Interviewee: June Martin: age 72

Interviewer:  Liz Bloom

Date:  August 18th 2011

I’m June Martin and I lived in Maynard Drive, St Albans, and I went to work…..I left school in 1953 and my dad wanted me to go to Peakes where they made coats and I didn’t really want to go there but I was always top of the class for dressmaking and sewing - I got all these books awarded to me - and I said, “No, I don’t really want to.”  Well he was adamant that that’s where I was going to work.  So I left school on the Friday; my friend and I we went to The Ribbon Factory, saw the man there in charge, got the job and we started Monday morning.  I had to go home and explain to my dad that I was starting work at The Ribbon Factory and he was really annoyed!  But I went to work there and got on very well.  There was a big loom with about 30 shuttles on each loom.  We had one in the front and one in the back, behind you.  When you first start there, you go on a loom with another girl so she shows you what to do, and then after a few weeks, you went onto this one loom, and then after a couple of months you got quite good, you went onto the loom behind you as well so you were working two looms.

The ‘governor’ was German and the foreman was German and if he shouted, you took notice!  Every time you did something wrong, he’d be out there like a shot!  We used to make the inch ribbons, two inch ribbons, half inch nylon ribbons for hat bands that went to Luton Hat Factory and they used to send them off to the dyers or whatever they wanted doing.  As the shuttles went under the cotton, it used to take up big heavy weights at the back of the loom, so when they reached the top, you had to stop the machine and go and let them down.  But if they overrun on the machine, it would snap all the nylon and then you would be in trouble because the foreman would have to come up and re-thread this whole machine.  You just feel like jumping in a hole, really, because you know that you are supposed to look after it.

The boxes were all underneath the loom and you used to measure it (the ribbon) out to see how many metres you’d done and put it on a piece of paper and then it used to go down to another girl; she used to put it on a roll and roll it up for the Hat Factory.  We just worked eight ‘til six and (we were paid) about 37 shillings, I think.  I left there in ’56 to have my fun.

The German man used to frighten you to death, you know.  It was a German company; it was on Guildford Road and the man who owned the place lived opposite and the foreman lived next door to him.  That was Max.  He was frightening; he was a big German man…oh, frightening!

It was one big warehouse sort of thing… brickwork, you know, with about, I would say, 15/20 looms; three on that side(left), three in the middle, and three on the other end.  And then the spinners were down the bottom; there were about four spinners.  It was all in one room; it wasn’t offices where you went in.  It was nice, I enjoyed it; they used to clatter.

Of course, my dad was quite annoyed.  One day, I was working these two machines and when I looked round, my dad was standing on the end of my loom.  Of course, I had to show my dad what I was doing and all these girls had stopped the machines and they were all looking (as if) to say, “Well, why is she showing somebody?”  When he’d gone, they said, “Who was that?” and I said, “It’s my dad!”  I was so embarrassed!  But he said, “I had to come down to see what you were doing, being as you went behind my back.”  He was all right (after that); he calmed down a bit, but he did want me to go to Peakes.

June Martin

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