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Recorded Memories

Keith Lockton Interview.

From apprentice counterman to secretary of The National Union of Hosiery and Knitwear Workers: A working life 1933-1984

At the time ‘you tipped all your money up to your parents, you didn’t keep it…I never kept myself’ 

There were a lot of factory romances and Keith could name quite a few couples who met each other at Flude’s and married. Keith and Dorothy, however, met at a ‘Tanner Hop’ held at the Great Meeting Chapel in 1938 – it was upstairs with girls seated on one side of the room and boys on the other and he asked Dorothy to dance. There were a lot of dances held in Hinckley at this time – St Georges Hall was ‘way before it’s time in the 1930s’. Keith attended Albert Road school and at age seven moved to the senior school and he remembers all the children watching the eclipse in 1927.

Keith commented that countermen could earn good money – it was up to the individual, on piece rate…’if you wanted to earn you attend and got into it…’ and for this reason he and Dorothy were able to buy a house on Ashby Road, Hinckley. After the war he was earning about £8 a week and they bought their house for about £1000 in 1947, the mortgage was 2¼% and they had a loan from the council. Other countermen were also living nearby. Keith’s brother had won a scholarship to the grammar school and left school at 16 but still went into the hosiery and worked as a counterman – ‘you’d got to have a job…that was the basis of life…’. The hosiery had been a dying industry for a number of years and what saved Hinckley, according to Keith, was the car industry in Coventry. A lot of countermen (once the job had been phased out - mid 1960s) went to work in the car industry and they were welcomed because of their commitment to hard work – they had been used to working on piece rate!

Keith’s grandmother Ellis who had died in about 1917 ‘was a bit of a gypsy – she smoked a clay pipe’. His grandfather Lockton worked at Skechleys and they lived on Stockwell Head. He remembers Moore, Eady and Murcote Goode and the Britannia factory logo along the side of the building. As a youngster he walked through the various ‘yards’ – Britannia Yard through to Castle Street; Chapel Yard where Flude Hosiery started up. Keith’s maternal grandfather Ellis along with his three sons had a ‘shop’ in the back garden with knitting frames and the knitted stockings were taken into Leicester to be sold. Keith called it a ‘little factory’. During the 1920s the factory hooters went off at different times – five-minutes- to-eight…two-minutes-to-eight – Atkins, Bennetts. There were also lots of chimneys in the town – all the factories were coal fired and everyone had coal fires in their homes. Ridgeway Coal Hauliers had their stables on Stockwell Head where the car park is now situated – nine massive Shire horses (three in a row) would ‘clomp down the hill to the station and clomp back about 5 o’clock’. Squires Bakery delivered their bread by horse and cart and Keith could buy 1d and 2d bags of cake ‘cut-offs’. In 1936 he remembers going to London to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hinckley and District Warehouseman’s Association and celebrated again on the 50th anniversary. Flude’s always organized an annual outing and he also commented on the yarn people visiting from the mills up North.  

Dorothy who joined in the recording worked at Rover making haversacks for the soldiers then went into the WAFS. After marriage she did ‘spells’ of factory work – including Atkins and also at JAF Hosiery, the brothers were friends of theirs – she was getting ‘on a bit’ by this time – in her late 20s. While at JAF Hosiery she remembers cooking pikelets on the electric fire and would go out to buy icecream for everyone but ‘then it went, you’d got to get on with your work’. She did the toe stitching and overlocking. They were ‘fetched’ out of their factory jobs at 18 in order to do war work, her friend worked in munitions. When she worked at Rovers in Coventry everyone was older than her but she went out dancing with an older lady - ‘we used to have a ball’. She went dancing at the Co-op Hall, Nuneaton with her friend Peggy during the war and one night they walked home barefoot in the snow taking off their court shoes so they wouldn’t get spoilt. They slept together in a single bed in Dorothy’s parent’s house. Both Dorothy and Keith spoke of their own and friend’s separation during the war years – her friend’s husband was a POW; Keith’s brother didn’t see his daughter until she was 4 and Keith and Dorothy’s daughter was 10 months old before he saw her for the first time.  

When they were first married in 1943 Dorothy lived with her mother – their parents organized a traditional wedding for them – the wedding dress was second hand and subsequently borrowed by other friends. Dorothy’s mother made all the bridesmaids dresses and they had their reception at the Vinery. They had both put in for ‘extensions’ for their honeymoon, unfortunately Dorothy’s telegram was lost and on her arrival back at work she was put on a charge of ‘Absent without Leave’. As a young girl Dorothy went dancing with her parents and she would partner her dad. Before the war the girls would wear long dresses to a dance and the boys would be in suits and ties with ‘brylcreamed’ hair. After the war Dorothy and her friends wore halter-neck dresses. Dorothy’s mother worked as a ‘buttonholer on the shirts and pants’ at Atkins Highcross factory on Regent Street and her dad worked as a trimmer in the factory which was taken over by JAF Hosiery. As a schoolgirl of about 8 or 9 she took her dad’s breakfast to him at the factory. Dorothy had worked at Moore & Osborne when she left school at 14 and she and her friend Peggy were ‘too frightened to ask to go to the toilet…we were only a couple of kids’. She trained as a fully fashioned seamer which she hated. Her aunt who was a foremisses upstairs on the ‘ordinary’ had got her the job. At the time ‘you tipped all your money [wages] up to your parents, you didn’t keep it…I never kept myself’. Keith never kept himself although commenting that he probably earned more than anyone else in the family. He was called up for the army when he was 20…

Keith's Interview No2.
Run time 29 minutes & 35 seconds.

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