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Recorded Memories

Doreen Thomas Interview. June 2000.

The Argee straight from school in 1945:
'I'm not blowing me own trumpet, I was a good machinist'

'I always wanted to leave school and go to work in a factory and work on a machine'

Doreen was born in 1931 and started work at the age of 14 in August 1945.
We are looking at Doreen’s own photos of the Argee and she’s pointing out various friends and her mother, who worked in the canteen, also a photo which includes Mr Gildersgame. She remembers friends from Ibstock and Coalville who would cycle to Earl Shilton.
Working hours were from 8 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock in the evening, clocking in and out. Doreen went home for dinner and sometimes prepared food for the evening meal.
She did leave The Argee at one point and went to work at Toon’s. The reason for leaving was that she was swapped about from one machine to another, she was a good machinist.
Doreen wanted to leave school and work in a factory on a machine, and with her mum working at The Argee it was easy to get a job there.
At this time, mid 1940s, there were a lot of jobs about. She wasn’t nervous about working in the factory, ‘It wasn’t as if I went into an environment where I didn’t know anybody’. She knew other girls and still keeps in touch with some of her old work colleagues.
Looking at photos of the machine room Doreen points out overlocking machines, flatlock machines and the post machine which was used to sew the wings on brassieres and join the two cups together.
Doreen went straight on a machine from school, and it was the foremisses who showed her what to do, the foremisses came from London with her two sisters and they still live in Barwell.
She remembers earning about £2. 10s [£2.50] and earning more once she went on to her ‘own time’.
The Argee made undergarments and a lot of the work was for Marks and Spencer and it had to be good. Material was delivered in big bales and laid on great big tables and cut with a big machine. The cutting machine and all the sewing machines, including overlocking, flatlocking and post machines, were all in one big room.
Doreen didn’t want to do anything else – she wanted to leave school, work at The Argee as a machinist, get married and have a family, ‘I weren’t ambitious’.
Her husband came to live in Earl Shilton with his family from south Wales in 1939 - they’d known each other since they were young. As youngsters they went about in a gang – congregated in The Hollow and went to the pictures. They started courting when Doreen was 17½, Glyn was a year older, and they were married when she was 19.
Doreen’s father worked in the boot and shoe all his working life and her mother, before working in the canteen, had also worked in the boot and shoe.

Doreen's Interview No1.
Run time 20 minutes & 54 seconds.

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