Oral History

Albert Lucas

Mr & Mrs Albert Lucas talk about jobs and married life in Barwell

Interviewers: Mr. D. J. Wood (DW)

Interviewed: Mr Albert Lucas (H) & Mrs Lucas (W)

Date of Interview: 23rd August 1984

W. Well, as I say when I was fourteen, I left school, there weren't any jobs about, there weren't any to be had, and you had to just queue for a job. It was quite an honour, and me father worked at the Co-op, and it was quite an honour to be in the Co-op offices even tho' it was just sorting cheques.

DW. Barwell Co-op?

W. Barwell Co-op! Well we didn't belong to Hinckley then, Barwell was ever such a prosperous company then, it had got its own shops. I remember my father was the manager put in charge of the shop that opened up against the recky, up against the cemetery there. There was quite a-to-do when Barwell had a shop open, because we all had a mug each, we had a holiday, and a sort of a carnival, and there was a competition for the best-dressed window. My father won it because he put his all into it. Anyway, when I put in for this job at the Office, it was the most boring job. It was just sorting the cheques out, putting them all into the numbers. But it was such an honour to be there and working for Barwell Co-op. I don't know how many girls applied for it, but they wouldn't give it to me because my father was an employee of the Co-op. One of the rules then was, you don't have two of one family, a safe guard I suppose, against any twisting in those days. Any way I didn't get this job.

We lived next door but one to Mrs. Gadsby, at the Queens Head pub. She used to have travellers come for dinner; they used to have the most delicious dinners. They had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and you could smell it in our house you know. Then there'd be a kitchen, across the road, where they did all the washing up. Barwell streets then, there were no traffic much; so all the cars were all lined up outside Mrs. Gadsby's pub, for these dinners. I don't know whether it was two days a week! So just to earn sixpence, I went round there washing the pots up.

Well then there was advertisements in the paper, Eatough's were not long in Shilton, they'd come from the Rosendale Vale and started up and were prosperous, and they were advertising for workers at fourteen shillings [70 Pence] a week. Factories in Barwell were only paying twelve shillings [60 pence] a week. So, me mother took me up to see the people at Shilton. Eatough's, I got a job there, there were people coming from Ibstock on the Comfort buses and that, and there I was in the warehouse. Well I wanted to please and I about worked myself to death.

DW. How many hours?

W. Well, I started work at eight o'clock in the morning, and finished at one, I think it was. Run all the way to Barwell for my dinner, run all the way back again, to save thrupunce bus fare. It was thrupunce return then on the bus, not three P, thrupunce. I did so want to buy a packet of figs, used to love fig and dates, and there was a little shop in New Street, and I got hungry cos I was working so hard in this warehouse boxing up these boxes.

They used to make patent dance shoes then, ever so shiny Patent dance shoes for the experienced dancers. We used to make silver slippers as well. We used to make Chill-Proof slippers they were very, very important people Chill-Proof were. Lilley and Skinners in London, they were very important people. You had to be very careful how you stuck the rosettes on for them. They had little rosettes in the slippers you know and that, to cut a long story short. I was boxing these shoes up, which 'err, the pile was about, nearly as big as me when I'd tied them up, tying them up into a dozen of boxes, stacking them up into high piles. Then when Dennis Crowfoot who's old now, retired, when he just started out as a businessman in Shilton. With his little lorry, he used to come, and he'd to be loaded up to be taken to London, to Lillian Skinners at London. Special order for them, careful with the boxes so you didn't get them crumpled or anything, well anyway after I boxed all these up, I got piles and piles, rows and rows of these dozens, hundreds of dozens of pairs, I had to load the lorry up, this was at fourteen. To load the lorry, I should either get a pile of four dozen, forty eight pairs of shoes tied in the bundles and carry it forward, or if they were a bit lighter slippers I would get them sideways and there was a way of carrying them so you carried two dozens pairs of shoes in each hand. Then you would settle them down on the floor, pick each dozen pair up and throw it to Dennis Crowfoot who was on the lorry. Imagine, fourteen year old now doing that, you throw each dozen pairs up so that he caught it, then you bent and picked another dozen pairs up then you ran back while he was stacking them up. You ran back into the warehouse bought another four-dozen, until the lorry was loaded. You can imagine I was quite worn out. So any way, it was the done thing then you worked hard, you just worked hard, you just got to keep going you never stopped, and 'um as I say I got a bit fed up with it.

I used to like sewing and there was a job in my aunts factory at Davies's at Hinckley, and 'err I really loved it at Davies's. I got this job at Davies's, they didn't want me to go at Eatough's, I used to work a printing machine at Eatough's and I remember one day, it was a little hand printing machine. I printed the labels when I wasn't doing me boxing up and I printed the labels and you had to set your square of print up on a square frame, make your own printing set up, wedge it with a bit of wood so that it held into place tight. You put it into some sort of holder into this printing machine and then you put some ink on to the plate, and these rubber rollers went up and rolled over the print. I should have a thousand labels, and I had got to print them for the boxes, to stick onto the boxes, and I should be going so fast because we were quick, you had to be quick then, and I did a thousand while Mr. Tom Eatough stood and watched me. I don't think he could believe it; I was going to say I was in this warehouse, it was only a wooden warehouse then, they have a brick place there now. I remember the sun was so hot, we were working in such terrific heat that these rollers melted the rubber, the rubber roller melted and they all went into a sticky mass, I did not notice they were doing it, they all rolled in a sticky mass all over me plate. I could not do any more work until these rollers were ordered for this printing machine. There you are, that is how you had to work in them days. I can't say any more about that factory because I only had a year there. But um' I went to Davies at Hinckley and that was different all together and, err, were making V necked jerseys and pullovers. I was quick to pick the machine up and I learned buttoning and button holing and seam covering and over locking and flat locking and the table work and everything, and it really did me good because I picked up a bit of dress making, how to make garments and that. Well then I was there until I was married and um, I remember some time we were so short of work that we had to go on the dole, and err, I was earning about, I should say, 1 pound err, 30 shillings a week [£1-50p] it was in them days about 30 shillings a week from 8 till 6. Then if we had a big order, um, especially in the winter of err, perhaps of black jumpers or red jumpers, they were the ones that you dreaded. In the winter we worked till 7 or 8, and I used to bike along from here along the High Street along here into Hinckley err, and err, put me bike in the bike shed. There were no question of your bike being stolen in them days, nor a bike lamp. Outside for anybody to pass by, and nobody would think of taking anything. I was going to tell when I was at work and we went on the dole. I never had the time, I never had the change to save any money at all, because you were living hand to mouth all the time and so um consequently, when you went on the dole you didn't know how to pay your board you see. I remember one week when I, [to husband] you never did go on the dole did you; you'd always got plenty of work. When I was on the dole this week, I had to pay me mother in pennies and sixpences and thrupenny bits, make it up like that. As I say you hadn't got any money, you just went an drew you're bit of dole it weren't much.

DW. Mr Lucas. When you started work how much did you earn, and what hours did you work, and what did you do?

H. Well when I started work, I earned seven and sixpunce [37½ pence] when I first started, and err, you went perhaps three months, then err, you get ten shillings [50 pence] and it all depended on how good you worked you see. There were foreman there, that were Walter Green, he were a good foreman mind you. He came from Shilton and err, he kept his eye on all the likely lads like, and err, he got you remunerated accordingly. If you always got your head down and you were doing your job then you got on. If you were playing about and doing he'll warn you but err, you wouldn't get the pay like, you see. He'll keep you down sort of thing, but anyhow I got on all right, got on alright err, as I say err, we made a bad start because of the err, coal strike you see, we weren't able to go to work, and err, I forget how long it lasted now. Do you know how long it was?

DW. About six months I think.

H. I were going to say, you see we weren't at work all that time, so we had to virtually start all again, which we did, and err, then during that time like, things began to pick up then when they got back, and things were normal from what happened then. I'd be round about, um, sixteen or seventeen. I'll always remember Mr. Ward coming to me because, err, I didn't tell you how I got set on. I was set on by Mr Ward; do you want to hear this?

DW. Yes.

H. Well this is very interesting because I never told err my brother George, the eldest son who were killed in world war one, he worked at Sphereo that was the err, shop in the main Kirkby Road. I don't know whether you know it? I went round there to get a job because he worked there you see, and I thought you know, if he worked there. I got my wrap stick and I got me knife and every thing, and err, I went in, it where before eight o'clock time, and I laid me err wrap stick down and me little tool you know, me knife and awl and things like that and, err foreman were there. I didn't realise he was foreman he said err, took a glare at me, and were leaning on the benches like he says, "who set you on then", so I said it was err, well what was his name who set me on the manager?

W. Hinks, Mr. Hinks.

H. Mr. Hinks I said "It were Mr. Hinks who set me on, the manager" well, couldn't have said a worse thing, he about went mad. " I'm the man here, Mr. Hinks is nothing" he said, "he did, it is, it's the truth", he said err, he were getting old and I 'count he were going out, sort a' thing, but I didn't, I went to the manager and err he says "So you can pick that lot up and get out of here". I picked it up and done as he said, and I walked down that street till I come to the corner where Hunts shops that side theer. Well I stood looking err, looking up and thinking, now what can I do now. I wouldn't go down home and bother me mother, so I gradually went up the hill, and as I went up the hill, I went by Grewcocks, which is now Harveys. You see Grewcocks was a shoe factory then, and I looked down at that, well that don't look very interesting, so I carried on and I came to the top of the cross roads where Garner people on the left hand side. George Ward's were the other side, which had just had a new building, then Harveys they were on that square now which has been taken up by George Ward.

hen this side were Hogkins and Powers you see. So I thought now I think I'll go George Wards to see how I get on there. So I crossed the road I went up them steps and I rang the bell and err, the lady, the girl who were doing the job then was Connie Whetten and I know her see, she said "Hello Albert what are you after". So I said we err, "I'm after a job, I'd like to see Mr. Ward if I can" "All right then" she says just err, "Wait a moment." So down went the old window. In a few minutes the door opened and it was Mr. Ward so he says "Oh hello," he says, " I understand you want a job." So I says" yes Mr. Ward if you please" "Alright then" he says, " Come with me" and he took me back into his office. He looked down he says " Well you got some kit there" he says "Yes" I says "I've brought my kit" he says. "I really wanted one in the clicking room" I says "here's me wrap stick and I got awl" he says "yes" he says "that’s alright" he said err, "You sure you want one in the clicking room" so I says "Yes Mr. Ward" and off we went. Walking along, I followed him through the factory like, all the way and err, every body were turning around looking who's he going on you know sort of thing we eventually got to the clicking room.

t were ever such a long way 'cos it's ever such a big factory, all on the ground floor you see. So when I got there he said "Now then Walter I've got a young lad here he says he wants to be a clicker" he says "Now you can look after him can't you. You know all about that " so he says "Yes Mr. Ward" he says "You leave him to me I'll see to it, so all right" he says and off went Mr. Ward. Walter turned to me and he put me on the press, and I'm on the press for about a month. All I did were, there were two knifes, what they call a bowel bit and a derby bit, and them bits went in the, over the vamp part to err give it strength you see. It were like a err, stiff paper, you know, impregnated you see, and it were used across as I said on the vamp part, anyway, fill two bags up with that, on the press you know and filled them right up. They didn't want no more of them. So he says, Walter Green says, "You can start and do some fitting cutting," you see that's the inside parts of the shoe the outside you see are the working parts. The inside are the linings to them you know, like a vamp lining, ¼ lining, the tab lining and tongue lining and things like that you see. So err, that were all right. I started on that and then all at once err, it came that they wanted a young lad in the pattern room. Mr. Ward decided to let me go in the pattern room you see. So under his instructions I went in. Well now the man who were the pattern cutter, the head pattern cutter, was named Graham Bellemy. He were not a bad sort of a chap but was, err he got no order, like, you got to have in a pattern room. You got to have everything at hand, and know where everything is, and have it all numbered up, which he hadn't got. Any way that’s nothing to do with me. What happened was, Mr. Ward came down one day he wanted a certain pattern, so Graham Bellemy bends down underneath the bench, he brings a big box out, and its full of patterns you see. He just gets these patterns and throwing them out like this. I was looking at Mr. Ward and I could see him looking at him as much as to say, you know, I don't think much of that. So it went on, at last he got fed up with that, Mr. Ward did, he stopped him, and he said "Now then Graham is this how you keep your patterns," so he says "Yes Mr. Ward." Well he says "You better pick all you tools up" he says "Pick your kit up and everything, and you come back with me to the office." So he went back with him to the office, he gave Graham Bellemy the sack, and a minute or two later he came back to me and said "He's a'gan me the poke Mr. Ward did, I'm off, I'm finished you see, I don't know how you'll goner do" he said there it is, and out he went. As he went out like Mr. Ward come back, he come across, Mr. Ward says to me "Now Albert " he says "Don't you worry about what's just happened" he says. "Now, what I want you to do is to go though all these patterns," he says, "And line them all up and number them," he says, "And here's a ledger and I want you to put it in there, one, two three, four, five, six all the way though. What these patterns are and everything, the last and things like that, so instead of having to go through like he was going though, we can open this book, it will be on the ticket what that pattern number is and everything will be in order." I said "Right oh Mr. Ward," I did that and that is how it all started like that" Question How long did you work at Wards factory.

H. I worked at Wards factory fifty-one years; I started in 1926 and finished in 1977.

DW. So you saw a lot of changes while you worked there. What were the conditions like when you first started?

H. The conditions weren't bad, not really, I mean it was a new factory you see, it was nice and flat, you know, wooden floor, a good floor and everything. I mean, when you talk about conditions you see, I was alright, I was in a office I were on me own.

W. It was good conditions for the other really, Mr. Ward was a good boss, he was very well organized, and he would't expect anybody to do anything he wouldn't do himself.

H. The only thing that bothered me, and I think it would have done you or anybody, was, he had all these clicking presses and they were all bumping down, and do you know when I used to get home for me dinner I could hear them in me ears. That is why I am a bit deaf in this ear; in the right ear. I am sure it was due to that banging over the years you see.

DW. When you first decided to get married, did you live in rented accommodation?

W. No. That is what I was just thinking of now. We had our name put down for a council house, but there weren't all that many council houses then and um, we decided to get married in 1937.

W. Any way this ground here was all fields as you can imagine, and um, and a builder from Broughton Astley decided to build these houses.

H. Cooks.

W. Well, you see these gates out here, luckily, we decided we'd spend the extra pound and have double gates.

H. That's right.

W. When we had the house built, it was a pound to have another gate; a double gate if you didn't you had a single gate, like some of them have got up here. Well you see the council would make a double drive in for you if you had double gates you see, consequently we've got a double drive, which was money well spent that was. If we wanted tiles in the bathroom you paid £7 extra, and these tiles are still on there, tiles in your kitchen £7 extra, half way up the wall. We had about £70 of extras on this house besides the bear £450 and into that we had extra fire places, plain doors, nice handles on the doors tile bathroom and tiled kitchen. Extra gate lattice gate at the side and a fence which the wood, we've only just had it down, and it was good as it were when it was put up, cause we creosoted it and this was all into £70.

H. Marvellous really.

W. Of course, this was our area. I lived with my father around the corner then, he moved into a Co-op house around the corner, and we asked how much these were, we thought it was an awful lot of money, £450 for a house. (Mr. Lucas laughs) Where were we going to find the money from, but any way, we decided, and we worked hard and we got the deposit together and err, we had an awful job to find the turn over fee didn't we?

H. Yes, we 'ed to scrap the barrel.

W. We scraped everywhere, and we 'ed to pay the lawyers fee, you see I forget how much they were then.

H. We weren't prepared for it you see, we didn't know, in them days.

W. We managed to get started, and then in 1939 the war was declared you see. Going into what we bought, we had the smallest carpet you can buy for then, because we couldn't afford a bigger one. So you had to stain the boards all round and polish them, and we couldn't afford a radio. We couldn't afford anything in this room at all. In fact, in this room, there was an air raid shelter, for the whole of the war, just here. The children had a grand time, jumping and that, and they had all their playmates in playing on the air raid shelter. But everybody was in the same boat. The only thing was, when war broke out, if you had your furniture and that on hire purchase, there weren't so much done then as it is now, but there were people doing it. If you had anything on hire purchase then, the Government they paid the commitments you got you see, helped you with the commitments, but we hadn't had anything on hire purchase you see, we hadn't got nothing any way. We'd got two odd fire side chairs, which we'd managed to buy, a table and four chairs and a sideboard It was the cheapest, we had it from the Co-op at Leicester I remember. It was £12 for the set and the table is still there now. The chairs are as good as new, but me cousin's got them because we hadn't got enough room for them and the sideboard was immaculate, but we hadn't got room for it because we had a piano then later on. Today I should say, they would be as good now, that furniture, as what you would buy, because for £12 that was table four chairs and a sideboard. Well then we managed to get, though a friend of Albert's, managed to get us a radio, my goodness that was the tops that was. It stood up that corner and I used to peel the potatoes and come in and have a look at it and go out again and peel another potato and have another look at it. Then when we managed to get a stair carpet. We'd stand on the landing staring at it, cos I was so delighted with this stair carpet. Well cos we'd just got a these few things, we'd got a bedroom suit, which really we were twisted, we had it in a sale from Leicester, we'd didn't think it was much good, but it would be as good as you would buy today. We did have a good bed, but any way um, there was this trouble with the war, and eventually it broke out and then we had our Chris, err couple of months after it had broken out, the war, so we didn't buy anything else at all. Our carpet became thread bear, the stair carpet and all the lot you see.

Part Two of this Transcript is: Life during the War, for those on the Home Front

Transcript by: Jean & David Wood.