Working Lives

From the office to peeling onions (1955-1997)

Location: West Norfolk, Norwich

Janet worked as a typist at a building company and for a tea merchants before having a family. Later she got paid by the tray, peeling onions for pickling.

Typing and baling

I left school at the age of 15 and I went to work at Melton and Sons, a building company at Beetley. There were just the two of us; the main person there who had been there some time and me. I was a clerk/typist and eventually started doing the wages – at one point of over 100 employees, on a weekly basis.

The only training I had was learning to type. I had taken 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.

I worked from 8.30am to 5.30pm, and I had an hour’s break for lunch. It was only a couple of miles and I was able to cycle home. I worked Monday to Friday and I did the odd Saturday morning, but I did other things at weekends. I was there for just over nine years.

I had a few weeks’ break after I left and helped my father with the harvest. I did the baling for him as he was farming at East Bilney. I went to work for F. Lambert and Son, Tea and Coffee merchants on Hay Hill in Norwich. I was there for about a year doing typing in the main office.

I left the Tea Merchants and did another harvest with my father, bailing. After that I went to work as a civilian typist at RAF Swanton Morley. I did mostly general typing for about three years and left just after I got married in 1969. I had two boys and I didn’t work until about 1978.

Peeling onions

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 of 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.

The onions were all washed and clean and we just peeled them. After that we put them in big 16 kilo trays and they went off for pickling. We got paid per tray. They provided us with the knives and rubber gloves. We used to wear our own clothes and provide our own aprons, mostly waterproof, plastic ones. You do get the smell but but being a countryman, my husband was used to it. I worked there for about twelve years!

I left for Christmas break and when my mother died just after Christmas I didn’t return. My husband became disabled and that was it. We were on the family farm, so there was always something going on but I didn’t have much involvement. We sold in 1997 and it is now known as Melsop Farm Park at Scoulton.

Janet (b. 1941) talking to WISEArchive on 21st April 2013 at Gressenhall.

© 2020 WISEArchive. All Rights Reserved.