'I was known locally as the 'icebreaker....'

The Varied And Most Memorable Jobs Undertaken By The Memories Past Group

By Lu Pearson

Photo:Sathi taking part in the reminiscence sessions

Sathi taking part in the reminiscence sessions

Photo from the WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:The group during a reminiscence session

The group during a reminiscence session

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Wally & Nancy

Wally & Nancy

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

The group share the most memorable positions they have undertaken in their working lives.  

"In Ceylon it was very difficult to get work for women as it was quite prejudiced. My mother didn't want me to work in an office, but I had learnt short hand and typing, so I did get a job in an office. It was an electrical firm, so I learnt about import/export, shipping, insurance, tenders. I really really enjoyed it. I was very fulfilled because I learnt so many things. It was called 'Siedles'. My mum didn't like it but she had confidence I wouldn't do anything wrong. Girls in offices had bad reputations, cos they used to go with the bosses. This changed later as they realised it was more profitable and productive to hire women. I was known locally as the 'icebreaker' because after me, lots of women started working in offices. My parents would have preferred me to become a teacher or a doctor".


"I was a general machinist. If you got too quick they would put you on another job, cos you were earning too much money.  You used to get a box, size of a shoe box with all the bits of the bra and had to put it together. Not the hooks though, someone else did that. The men there with a stop watch checking you and your times. The hooks were a nightmare cos if you got it stuck, it would break your machine needle, and you wouldn't be earning any money until you got another needle.

When I left school I did private dressmaking on Western Road at Madame Christophers. We were upstairs in the work room, great big bay windows and we looked out on to the road. I left school at 13, and started 2 weeks later when I had turned 14. I got 11 shillings and 7 pence a week. I used to cycle there from Hangleton and park the bike in the yard. I ended up spending all my wages on lunch cos it was too far to go home for it. I had to have lunch at a place on Waterloo Street".


"I did paper rounds from age 12 -14. Every morning and evening and in the shop on Saturdays. I used to get 15 shillings a week for that. Then I left school and got a job in a garage in Hove, where I only got 7 shillings something, so I only got half the money for working more. This was during the war. I used to go in at half seven to oil all the pulleys before it opened to the public. No health and safety. I worked there for 18 months, bit of motor work, machinery etc. Everyone was leaving to join up, so I had to cover for everyone, them they would employ women and I would have to explain the women about the job and what to do. Then I left and did an apprenticeship at Caffyn's doing war vehicles - strip vehicles to the chassis and rebuild them. I stayed there til I joined up myself. Five years I was there, from 1941-1945, then back after National Service from 1948- 1956".


'When I first left school I worked at the Star laundry in Portslade. They used to do all the hotels, bag wash, drive round the houses and pick up washing. I was 15 when I started. I worked there for years. Then I left there ad went to 'Kayser Bonder' in Portslade which made ladies 'unmentionables' (underwear) which was next to the Star laundry. I used to make cups for the bras. It was piece work. This was in the mid sixties. I couldn't machine fast enough to make any money. I got really stressed out. The machines' were so loud.'

A more detailed reminiscence of Christine's worklife in Portslade can be found here.
Sathi, Wally and Nancy additionally took part in 'The Way We Wore' series to read their stories click on their names.

WRVS volunteer Lyn Strong facilitated this reminiscence group.  Keith Mason took the accompanying photographs.

This page was added by Lu Pearson on 27/04/2009.

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