CWS Voices 2015
Interview Notes Teresa Hood (Spark) Pelaw Dry Saltery 1962-1968 Quilting 1970s
Interviewer Kath Connolly at Pelaw Library 18.12.13
Location of interview recording: Tyne and Wear Archives
Teresa was born in Felling 3.8.1947 and moved to a new house in Pelaw at 6, she attended St Albans RC School and Willlowgrove Felling. She started work at the Dry Saltery on leaving school at 15 (the day after her birthday).
There were several CWS factories at Pelaw all of them employing their own workforce- Printing, Tailoring, Drugs and Dry Saltery, Quilting, Shirting. In the Dry Saltery she packed dry goods- currants, raisins, gravy salt, hair lacquer, flour, tablets for ‘steepy’ peas- all of them packed in different rooms.She recalls how Pelaw used to be a thriving place,” you couldn’t move in the Front Street at dinnertime when the factories came out at 12, people going into the cafes and shops.”
The whole family worked for the CWS- father and sister in Printing, mother worked in the Outlook Stores, selling household goods. Her brother served his time as an apprentice electrician at Vickers Armstrong.
She lived at the top of the street from the factory, had an interview with Mary the supervisor and started soon after. She remembers being terrified the first day, was given a green overall and green cap. No bags were allowed in the factory and were checked to make sure they weren’t carrying produce out in their pockets. Machinery weighed out the CWS produce into bags/packages.
They were a lovely bunch of people, mainly younger women, apart from older supervisors, the men were mechanics looking after the machinery. The work colleagues were helpful and showed us the best/quickest methods. She felt the DandDS were not strict, but they “ didn’t take a lend” and abuse this trust by taking e.g. too long on toilet breaks. Teresa recalled walking away from her machine which was stamping out bicarb tablets (to soak dried peas) for a chat with a friend. The machine jammed and when she returned the room was full of bicarb .
There were no opportunities for women’s apprenticeships, she didn’t remember TU or any industrial disputed. Nor could she remember any perks- discounts etc. By the 1960’s she was not aware of factory dances- they may have organised them but she didn’t go to any. Remembers as a child attending Christmas parties – her parents both worked in the Pelaw factories. The girls organised their own parties
The family were happy enough for Teresa to work in the factories at Pelaw, they were close to home, in her case at the top of the street and so didn’t involve bus fares. She was paid 2.50 ??? She had applied for a job at the Ministry at Longbenton and was offered a job after she had started at the Dry Saltery- she turned it down when she worked out the wages and bus fares -she would have been worse off.
Women were not really treated any differently to the men although they usually did the heavy work such as carrying boxes. Older women supervised the girls on the factory floor- they were often single women who had stayed in the job since leaving school.
After her children she went back to work but on this occasion she worked at the Quilting factory where they made dressing gowns and bed quilts. The work regime was much stricter here and there was no timewasting- the girls worked on a production line each machining part of the finished article. At that time she worked a twilight shift to fit in with her children and school- mother worked day shift and looked after Teresa’s children so that she could work in the evening. In later years the quilting factory offered more flexible hours than standard day shift to attract older women workers.
There was no nursery in the factory so had to rely on family for help with childcare. Everything was done in a more relaxed way in the DS.