Barry talks about his working life in Norwich including working for British Railways and the Milk Marketing Board. He has fond memories of the camaraderie at the MMB.
I was born in Norwich in 1944. I went to school, first of all to the Dowson School on Valpy Avenue, then I went up to the Norman Senior secondary modern school and left in, I think, 1958. I went onto British Railways as a porter, but after being there for about nine years I got made redundant.
A lot of people were being made redundant, it was around the time when all the railways were closing. I actually liked working on the railways. I used to like it when the London trains come in, because we used to get more tips then!
You’d go and meet people with a sort of trolley, off the London train. We used to pool the tips and share them. We used to do shift work, split shifts. The early morning shift was 6am ‘til 2pm, and then after that 2pm ‘til 10pm, after that nights. When I started I was on three pounds a week, quite a lot of money then.
On the night shifts, the paper trains come in, the Milk Marketing Board ones too and we unloaded them. I actually went to the Milk Marketing Board after I got made redundant.
Milk Marketing Board
My father worked there as well, they called him Darkie. In the summertime he didn’t used to go brown, he used to go nearly black! Same as me. Me and my older sister are more like my dad and then my other sisters are more like my mum.
He unloaded the tankers and he put in a good word for me. I went down and had an interview and I was pleased as I got the job. I got the job as soon as I was made redundant so I didn’t have to touch my redundancy money.
I started there for about twelve pounds a week, that was quite a good increase actually, but I didn’t get any tips though! When I started I only lived up the road, it took me about a quarter of an hour to get to work.
I worked in what they called the creamery. Used to have to load up the bottle in the bottling hall and work in the cold store. Then they opened the yoghurt room and I worked in the yoghurt room, making yoghurt, for the rest of my time there. We could buy the yoghurts at a reduced price.
There used to be some culture in churns and whatnot, all different flavours, like strawberry and raspberry. We used to make yoghurts for Marks and Spencer. We used to….there was a lot of lifting actually, yeah. It ran through the machine into the little pots.
There were supposed to be two of you to lift the churn and that into the container where the pots were going round and being filled up. I was like my dad, I was fairly strong. I did a lot of weightlifting, I used to lift them up on my own and that, I couldn’t do it now!
Then the churns used to go off onto the dock and there was a churn washing machine sort of thing, that washed them automatically.
A lot of the yoghurt making was done by machine. They also made cheese and that as well. I used to help my father on the dock sometimes, with the tankers and that. That was so long ago that I was there.
We would go in really early on a Friday night so we could get a weekend off. We used to go in more or less all Friday night really and from there, Friday nights, we used to leave off and then go down for our breakfasts down the cattle market. We had our breakfast at the Norfolk Dumpling, where the big B&Q is now.
We used to get inside the tankers sometimes and wash them out. That was a hot job, actually, hot inside there. It was a smelly job, yeah, had to have a bath when you got home.
You know where Tesco is at Harford Bridge? Well that was where the factory was, that used to be a little bungalow there as well, where the manager lived. They pulled down the factory and built Tesco.
It was a very friendly place to work, a very friendly place, it was my favourite job. I liked the friendliness, the camaraderie. They used to have a dinner and dance up at the Norwood Rooms, every year. People looked after each other and the managers weren’t too bad. They used to give you a drink at Christmas. They had a canteen and my mother worked in there sometimes.
Women worked at the factory as well, in the offices. And there were women in the cheese room and that. We used to have women open all the tins of flavours for the yoghurt.
Changes to the job and redundancy
The job itself, towards the end when I got made redundant it started to change a bit, actually. They modernised their cold store and that. They had some forklifts to do a lot of the lifting, because when the milk churns come down the chute into the cold store and that they’re quite heavy. When you get them up on the barrow and load them….all done by hand. Then forklifts came along and it took a lot of the work away.
They closed the yoghurt room down actually and the cheese room. The other part carried on for a little while. It was a bit of a blow to be made redundant. I had been there for about 13 years, I got married whilst I was there, not to someone from there though. I used to go out with a mate I met in the army and we used to go down to Yarmouth quite a lot. Then me mate introduced me to this girl, we got married and we had a son. We split up and I hardly ever see him now, they moved up north somewhere. I don’t think about them now. It was a long time ago.
Working for Mackintosh and Brooks
I used to go up the job centre and have a look and I see this job for Mackintosh. They were interviewing at Chapelfield. So I went for an interview there and then a little while afterwards I got the job.
I was packing chocolates, on the forklift actually, loading lorries and that. I hadn’t driven a forklift before! But I got on okay with it actually. They didn’t train me, but I weren’t there for long. I got made redundant again. The factory closed down.
From there I went to Brooks, the meat people at Little Melton. That’s where I finished my time off actually, at Brooks.
I worked in what they called the tray wash, there were two of us in there, we worked as a team. It was like a big cold store and there was a big washer there, where we washed all the trays out. They were full of blood and that from the meat.
It was a tough job, with very hot water. We used to have to wear a big rubber apron and big thick rubber gloves. You can’t feel your fingers when you put them on. We used to use hoses and things, pressure washing. We used to wash our own cars as well! Put all the foam and that on the cars, foam ‘em all up and it used to take the paint off your cars, but it used to give ‘em a good clean!
It was working nights the whole time. It was from 6 o’clock at night to 2 in the morning, but they used to get paid for the whole night, actually. You did get a night’s sleep when you got home.
I found working there quite good actually, they were friendly people there. You get on with the job and that, but it was a bit lonely. But we used to meet up on a weekend sort of thing and go out for a drink together.
They had a free bus to go up there. Mind you I used to drive then so I used to go in my car and I used to pick another bloke up on the estate where I lived. He used to give me petrol money and that.
We didn’t get paid if we were sick. What I done, I used to have an insurance man come to where I lived and I done an insurance whereby if you’re in hospital you get paid. If you end up ill from work they pay you a lump sum That was a good thing, I’ve got my private pensions and whatnot. I actually retired through my Parkinsons.
Best memories of working life
My best memories are from the Milk Marketing Board. Management was really fair you know, how they treated you. You couldn’t wish for better management really, they didn’t expect too much from us all long as you got your job done.
If you finished early, if anyone was behind sort of thing, you would go and help them, and they’d help you. I haven’t got any low points, I enjoyed the jobs I’ve done because when I start a job I like to finish it, sort of thing.
I think that things have changed for the better. Since I have been retired and all I find it a lot better, financially as well. I’ve got quite a good pension.
Barry (b. 1944) talking to WISEArchive in Norwich on 23rd March 2011.
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