Growing-up With Southall From 1904 (Memories of R.J. Meads)


Starting Work. 

                        Leaving school on my 14th birthday, 26th July, 1918, I had a few days’ holiday and on August Tuesday, the day after the Bank Holiday, I presented myself smartly dressed at 8.30 a.m. for a job at the Maypole Margarine Works. There were three boys waiting for Mr. Woodfield, the personnel manager. When he came he looked us up and down, asked us for our school references and told us what would happen if we did not behave ourselves. After giving us a number ( mine was 22 ) he told me to wait, and took the other two to the “box shop”. He then took me to the laundry for a white coat and apron, marked with No. 22 and told me they must be put on No. 22 peg in the cloakroom on leaving the factory, and must be worn at all times at work. He then took me to the Works Laboratory where I was to work. I remember my first job was to stand at a sink and wash a large number of small bottles with funny-shaped top, which I found out were named “Hansen bottles”. There were no such things as tea breaks, but I found there was always plenty of milk, this being left over from samples taken for testing. The working hours were 6 a.m. to 8: ½ hour for breakfast; 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; dinner 1 hour; 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Saturday it was 6 a.m. to 12 noon, making 58 hours a week on day shift. Night shift was alternate weeks, starting at 11 p.m. Sunday night till 6 a.m. Monday; 6 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday; and so on till Saturday 6 a.m. 58 hours in all. There was no extra pay for night work. Nobody under the age of 18 did nights. The men used to take their cans of tea into work with them, and breakfast and dinner would be hotted up for them in the temporary canteen, as the normal one was being used as a hospital. 

                        I was quite happy with my job, but soon found that my errand-boy days were not over. One of my jobs was to collect 3 cans of milk from the dairy at 7 o’clock and deliver one each to Mr. Blickfeldt’s ( Vine Cottage ), Mr. Yorkenson’s ( Park View Road ) and Mr. Thornley’s ( Shackleton Road ). Then home to breakfast and report back at 8.30 a.m. The firm kept a week’s wages in hand, so after a fortnight I received my first week’s wages, £1;0;6d ( 102 ½p ) for 58 hours. I gave Mum 15/- ( 75p ) and thought I was well off. My job mostly was to collect samples from all over the factory, at the same time taking back results of same.