Interviewee: Vera Morris: age 76
Interviewer: Liz Bloom
Date: August 18th 2011
My name’s Vera and I lived in Wellington Road. Before I left school, I got a Saturday job in P…ns? And worked at P? in the shop (it was a drapery shop). I worked at P? for a little while and found out that I could get more money working at Marconi’s. I would have got more money working at the Ballito because they paid a lot more money than Marconi’s but I cannot stand sewing of any sort so I decided that was out for me so I went to Marconi’s. That’s where I started and I started on the line. There were over two/three hundred of us in the room and I would say, oh, not many youngsters; mostly old fogies as I would call them – as I am now. I started on the line and we used to have more rows….if anyone said it was heaven, it wasn’t heaven; it was ‘dog eat dog’. We were on piece work and if you did something wrong, you had to take it all apart again and it wasn’t that easy to do, that, because you had a whole instrument to take apart. You didn’t get paid for it. You got told off by your foreman, your governor; all sorts. I think I went in the office crying so many times in the first three years I worked at Marconi’s because the old women were all bitching about the youngsters, especially me because I used to play up. So my old boss used to say to me, “One day your star will wain and so put up with it!” and so I did. It wasn’t easy working in a factory, not at all; you had to clock on and clock off and also you had to clock on and off all the jobs that you did.
But there were good sides to it as well. I met lots of friends and they’re my friends
to this day; we meet up, we see each other, so it was good times as well. We had
a very good social life there. The Sports and Social (club) was very good and I
became chairman of the Flower Arranging there and spent many happy hours there. Many
happy hours dancing; we had lots of dances. We had lots of shows and we put a show
on and the Queen’s flower arranger did a lovely show for us for cancer research.
Yes, I had some good times there -
I became an engraver. Engraving was…what today is printing; everything was engraved in those days, everything; whether it was a brass label – whatever – it was all engraved. We had lots of dials, we had to do big dials…with thousands of lines on. Sometimes it would take me three days to do a dial. Then it used to be dipped into a material and then it had to be filled with paint. Everything I engraved had to be filled in either with wax or paint which took a long time and we used all chemicals that day that you wouldn’t use today, of course. In those days you used all the wrong chemicals but today, with health and safety, you wouldn’t use. There were lots and lots of different procedures with engraving; sometimes it was ordinary paint and you engraved on paint. Sometimes it was in metal. But that’s what I did on engraving, yes.
When Marconi’s closed at Fleetville…, I felt sad. It sort of went to Stevenage; well the factory closed down and they bought a small place in Stevenage. Princess Alexandra opened the one at Stevenage and I made the bouquet for her when she opened it. We went to Stevenage and we weren’t there long and then I was sent back to Ballito because they still had a little place at Ballito and I was sent back there and that’s where I was made redundant. I wasn’t engraving when I came there; I was just doing bench work or cable forms or whatever was going – whatever we did in those days.
And, of course, I was an outworker. I used to have twenty women working for me on outwork, yes. I did that for nine years, I suppose, yes. The foreman in the factory would give me a job and I would take it out to the ladies and I would distribute it to different ladies; one to do cable forming, one to do wiring – that sort of thing; one to do switches; all the different things that you had that went in an instrument. They were….. all local to St Albans, London Colney, all over the place I went; Sandridge. Yes, I did that for quite a few years. It would be in the 80s, yes, and then I used to pay them whatever they’d done. I used to work their money out…..I was only what you would call a supervisor.
When the factory closed you lost a lovely ballroom; everything went. We’ve lost everything; we’ve lost all that sort of thing now, yes.