In 1928 when I was 14 years old I started work at the Mansfield Shoe Company in Stockwell Gate/Dallas Street. I was signed on by Mr Brett a foreman at the factory.
I worked from 9am till 4pm for the first few weeks and got six shillings. Then I worked from 7:30am till 5pm. I graduated to piecework, working on a silking machine doing backs of shoes. There was a ticket on all the work that came in, and when you had done the work needed you took the ticket off, and I used to write the number in a book. You were paid on how much work you had done, and on piecework I earned more money. I enjoyed it working along with the other girls. Later I went on a vamping machine, then all oddments as they called it and I got a good set wage.
There were lots of different rooms at the Shoe Company. I remember some of the rooms, the first room was the Clicking Room where lads cut the pattern of the shoes out from a piece of leather. The second room was the Machine Room (Closing Room) where girls sat at the machines, each different row had different machines. I worked in there doing solutioning. It was all girls except for one lad and the foreman Mr Bratt, he was a nice man. The third room was ? Zepher. There was also a Lasting Room There was also a room where two or three white coated men worked, to do with patterns, They would try out new ideas, Billy Wood and ? Kirk worked in there.
The work came into the Machine Room (Closing Room) from the Clickers, it came in bundles of Fronts (Vamps). It used to be counted. Skiving was when bits were taken off of the edges that had to be folded.
Solutioning – was when the glue was put on to make it stick Next a folding machine turned them over and stuck it down If there was any fancy stitching to be done it was called Vamping. The backs were in two parts. Mens dance shoes were put together with a zig zag machine.
There were girls on a Rubbing Down machine, this smoothed the seams. Tape was put on the inside of (the back of the) shoes to make them smooth and strong.
Two rows of girls stitched linings together. Girls worked on Rounding Machines putting lining in the uppers of the shoes. Eyelets were put in if needed.
The work was checked/examined before going into the next room, for the soles and heels to be put on. Anything spoilt was handed to the lady foreman. Things were moved about in bags.
Mr Cumerford looked after a room where there were wooden lasts (formers), and the soles and heels were put on the shoes. There was also another room where the shoes were boxed.
Miss Royce’s Angels
My sisters Kath and Evelyn also worked at the Shoe Company. Unlike some other factories we didn’t work shifts at the Shoe Company. Miss Royce used to call all the girls at the factory ‘Miss Royce’s Angels’ – if the girls were in trouble they always went to Miss Royce.
Miss Royce was the Welfare person, she was the sister of Billy and Harold Royce who ran the Shoe Company. When I first worked at the Shoe Company we didn’t clock on but later on we did with a card into a machine with a slot.
Music while you work In the war we started to have a break and we had music on ‘Music while you work’. A woman came round with a trolley in the morning and afternoon with cups of tea. We took our own cups, she collected them up and washed them.
Albert Wright who had a little bus and a coal lorry, used to fetch the girls home from the Shoe Company at dinnertime and take them back, we had to pay. We only had one and a half hours for dinner.
We provided our own overalls, some we wore were flowered, some plain, anyone with long hair might have had to have their hair up.
Some of the people I remember who worked at the Shoe Company are:- Mr Cumford, Mr Edward, Miss Royce. Mr Jackson who was a manager, his daughter looked after the shoe room. Jessie Butler (Sciving), Phyll Wilds (Folding), Madge Walters (Closing) Daisy Needham (Rubbing), Evelyn Marshall (Silking) Margorie Stevenson (Vamping), there was also Gladys Chalk, Rene Moult, Doris Cumberland, and Kit Lea (Skiving).Vie/Viv? was on the table at the end of the room examining the work before it went into the next room. There were two forewomen, Florrie Dennis, and Edna Hill who sat either side of the room. Annie Cummerford also worked at the Shoe Company she married Sam Hammond who ran a bus in Forest Town. There were a lot of office staff.
The factory arranged Gym classes and evening classes for us. I went to Gym, I was possibly 16 or 18. We had jumpers and navy blue knickers, we once did a display and people came to watch and one person got a badge. The class was at the college on Chesterfield Road, the gym class was at the back. It was mostly women but there were some men who didn’t work at the shoe company. After Gym we used to go to Brunts Street for two penn’orth of chips, if some hadn’t got any money others shared their chips.
I went to Dress making and cookery. I used to play tennis in my teens, at Padley Hill up Chesterfield Road, there were two tennis courts, belonging to the Shoe Company. I used to bike it there with Doris Cumberland.
I worked at the Shoe Company for 17 years, finishing there in 1945.
This information was given in an oral history interview December 1995