. I’m sure some older people would have remembered those, the big glass or big plastic bowls with an agitator inside to keep the milk stirred in order to prevent the cream from rising. So homogenised milk did that without need of an agitator. So yes, we went into homogenised milk, which was recognised as the red-top milk and then as people got more and more health conscious we got into skimmed milk and semi-skimmed milk. One of course is left principally in the separator longer than the other, the longer you leave it, the more fat you take out of it. It’s a centrifugal force system where the milk is sprayed to the outside of the vessel and the cream stays in the middle. You draw the cream off separately and the skim milk is – was – a waste product and is now a real benefit, well valued. And for those that didn’t want to go quite as far as having completely skimmed milk without virtually any butterfat, they could then have semi-skim which of course is less than half of the normal butterfat, which is about 1.6 percent butterfat as opposed to 3 ½ percent.

And again all these things were a great boost. But in the meantime we were cutting our own throats because we were doing deals with supermarkets. And we moved into the carton area.

In the dairy, where you worked, was there a canteen or anything?

Oh yes, we had full canteen facilities. We had an excellent canteen. Again, as I say, the Milk Marketing Board was a very, very good company to work for and it became Dairy Crest. By a directive from the EEC it had to be established as a self-managing business, detached from the Milk Marketing Board to enable it to be competitive with other businesses that were not involved with the Milk Marketing Board itself – private companies. The Milk Marketing Board of course was owned by farmers, it wasn’t ever owned by the government. The prices were controlled by the government but the Milk Marketing Board was not controlled by the government, it was controlled by the farmers. The EEC directive decided that it was against the interests of private bodies for the Milk Marketing Board to run dairying and processing units under their auspices. So it then decided that we should be a separate company.

Social activities and

But we still had a good pension scheme, and we had really, really good conditions. We had showers, lockers, full lockers and showers that we could use at any time. We had a very active sports and social club which recently has been expressed in the local newspaper because there has been a couple of reunions in which members of the old social club are very active even today. It recalled the experiences that we had at our Christmas dinners and dances, which used to hold at the Norwood Rooms, which is where Mecca Bingo is, on the Aylsham Road today. It was a dance hall in those days and it was a very popular venue. It had a capacity of about 800 to 900 people. The Milk Marketing Board was quite an extensive business, not only did we have the dairy, of course, we had quite a large number of retail depots, that in actual fact operated. We would deliver wholesale lorry milk to them and they would use their little electric floats and get it out to the retail customers on the doorstep. We had three in Norwich, one at Harford, one at Mile Cross, and the one still in existence, Witard Road in the Heartsease. But we also had retail units at North Walsham, Cromer, Sheringham, Wymondham, Halesworth, all around the county. So all of these people, of course, they all worked for the Milk Marketing Board, or Dairy Crest, as it was then, they all used to be entitled to come to the annual dinner, which the company paid for. But we supplied the entertainment, from the social club. We had the entertainment. We had such people there as Charlie Williams from The Comedians, and The Flirtations, and quite a number of quite good acts that we had as a cabaret to our dinner and dances. So that was pretty good.

So that was throughout your time there, every year?

Oh yes, throughout our time there, and even when the Norwood Rooms closed we had it at alternative venues like the Jarvis Ramada, which was then the Hotel Norwich. We had events at all of these. We did change a bit after the Norwood Rooms closed because it was getting more difficult to find venues that would hold that number of people. So yes, we did have to move round, occasionally. But yes, it occurred all the way through.

So you worked there for how many years?

I was there for twenty-three years. So it was virtually half of my working life. Yes, we had full canteen facilities, with a full menu. There was a little bit of snobbery from the management. We actually had our own dining room. Because obviously I did become management in the end. But yes we had our own dining room, but we didn’t very often use it, we used it when we had visitors. Thinking of visitors, we had a fairly VIP visit on one occasion from the local Board member, who in fact did become the leader of Norfolk County Council – but he will remain nameless! He was a well-known farmer in Norfolk, and although the experience didn’t actually happen to him personally, amongst his entourage was a guest who came and had a look round the dairy and he came to what was … an unrestricted area … It was a restricted area normally, but because he was a VIP he was pretty unrestricted as to where he could go, and one of the guys had actually set up a trap for a colleague – not for the VIP, it wasn’t intended for anyone outside the dairy, it was intended for a guy who was always playing tricks on people. They thought they’d get their own back and they put a bag of scouring powder on the top of the door – on a partially opened door. Now, the VIP was not expected to go in that area and again, had he have gone right into the area, the bag would have probably missed him. But because he put his head just through the door, the bag fell on his head! So we had this somewhat irate visitor covered in white powder and an even more irate production manager who threatened to sack the whole of the dairy staff – the bottling staff, because it happened in the bottling area. He threatened … but fortunately the culprit was never found. (Laughter) That was one of those little events that occurred.

There was much more tomfoolery in those days. It wouldn’t have been permitted today. Any such thing would have had you disciplined immediately. They would have definitely found out who it was, made more effort to find out who it was, and you would have been disciplined today. But in those days things were much, much more relaxed. As I say, you didn’t have the health and safety rules that we have. Although we were looking into aspects of health and safety we didn’t have the kind of legislation that we have today. So we did get away with a lot of things. Soakings were quite frequent. We had hoses everywhere, it was a wet process. Milk production is regarded as a wet process within the food manufacturing industry. So there were hoses everywhere and if anybody misbehaved then they were likely to get a soaking. (Laughs) And that was another consequence of messing about or playing people up, or whatever. So that was another part of the experience.

Closure of the Norwich dairy in 1990

Well, despite all the good times we had at the dairy, as very often is the case, good things have to come to an end and sadly by cutting our own throats and making sales to the supermarkets we done ourselves out of business with regards to the doorstep delivery. So demand went down, as a result of that the company decided rationalisation was required, and as a result of that rationalisation in the Eastern region – which included a dairy at Kings Lynn and a dairy at Ipswich, a dairy at Chadwell Heath in Essex, it was decided that the Norwich dairy would be closed. And sadly it was closed in 1990 and 240 jobs were lost, which was a huge blow because it was very much a family-orientated concern. They were families, which included four, or even more members of a family. I had a father with three sons working for me in my department in the actual bottling and cartoning department, and that was just one group and for me personally, it was a huge blow because my foster-father had worked there, my father-in-law worked there, my mother-in-law worked there, my wife had worked there, my best man when my wife and I got married worked there, my sister-in-law worked there, and her husband worked there. So it was that kind of place. And my daughter actually worked there. She was only a youngster at the time, but she came at weekends and helped to fill up new bottles. So it was very sad when the dairy closed. People still reminisce on a regular basis about the great days that we had at the dairy and the great times and how they changed and they are no more. And the dairy is no more. Of course, it is now Tescos…!

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