Interviewee: Phyllis Alexander

Interviewer:  Liz Bloom

Date:  August 18th 2011

I’m Phyllis Alexander and I’ve lived in St Albans ever since I was 4 years old.  I started off at the shoe factory and I’ve worked in various places all around St Albans.  I had my children and when my two eldest children started school I went to Peakes and got myself a job with school hours.  I’d been there a few weeks and I was going to sew the linings into the coats and I put the labels into the backs of the coats as well, with the sizing on.  I’d been there about a month or maybe more and they said I had to have a medical.  All their staff had a medical when they started.  I had this medical and they found that I had a heart murmur at the time so I had to have some treatment.  Well, I stuck it for about a month after, and they kept, sort of, messing me about with these coat linings.  (I was) supposed to be starting the next week, and they still kept me on the labels and I was getting a bit bored.  So in the end, I decided that I would leave ‘til I was better and then I would either apply again and come back, or I would find something else.  So anyway, I had some treatment.  I mean, they were very good to me, down Peakes.

I saw this advert one day in the Herts Advertiser (for) staff wanted down Ballito – evening shift.  They were starting up a new experimental thing, making nylon stockings feel like silk.  So I applied - quite a lot of us were interviewed - got the job, and we were taken into this room and there was this great big tank full of this chemical.  What we had to do, we had all these hooks on this rail and we had to hook a pair of nylons onto each one of these hooks and then you put it to the edge of this tank.  He would start a little motor up that would run these nylons through the tank - this tank of chemical - and they came out the other end.  When they came out they were supposed to be and feel like silk.  It had taken some of the ‘body’ of the nylon out.  When they were dry, they used to have to take them off - somebody else took them off - and they would then pack them, pack them into pairs.  I was there about 6 months.  I went in this particular day and he said, “You’re a good worker; would you like a day job?  We’re thinking about cutting down on the night shift and making it a day job because it’s successful.”  So I said, “Yes, I wouldn’t mind.”  I said, “It’s got to be school hours.”  So they said, “Oh, yes, we can arrange that.”  But my daughter went and got chicken pox, so I phoned them up to say that I couldn’t start, not for another two weeks, because I had to stay at home with her.  I don’t think they wanted that so they more-or-less said, “Well, give us a call another time.  If we’ve got a vacancy, we’ll take you back.”  It must have been ’67 or ’66, I would say.

Phyllis Alexander

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