Oral History: Cooperative Voices – Anne Avalos

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Interview notes Anne Avalos CWS Printing    1971-1974

Interviewer- Margaret Creaby at Pelaw Library 24.03.14

Location of interview recording: Tyne and Wear Archives

Anne was born 14.03.1956 in Gateshead, she attended Linney House and Heworth Modern leaving school at 15. Anne went for an interview for the Printing works while still at school and put her name down for a job. She took her 6 weeks summer holiday and then started work with friends Noreen Tindale and Jean Nichol. Noreen worked in book binding and Jean in bagging. There were 8 in her family- 6 kids and in common with her brothers and sisters was allowed to keep all of her first week’s wages. Anne tells us she generally didn’t give much to her parents, she enjoyed a full social life which included nights out in Newcastle and later the Chelsea Cat in Shields

Anne remembers making her own way to work each morning, running down the tracks -the Dilly Lines (mineral railway), she was often late and had to clock in, so was docked ½ hours wages if she was later than 15 minutes.

Her job was a book binder’s assistant- this was always a woman’s role- (see Keith Miller’s Interview for details). There was a good atmosphere at work, the floor manager Freddie was good fun and they would often sing especially the songs from the TV adverts. ‘Tights’, ’Bless ‘em all’ and other funny songs.

It was the custom to celebrate the end of an apprenticeship – with a ceremony called Knocking Out. She remembered Stephen Bandersley when he reached 21 they all tapped the benches to knock him out of his apprenticeship. If someone had a birthday fresh cardboard was put on the work benches and they would all take in something to eat- cakes etc. Stephen would add initials/names in gold leaf to purses given as presents. Old guys would tell funny stories from the war, others would sing to you. The young women were not allowed to work on the presses or use the guillotine- unsure if it was union rules or just looking out for the women.

If someone got married, they would make her a big, funny hat, decorated with paper flowers, and the scrap punched paper would be stuffed into hair, tights and down jumpers.

Work in the Printing works was very noisy, she worked on a camcord, that would cut and fold. There was no ear protection and she would often go home with a ringing in the ears. Freddy, Mr Jopling was the boss on the floor, Etti McFarlane who had never married, was the forewoman .They worked an 8 hour day from 8-5, with a 10 minute break in the morning and afternoon and an hour for lunch. The office on the factory floor made tea for the workers. At lunchtime they ate sandwiches or went to the chip shop. The little shops in Pelaw made sandwiches and snacks for the staff.

If necessary they worked overtime.

They were members of SOGAT and paid their union dues weekly. She saw union meetings as a skive but doesn’t remember any strikes while she was working there.

They organised a savings club for Christmas and remembers a work’s trip to Blackpool- which could also have been paid up weekly.

She didn’t see a great deal of the office staff although often sat with her sister’s friend (who worked in the office) at lunch time- she was a really lovely girl.