From the Office to Peeling Onions (2013)

Location : West Norfolk, Norwich

I left school at the age of 15. I went to work at Melton and Sons at Beetley, and was a clerk/typist, eventually doing
the wages – at one point of over 100 employees, on a weekly basis.

That was a builder’s?

Yes. I was there for just over nine years.

Did you have any training?

The only training I had was learning to type.

And where did you learn to type?

Evening classes at what was then Dereham Secondary Modern school on Crown Road. I started learning to type in my
last term at school in 1956. I carried on for quite a while learning more.

So you started off as the office junior?

More or less. There were just the two of us; the main person there had been there some time and myself.

What hours did you do?

I worked from 8.30 to 5.30, and an hour’s break for lunch, it was only a couple of miles and I was able to
cycle home.


Yes, back then there were no other means.

I worked Monday to Friday. I did the odd Saturday morning, but I did other things at weekends.

I was there for just over nine years, and then I went to work – well I had a few weeks’ break after I left and
helped my father with the harvest. I was doing the bailing for him. He was farming at East Bilney.

And then I went to work in Norwich for F. Lambert and Son, Tea and Coffee merchants.

That was on Hay Hill, where there is now C&A.

What used to be C&A – it’s now Next!

I was there for about a year.

What did you do there?

Typing, in the main office. And then I left there and did another harvest with my father, bailing. And then I
went to work as a civilian typist at RAF Swanton Morley.

What did that involve? Not MOD secrets?

Mostly general typing and this and that. Yes I was there for about three years. Left just after I got married in 1969.

So then you had a family.

Yes, I had two boys.

Did you go to work straight away again?

No, I didn’t work till about 1978. I went to work for Israel’s at Merton, peeling onions of all things. That
was seasonal work, during the winter months. Occasionally we had something else
to do during the early part, the springtime, but nothing after about September
time again. That was very handy, because that was piecework and we could do it
during school hours.

Did they grow the onions?

Bought them in, I think. They were all washed and clean and we just peeled them.

What happened to them after that?

They went off for pickling and all that.

So you didn’t put them in the jars.

No, no. Big 16 kilo trays.

Was it like a conveyor belt?

No. We had our own little section on the bench and got paid per tray.

What did you have to wear for that? You didn’t wear your own clothes did you?

Well we did. They provided us with the knives and rubber gloves. We used to provide our own aprons, mostly
waterproof, you know the plastic ones.

When people work in fish shops …

You do get the smell. My husband said – well there wasn’t a lot of smell, and being a countryman, he was used to
it. (Laughter)

How long did you work there?

About twelve years!

So, did you progress onto anything else.

No just the same sort of thing, we just stuck at that. I left at the Christmas and then my mother died just after Christmas and I didn’t return. My husband became disabled and that was it.

So you became a housewife again.

Yes. We were on a farm, so there was always something going on.

What did you have to do on the farm?

I didn’t actually work on the farm, but I was there.

Did you organise things? Do the books?

No, I didn’t have much involvement.

Was it your husband’s farm?

It was a family farm.

Have you still got it?

No, we sold up in 1997. That is now known as Melsop Farm Park at Scoulton. If you’ve heard of it. Yes, I moved all of a mile and a half.

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