Working Days


As a young girl I started work at the age of 14 years at a firm, Savoury’s Park Row studios, making calendars and leather fancy goods. The job was very busy up to Christmas, but in January the work was scarce, and to get our unemployment money, we had to attend the Labour School located at the church hail, City Road, Strokes Croft. The School started at 8-30 am and ended at 3-30 p.m. We had to scrub tables and floors, make jam, sew and darn the teachers husband’s socks, do washing and general housework.

One day a teacher gave us a class on hygiene, care of one’s body etc., also a class for singing and folk dancing. The class was made up of very poor and rough types of girls from inner city. It was known as Labour School.

Friday afternoons we went for our unemployment money, (year 1927) and I think it was five shillings. I used to walk from Clifton. I never enjoyed it very much, and was conscious of being put too much tasks of work.

Savoury, and sons harry and Mortimer, used walk round the work benches and we could not talk or sing or eat sweets. There was a ten minute break in the morning for a cup of tea. Start work at 8 in the morning till 6 o’clock in the evening, 12 o’clock on Saturdays for eight shillings a week. 2 shillings per year rise, If you misbehaved you never got your rise. I left later.

G. Stevens

Started at 14 years at Holloway’s, Portwall Lane, finished at 16 years. Went on an errand boy job, from then at 18 years joined the army, got married.
Went through to 1938 when army was changed to 44th RTR, came out in 1945. Worked as a Labourer on all building sites. Make redundant June 1970 at A/W Portishead, started at DRG Malago in September of same year. Retired just over 12 years ago.


I was one of a family of ten, and for years we lived in a two roomed house. Being the third eldest I had to get work as soon as I was 14 to help keep the family. My first job was cleaning mouth. It was memorable as there was a mongol son and I used to take him home with me to give him a change. This job continued for several years, and was followed by work cleaning a pub, and then years of shop work.

The shop hours were 9.00 am until 7.00 p.m., and all day Saturday, with a vast wage increase to five pounds! Saving was not possible, but - as now - we were never in debt, all the earnings were needed to keep my family of two children. Pensions were never mentioned - especially to women. Four penny stamps covered injury at work.


When I was thirteen, 1 signed at the old theatre to say that I was fourteen, so that I could join the chorus and dance at the performances. One night, sitting in a box was the Headmistress of Redcliffe School. Next day she had me out in front of the whole school. Fortunately my mother never got to know!


I spent all my life as a Boiler Maker, having started as an apprentice. I gave my mother 5 shillings a week, and I was twenty years of age before I had a whole pound pocket money for myself First I worked for Hills, and then Antinott in Southampton.


I had an elementary education at Redcliffe Girls’ School, and I left with a good character reference. After many applications I was finally employed by Marden Son and Hall at nine shillings and sixpence a week - nine shillings for mother, and sixpence pocket money! The pictures cost two pence, and half penny worth of sweets bought the equivalent of a quarter of a pound. I worked in the novelty advertising department and these were the happiest days of my life. If you worked for Marden or Wills you were one of the elite.


My mother took me for an interview at the tobacco company. I got a job and stayed there from the time that I was fourteen until I was twenty one. Once a week I had to sieve the tobacco dust, which was a horrible job. I had to wear a vest and navy blue knickers until I was seventeen, and I went to work with rags in my hair to make it curl! I had to have my hair cut because the other girls called me Queen Mary. We had visits from the ‘nit nurse.’! My wages of fourteen shillings were kept in a round tin with a round lid. The rent was twelve shillings and six pence. What I had left made it possible to go into the town to the Rummer for a couple of ports!


I worked for David Greig’s: I had an errand boy’s bicycle with a small wheel at the front and a large one at the back. I started work when I was fourteen years old and had a six day week - working on Saturdays until 6.00 p.m. My round was from Stapleton Road, to Coal Pit Heath and Frampton Cotterell. There were miles to ride to deliver the goods. The bicycle had no lights and it was difficult to find the right house, especially in the parts where I did not know the way. I also had a delivery in Redland, and on a Saturday night, after being paid in pigs trotters, I sat on top of a tram eating them with the fat dripping down me: they cost one shilling for two trotters in those days. The day came when I returned from my delivery at 10.00 p.m., after having got lost in the country, and my boss said, “Here’s your money, and don’t bother to come back on Monday!”

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