Oral History: Other – Doris Hutchinson

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Interview transcript: Doris Hutchinson

Date of birth: 20 September 1931

Interviewer: Jean Kirkland

Date of interview: 22 November 2011

Location of interview recording: Durham County Archives


JK Right Doris can you tell me your full name, when you were born?

DH Doris Hutchinson

JK What is your birth date? Can you tell us your date of birth?

DH 20.09.31.

JK Right and what were your parents’ names?

DH Doris and Alf Hutchinson

JK Right, and what did Alf do for a living?

DH He was an Engine Driver.

JK And what did your Mam do, was your Mam in the home?

DH At home yes.

JK At home

DH But she was a Sunday School teacher before we come to Darlington to live.

JK Did she enjoy that?

DH She just never talked about it.

JK And your Dad started off a Shildon didn’t he?

DH Shildon yes.

JK Was he in the Work Shops?

DH I don’t know, our Stan was, in the Work Shops, me brother was.

JK And when did he come to Darlington then, when he got married?

DH No no I was about three I think, three or four.

JK And he was an Engine Driver then?

DH Well he’d be working to qualify for an Engine Driver but I don’t know whether he was an Engine Driver.

JK Was he a Fireman?

DH If he wasn’t an Engine Driver he would be a Fireman but..

JK Working his way up?

DH Yes

JK But you can you remember when he became an Engine Driver?

DH He’s been an Engine Driver all I can remember.

JK Did he get good pay?

DH We were never poor.

JK It was good money was it?

DH Yes. I went to Alderman Leach in Darlington <school> and then when me Mam was having our John, we went back to Shildon to live with me Nana till she had our John, then we come back to Darlington and we never left. We lived in Auckland Avenue all the time.

JK What was your experience of going to school for the first time?

DH I can’t remember

JK Well if you remember we can always go back and talk about it, can’t we.

DH Yes

JK Right Doris what was your first job?

DH In Woolworth’s. I was in Woolworth’s on the biscuit counter.

JK You said you used to give the biscuits….

DH They were rationed in those days and I let Pete’s Mam have some without coupons. That was an offence so you’d better not put that down.

JK It doesn’t matter now. That would be during the war then, that you were there, was it? At Woolworth’s?

DH I don’t know, I would only be a kid wouldn’t I? I’d of just met him.

JK And it’s your first job, at Woolworth’s?

DH Woolworth’s was yes.

JK And you met Pete while you were at Woolworth’s

DH Where did I meet him..I met him in the pictures, there was air raid shelters cos he was in the Salvation Army and he took his uniform off, he must have had somat underneath like, and we went with the lads like, we used to walk round High Row you see.

JK Yes I remember seeing that.

DH He walked me home but still in his ordinary clothes but he had to go back to the air raid shelter, near Binns again, to get his clothes on again, you know his proper clothes on to walk back up home.

JK And so your first job was at Woolworth’s and your second job was at Binns wasn’t it?

DH No me second job was at the clothing place

JK Alexander’s

DH Alexander’s, that’s all I had, I didn’t have a lot of jobs.

JK What was it like starting at Alexander’s? Working your way up?

DH It was pretty easy I think I can’t remember.I worked with, what was it you called her? I can’t remember what they called her.

JK You can’t remember her name

DH Freda Hayes, I worked with Freda Hayes and then we all went to Alexander’s, that’s where I finished.

JK What was it like working as a group? Were the lasses friendly?

DH Oh yes,all of us were, we were starters, there was about four different bunches of us.

JK Four different areas?

DH Yes

JK What were the different areas then? Different types of …

DH Like I say, one was to do the buttons and that, our Enid was further up, she did the side something, oh dear me..what do you call it.

JK They’d be different sides of tailoring was it

DH You got so…some people did what we did then it was the side seams and then it was the sleeves you know, all different ones.

JK Did you work your way up through them from buttons to side seams?

DH No well you just did what there was to do.

JK You were put on a section, and you did that section?

DH You weren’t put on you just went and you did what there was and then if there was no work there you went somewhere else.We went to them all I think.

JK So you went from Woolworth’s to Alexander’s. What was it like working at Alexander’s, was it a good job?

DH It wasn’t at times yes but Mr Woodcliffe I think they called the manager and he was very nice, and when I was promoted to..I wouldn’t say promoted, but when I got the job they made me a suit.

JK So you got a free suit if you went up to be Supervisor level?

DH Yes and it was grey, what did they call that grey?

JK Was it a coarse weave suit, was it a basic weave?

DH Yes it was just a basic suit

JK Was that a good thing to have then?

DH Oh yes it was a lovely suit, it was made lovely and

JK And about what period was that. Are we talking about during the war period?

DH No I wasn’t working during the war was I? I don’t know.

JK You were at Woolies’ you said first, during the war so when you were at Alexander’s it would be after the war?

DH After the war. But Mr Woodcliffe, that’s what his name was the boss,but he was nice.

JK Was he a good boss?

DH ummmm

JK Was he fair?

DH He was to most people I mean I never had any problems with him.

JK He was fair with everybody?

DH I think he ….he would have some enemies I don’t know, but I was always a supervisor, I don’t know how I got there straightaway.

JK How did you get to the level of supervisor?

DH I don’t know, there was Freda and I, Freda Hayes we both worked together, and we both moved from buttonholes to side seams, and we landed as supervisors, I don’t know we must of been just that little bit better I don’t know…I can’t remember.

JK Were you good at your job?

DH I must’ve been mustn’t I? I don’t know I can’t remember.

JK What was it like being a supervisor having to tell the girls what to do?

DH Some of them were alright but it’s the same as in other places some thought they were better than you, I just let them get on with it.

JK So you had to be tough sometimes?

DH Sometimes yes not very often.

JK Not very often, good. So it was basically the way the system was it was a good system.

DH Yes if you were clever or if you were in the know you got a good job.

JK So somebody had to be in the know then eh?

DH I think so I don’t know, I have no idea. But I never had any problem getting a job.

JK But it helped if you were in the know.

DH I don’t know, no idea.

JK Alright. So you are working at Alexander’s, what was it about work that you liked?

DH Well there was nothing you could say about Alexander’s because you were on the same section most of the time and you did the same thing.

JK But what did you like about working itself no matter where you were?

DH Oh it didn’t bother me I mean I worked all over.

JK What did you like about work? because you continued to work after you got married didn’t you?

DH Well I liked work, I just liked to work.

JK Kept you going?

DH Yes kept me going

JK Did it keep you busy?

DH Oh I was always busy, because if I had anything to do I always used to knit I used to sew I used to do all sorts. I used to ride me bike.

JK And you liked that?

DH Oh I liked all things me.

JK Did you like to be out in the fresh air?

DH Ummmmm

JK And did it give you a feeling of freedom?

DH I wouldn’t say so, it was just I liked to be out, I still like to be out but I don’t get out much here.

JK And you liked to be kept busy?

DH Ummmm

JK Would you say that was the prime motive of working?

DH I suppose so yes, but you’re not busy here..

JK You didn’t need the money did you?

DH No I still don’t but I’m bored still doing nothing at times. I’m washing me own knickers out and hanging them up there for something to do.

JK So Doris is still doing something even though she’s in a home, she still likes to do something herself.

DH Yes

JK So you would think that doing work is a positive thing?

DH Oh yes I couldn’t have stayed at home.

JK You couldn’t have stayed at home and been the housewife?

DH No No never ever.

JK It would bore you to death?

DH Bore me to tears, even when he was working I used to get in the car and deliver stuff.

JK Did you?

DH Yes deliver sink units and toilets.

JK Your husband was a plumber.

DH He was a plumber but I had me own car you see he had his van.

JK You were still doing work and helping.

DH I had a Vaux…oh what was it called?

JK You had a Jowette didn’t you?

DH Jowette Javelin that’s right, I wish I still had.

JK Can you remember your memories of work in particular working at Alexander’s?

DH No it’s noth….It was just all normal work..

JK You remember the girls

DH Freda Hayes yes I remember well I don’t remember them all but I remember a lot of them and we used to be in sections, we were the first and then Enid and her lot were next, they were you know the sideseamers.

JK Was there a lot of comaraderie between the lasses who were working? Was there jokes and…you know a bit of banter going on there?

DH Well I suppose there would be I can’t remember, but it was alright I didn’t mind work, I still don’t mind work anyway.

JK And you went on to have two children didn’t you?

DH Yep

JK And you still kept working

DH And I still kept working

JK You’ve done all sorts haven’t you?

DH Yes and of course when we got the caravan it was great. We used to go down the caravan and he used to work.

JK Was he still working when you had the caravan?

DH Sometimes, if he had a job to do he used to come back and do it. Not very often but he used to.

JK So would you say that the caravan gave you a lot of freedom, do to what you wanted?

DH I wouldn’t say freedom but you could do what you want in a caravan, we were lucky we had a big one you see. We hadn’t been lucky I would say cos we worked very hard at times. And we spent our money wise.

<End of interview.>