I was born in 1909 in a cottage opposite the church at Whitgreave near Stafford, my father was a blacksmith. I went to North Street school, then to Corporation Street School. When I was 14 I started work at Mason & Mardsens in Sandon Road Stafford, I lined shoes and worked there for 5 years until I was 19 years old.
In the 1930's I began working at Glover Street for a company called Jolles Sandals which was run by 2, very large, very jolly German gentlemen. They made the first sandals at this factory and I was a machinist on the whole of the sandal but mainly the leather vamp. While I was working at Jolles in Glover Street I do not remember Spic & Span Shoe Polishes at all but I do remember the 'Tin Palace' in Glover Street it was a picture house. When we were kids it cost 3d to get in, there was a vegetable shop over the road which was owned by Mr Newbury and some times he would give you a ticket which would get you into the Tin Palace for 1d so I always used to go and ask "Have you got any tickets?" We used to sit on little wooden benches and watch films with Gloria Swanson ~ great days!!
When the Jolles factory in Glover Street closed, and we moved up to the big factory at the corner of Marsh Street and Fancy walk in Stafford the foreman, Mr Halliwell, (who married Elsie from Co-operative Street), allowed us to take a sack of sandals, usually about 6 pairs, home to do. We were given half a crown for each bag of sandals that we did, my dad used to do them with a bodger but as he was on the dole he did the work upstairs at home in case the 'labour man' came round!! The Jolles brothers were very kind, I met one of them on the stairs and said that I had a brother Fred who was out of work and could he find him a job so I took Fred along and Mr Jolles found him a job.
Before I started work at Evode I knew that they made aluminium paint for the aeroplanes during the war that's how I first knew about Evode. I recall walking past the factory by the Turnpike Hotel in Stone Road one day and a chap, Joe Parker was pouring a jug of chemicals down the drain in the road, and I thought to myself I don't think he should really be doing that!
I began working at Evode in Glover Street in 1950. I was married with three young girls. I didn't have an interview for the job, in those days jobs were advertised by word of mouth and you just turned up at the factory, if you had a sister who worked there it usually was a good enough recommendation to get you a job. My friend Nancy Biddulph told me there were jobs going at Evode so I went along. There was 5 of us, Nancy and her sister Daisy, Doll Cartwright Jessie Matthews and me. We started work doing half days, afternoons, Doll didn't stay very long. I remember that there was a girl there called Pat Faulkener who was already working there. We were put to work lidding the polish, the smell of the polish was wonderful. May Swinson, she was a real character, was in charge of the machine which filled the polish into the tins.
May (who was Agie Gough's mother) used to sit on a stool which had wheels on and she went along pulling this machine which had a series of nipples and as she pulled a lever it filled the tins with polish, then she moved along to the next row of tins we would then wipe any smudges of polish off the tins before pacing a waxed paper disc on the polish and then put the lids on the tins. In the summer when the weather was hot the polish didn't set so Mr Moseley used to send us over the meadows to watch the swans while the polish set, then he used to yell "Come on me ducks!!" and we'd all go back and start again. Alma once bought a radio in, and we all listened to the radio while we filled the polish out.
Glover Street was mainly older married ladies like myself and young girls who were in their teens and so this was their first job I don't recall any marriages taking place while I worked as there was such a large age gap.
I started to work full time at Evode, we started at 8 in the morning and finished at 5.30 in the evening. We had an hour for dinner, some people used to eat their sandwiches on the sacks in the factory and others like me would go home for lunch, Harold Stone, who married my sister, used to drive a van for Lotus and he would give me a lift at lunchtime when I went home. We had 10 minute tea breaks, Norah Nicklin used to make a big pot of tea which was free, all cups of tea where free. Bill Ensor who worked in the boiler house, and always had cats in the boiler house, would come in and ask if anyone wanted toast but we had to take our own bread in! Norah also took Dr Simons children to the Brooklands school and she used to baby-sit for them. She also made up the polish rations which we were all given once a month Mr Clipstone was there when we went up each month for our rations he was a very tall man but I don't really remember much else about him. Norah never married, she lived to be 87 and I often used to see her around the town. We were also given a box of Persil each week by the company to wash our overalls which was very good of them.
At Glover Street there was a bike shed because everyone in the factory either walked or came to work on a bike, I remember Cyril Lawton had a 'sit up and beg' bike. Mrs Wood, who lived on the Tenterbanks and had a car but as most people who ran the company were foreign, they all seemed to have foreign cars. Rainer Gehab had a car, and the chap he worked with, Helmut who lived at Rugeley, had a motor bike. Mrs Wood was a little person with dark hair who later married Mr Peake and they had a bungalow built. As you went down Glover Street you went up some stairs and Mrs Wood used to be in the office doing the export orders on a typewriter. In the offices there also worked Sheila Wall Ivan Walker, Myra Davies, Laurie Powell and Ken Shardlow and in accounts there was Dennis Press. The Doctor used to bring his children round the factory, they were into everything as kids are! I never saw Mrs Simon come round the factory.
We were not supposed to smoke at work, they were very strict on this because of all the chemicals in the factory, but all the guys smoked, and May Swinson started me smoking, we all used to sneak off somewhere, we would light up, then put the dead matches back into the matchbox so we wouldn't get caught out, I still do this today!! If we recognised someone's footfall we would stub the cigarettes out quick! Some girls used to sneak off to the toilets for a smoke the toilets were at the bottom of the stairs where Mrs Wood worked and she only had to put one foot on the stairs and bang! The fags were snubbed out!!
It could get very cold in the factory at Glover Street and it used to flood regularly especially over the back of the factory in the bitumen area where the Poles used to work.
We made a white polish called 'Sno-White' we put each label on each tube by hand. We held the tube and twisted the labels around I did a lot of that. Reg Moseley used to say that I was the only one which could put them on properly, so I did hundreds and hundreds of them I just sat there all day doing them. Avis Cooper tried but said "I can't do this", so I did them!
I can remember some of the people who I worked with, Geoff Howard was the foreman he married Lily Locke, and Cyril Cartwright used to stand on a piece of board and do a bit of a tap dance he used to make something with latex and ammonia and used to say "If anyone has a cold, come and stand over this drum, it'll clear your head!!" Another chap used to play the clarinet, he was Stafford's answer to a pop star! You'd always find him asleep over the tins of polish after a late night!! There was a driver called Ernie Freeman who lived in Mill Street and when we did the pageants in the town he used to say "come and use our loo" when we were on the pageant float. He died very young. Arthur Greatholder 'Taggy' worked there he was a pigeon flyer and he was a great friend of my husbands. I did think that it was a bit 'us and them' with the offices and factory, but the factory folk were very friendly, we had some great times, best days of my life really.
When they started to make adhesives, the Doctor asked about eight of us to stay behind one night. He had made the first batch of adhesive and the tables where covered in tins which we filled with the adhesive which was in a jug, the tins were 4/5 of a pint and it took us until 9 o'clock, then the Doctor took us all over to the pub. He was a really nice person. I remember one day at Glover Street after they had loaded a lorry up as it went round the corner the load slipped and it all fell off right in front of the Doctor!!
We didn't have Christmas parties or decorate the factory but we did have beanos whereby everyone bought in bits to eat and drink, we weren't allowed to take alcohol into the works, but we did. The main source of vodka was the Poles, the Doctor turned a blind eye, but if anyone was found drunk then it was instant dismissal. There was one time when all the Dodds went to the pub one lunchtime and they got drunk, Mr Peake sacked them but they were reinstated later.
Day trips were organised from the works I went to Blackpool once and we used to do the pageants in the summer We used to make the flower rosettes up at home then go to Glover Street on a Sunday and stick them onto the sacking to make up the float. The Doctor used to come and watch the pageant as it went through Stafford town and we used to make up tiny little tins, no bigger then the new £2.00 coin full of polish to give away from the float to the people in the crowds. We won a cup one year, and we also took the float to Rugeley one year. I did three pageants, and each year we had a different theme.
In 1952 we did 'The Glover Street Gang' for the Stafford pageant, on the float there was Paddy Gall, Denis Bentley, Ken Shardlow, Eddie, Newman, Jeff Howard, May Swinson and myself. We all had our faces covered in red wax to look like red Indians and I had a doll on my back as a papoose and it's face was covered in red wax too! There was a big barrel in the wigwam on the float, and the men were weeing in it as they all had so much to drink, Some of them were so drunk that they got banned from the pub, the Plume of Feathers and the Landlord wasn't too pleased to find red wax all over his upholstery!! When the pageant was over Rainer had heated some water up in two boilers back at Glover Street so that we could wash all the red wax off ourselves. He had put bags up against the glass in the windows but the men could still peep through the holes in the bags and May kept saying "Hurry up, hurry up!!" Well we all was drunk anyway!! It was great fun. There was a photograph kept on the wall in the Plume of Feathers for years after.
In 1952 we also did Primrose Hill, then Paradise Isle in 1954 and in 1955 they did Wisteria with an Eastern/Chinese theme.
We were told that they were building a new factory on the Common Road it was were the old brickwork's had been. Some people went over the Common and had a look while it was being built, they looked at what was to be the Doctors office, and what was to be his toilet!
We moved up to the new factory on Common Road in stages, at first it was just a couple of buildings, and I saw all the others buildings being built around us, the new offices and the Paints Department I also saw them planting the trees which have now grown so tall around the edge of the factory for security and privacy. The ice cream van used to come a couple of times, and a chap called Bert Podmore who used to drive a van and sell bits and pieces from the back of it.
We moved to the new factory just after Easter, I remember because my daughter Betty had got married on the Easter Saturday and had her reception at the Albion Pub on Peel Terrace in Stafford. We used to have works parties at the Albion in a room over the pub. There were stairs round the back of the pub which went up to this room and we used it like a sports and social club.
I didn't stay long at Evode after the move to Common Road I gave up walking over the common because I used to get lost when it got foggy.
I then worked for five years at the British Restaurant behind Allied carpets is situated now in the centre of town. I worked in the canteen with Mrs Ivens and Mrs Malpass. The restaurant catered for all the factory workers in the area and served as a canteen for Lotus, Dormans English Electric etc. There was not enough rations to go round at that time so they all went there for their lunch for about 1s 6d for a meal. Then I went to the Sandonia on Sandon Road as a cleaner for 9 years. I cleaned the big room and the balcony and mopped the stairs when it was still a picture house, and we used to get in to see the films for free. I started work at 'David Hollins House' the nurses home next to the Stafford General Infirmary cleaning the bathrooms, but that job only lasted two weeks because every time I turned around, the Sister was behind me checking up!! After that I went to Matthews which was in Union Buildings and I used to make the gaiters for sandals sewing buttons on for shoes. Finally I went to the college as a cleaner cleaning the classrooms. I once broke my glasses and took them to an opticians who asked if I was a lecturer when I said I was a cleaner he said "What would this world be without cleaners" I worked at the college for 18 years and I retired at 62.
I attended the Mission Church on the Common Road from the age of three until it closed when I was in my 70's. I married Lewis Tinkler (who lived in Browning Street and was a big pigeon flyer) at the Registry office and I had two bridesmaids. I have 3 daughters, 11 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren. My eldest grandson who is now in his 50's is taking me to see the millennium Dome, and I am really looking forward to that!