Working Lives

Jarrolds’ Restaurant manageress (1950s-1960s)

Location: Norwich

Doris was born in Norwich and was manageress of the restaurant at Jarrolds.

I was born in Norwich and went to school at St Giles Girls School. My mother’s mother was a garret master in the shoe trade and owned six machines and my mother was a machinist in the shoe trade.

My father Archie had been a prisoner of war in the First World War, working for the Germans building a railway over the mountains between Germany and Austria. Whilst billeted to a German family he decided that the working class were the same the world over. He went to war a conservative and came back a socialist.

He was a stonemason, and he apprenticed his four sons in the trade. After the war he worked but it was dying trade so he began to build houses. Later he became the landlord or the Roundwell public house on Dereham Road in Costessey.

I had a brother also called Archie and a sister Hilda. My fiancé was killed in the Second World War and I have a poem written by him which I left with my father.

Before working for Jarrolds I worked for Purdys managing the shop, before moving on to the Assembly House as a hostess/cashier. One Christmas Father had a terrible cold, so my boss told me that I didn’t need to go in, but then he cut my money off for the two days I was away from work.

I noticed that Jarrolds were advertising so I wrote and applied and was successful and I went straight in as manageress. I was paid about £7 a week, with a raise every year and I think that by the time I retired I was getting about £222 a month.

I was appointed by the directors to be manageress of the restaurant on the fourth floor, but before I took up my post I had discovered a lump and explained this to the general manager and Mr Grant. They said ‘We stand by our offer’, and they did. I was in hospital for two to three weeks and then wasn’t allowed to work for another three weeks. During this time Jarrolds paid me about £7 a week.

Manageress of the restaurant

My main responsibility was the buying. After the war all restaurants were rationed. Every week I ordered the meat, by phone, from Barrett’s Butchers in Valentine Street, fish came from Valori’s who were Italian, there were a lot of Italian families in Norwich.

Vegetables came from the market, they would let me know what was available, I bought bread from Kett’s Hill Bakery and the chef made fancy cakes.

When I started working in the restaurant they were serving morning buns with the coffee. Management wanted something to draw people in so the buns had to be made with the best of everything including lots of eggs. They even bought a mixing machine to make them.

Each evening all the tins had to be scrubbed and greased ready for the next morning. Later they used a ready-mix and they were no longer the same.

Initially there were 14 tables, and they opened up another part with basket chairs and called it the Blue Room. The tables had linen tablecloths, embroidered with the Jarrolds name.

The waitresses were mostly good girls. They had awful uniforms after the war so I changed them to black and white and the girls were responsible for taking them home to wash.

Later I bought turquoise made to measure uniforms from a London firm, Herbert Liveries.

The Jarrolds family used to eat in the restaurant and I watched the children grow up, Mrs Richard was a lovely person, and Mr Richard never wanted to be recognised.

I would treat the kitchen staff well, remembering what my father had told me ‘You’re no better than anyone else and no one is better than you’. A customer once made a waitress cry because he called her by her Christian name and wouldn’t wait his turn. I told him that I wouldn’t have people making my girls cry, and he left.

It was always very busy at Christmas and sale time, the restaurant had a few decorations. One part of the floor was for Christmas cards and once a year they had an exhibition of paintings done by staff.

I have a picture of a vase of fuchsias on my wall, which was painted by a shop walker. When I retired I asked if I could have it and on the back it says ‘On the occasion of your retirement’, I would like Mr and Mrs Richard to have it eventually.

I remember one occasion, Nancy Spain was in the store to promote her cookery book and she autographed one for me. ‘Thank you for a lovely day spent in Norwich’.

Most of my spare time was spent helping my father at the Roundwell, where I met my boyfriend. Few Americans visited the pub as ‘Father didn’t encourage that sort of trade’. Occasionally I went dancing and to the pictures, my favourite was Lilian Gish and then Gary Cooper.

I was friendly with a lot people in the store and several visited after I retired and took me out. After I retired Mr Richard would come and see me every year and bring me a calendar.

Jarrolds was a good employer in Norwich and employed a lot of people. A favourite phrase was, ‘meet you on the Jarrolds corner’.

Doris told her story to WISEArchive in 2006. Sadly she passed away a few months later.

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