Oral History: Cooperative Voices – Margaret Creaby

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CWS Voices 2015

Interview Notes Margaret Creaby Waterloo House 1969-70

Interviewer Maria Goulding Exeter Close, Great Lumley 12.06.14

Location of interview recording: Tyne and Wear Archives

Margaret was born in Windy Nook in 1945. Windy Nook consisted of two streets and the coop. Her mother was on the Co-op committee. Margaret left the local secondary modern school when she was 16.

At school, the careers guidance people came, stood on the stage in the hall and said all you girls can all work as bookbinders and you lot can work in a shop and you lots can work in a factory. However, Margaret’s parents said ‘Absolutely not’ and Margaret herself wanted to be a hairdresser. However, her Dad said ‘No, we want you to have a better life than standing on your feet all day long’ so she passed the exam and did the secretarial course at Hebburn Technical College. In those days you were expected to work abroad so you were taught deportment, etiquette, how to serve a meal, how to get in and out of a car as well as shorthand typing, English and Maths. The majority of girls there were from grammar schools and Margaret was one of the very few from a sec mod. After finishing she got a job with the Labour Party on a short maternity leave and then a job in a shipping office. It was so easy to get another job in those days. In the shipping office she was in a trades union but no-one else was. She tried to get other people to join but nobody wanted to so she had to go to union meetings without letting anyone know. After the shipping office, she got a job as an administrator with the Boiler Makers Union.

When Margaret’s daughter Ann was about a year old, Margaret went back to work for the CWS as a shorthand typist in Waterloo Street in Newcastle, so that she could earn enough money to go and see her sister who lived in Cyprus. All the wholesale outlets were in Waterloo Street. Her Mum came to Margaret’s flat in Felling in the morning to look after Ann and Margaret raced down the bank to get on the train to Central Station. She worked in the office with another girl and four men who were clerks. Although she missed Ann, she thoroughly enjoyed working and Margaret’s Mum used to bring the baby down at lunchtime and Ann could wave to her from the window. At lunchtime you could also go to Blandford Street and have a mince and dumplings type of dinner in the magnificent dining room. At that time, however, Blandford Street was starting to close down and it felt like an empty building. It had passed its hey day.

Margaret’s colleagues were really nice people. The men used to tell her stories about people stealing things from the stores because it was really easy to do. On Fridays you could go down to the meat market to buy your meat – you weren’t really supposed to do that and although the manager claimed not to know what she was talking about when she asked him if she could go, apparently he did the same as well. You could also get discounts on goods and when Ann wanted to buy some expensive Polaroid sunglasses for Ann to wear in Cyprus, she was allowed to have them.

Margaret was still a member of the Clerical Workers Union (CWU). Unlike the private companies, everyone in the CWS was in a union and everyone was from a similar background. In the other jobs it was difficult in the other jobs if you were a socialist. When she worked for the shipping company she was one of very few working class girls. When asked what her father did Margaret said ‘He works in a factory’ and the reply was ‘How did you get the job?’