Working Lives

The Land Army – anything that men could do (1940-1950)

Location: Mile Cross

Jean tells us about working for Bally and Haldinstein’s making shoes before joining the Land Army at the age of 20.

After I left school I went to work for Bally and Haldinstein’s where they made shoes. The factory was in Queen’s Street in Norwich.

The working day was quite reasonable. I worked from 8am and sometimes went on till 6pm, quite a long day. We had a break for a cup of tea at about 11am I think and then an hour for lunch.

I worked in the ladies shoe department. The shoes were produced in the making department where the men worked. They were gradually passed on to another department where they were assembled and finished off as a fancy shoe for a woman, like doin’ the bows or laces or anything. Then it went from there see, and then they’d spray it and make it all shiny, and the shoe looked finished.

They were all leather shoes, no synthetics then. They were mainly black and brown tan, and then in the summer they brought out beige, summer beige and white. We made sandals too.

I was happy there and then I had to join up when I was 20. I joined the Land Army and from there I didn’t go back to Haldinstein’s no more. I kept on the land.

The Land Army

I was 20 and I loved it, loved bein’ outside. I went to a farm, I can’t remember the name of it now…..It’s a long while ago, but it was just outside Norwich, not very far away.

We used to do anything what the men used to do, we used to help them. That was hard work but I didn’t notice it ‘cos I was strong. If you were on the weak side that would be hard work, but I was strong enough to do it and I still am. So I was grateful that I joined it because I enjoyed it. I liked it.

We had a choice about what we did. I drove a tractor. They sat me on the seat and showed me how to work it. I had to do it on the fields. That didn’t matter too much, but as soon as I knew that I had to take it on the road I had to have proper tuition.

I hadn’t driven anything before!  I enjoyed doin’ it because it was a tractor you see and I felt reasonably safe. If it had been a car I don’t think that I would have done. I used to pull the carts along, what were being filled. I was sat on the tractor that was pullin’ this big container that they’d filled. Then I had to take it to where it was emptied.

The carts used to be filled with any summer crops and in the autumn it was beet, for sugar, that went to Cantley.

They did all sorts of things then what they do different now. That was harder work really ‘cos they used their hands more.

There were horses there too, they pulled some of the carts for us. Petrol was rationed you see, so they could only use so much. Farmers were allowed extra to what the others were, but even so if you could use horses that would save petrol, I suppose.

We were out on the farm in all weathers, sharp frosts, anything! We wore trousers, woollies, a vest, a long sleeved v neck pullover and in the summer a sleeveless one. We had a winter coat too, not too heavy, warm enough but you were able to move in it and it had a thin waterproof top coat. Yeah, like a jacket. They were hard-wearing uniforms.

The work, the war effort, that was bringin’ food to us all. We were using so much energy, we had good rations but because we were in the Land Army we got so much extra.

It’s a hard job to remember how much we were paid, but I think that it was about £2 something a week. I remember that it was worth it, worth the effort. They also liked to know that we were being paid with a little extra sugar or something, you know.

I made some very good friends, I was very friendly with a lot of people, ‘specially those workin’ round me.

We lived on the farm, there was so many girls that were employed by the farm and there were the girls from the farm too. We had our own rooms, we were quite happy that way.

I stayed there for the whole of the war, I loved it and I stayed in the Land Army till that was dispersed. I stayed on at the farm in Eaton, he had all the beet and that.

I gave up farm work because I married and wanted to have a family. That would have been too much hard work wouldn’t it?

I managed very, very well I think. I was strong. I still am in my arms. I had a lovely time, yeah. I enjoyed it. I’m glad I joined. I loved it.

Jean (b.1921) talking to WISEArchive in Norwich on 26th March 2010.

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