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A collection of interviews and photographs recorded by Women's Archive of Wales in 2013-14

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VSE039 Anonymous, Fram Filters, Treforest Trading Estate

The speaker worked in Fram Filters for three months in 1968, before starting her nursing career. As a grammar school student nursing was not considered a suitable career for her. Worked during the summer – making bolts and washers and filling hopper with plastic granules. And also inspecting washers. She felt that their glasses hindered the older women. She and her friend were younger and much faster and they had more bonuses. Flirting with the boys- looking up their mini-skirts with mirrors when they put the plastic in the hopper. They changed the method of working – speeding up the process – some tension. Standing on swivel chair – no health and safety. Very strict breaks. Gave her perspective on work. Good experience.

VSE035 Anonymous, Sidroy Mills, Barry

The Feltz, (Jewish) family owned the factory. It produced underwear, blouses and night wear. Both the contributors won scholarships to the grammar school but because working class had to leave at 16. No talking but singing. Piecework and how it was worked out. The difficulties regarding establishing a trade union - the National Taylor and Garment Workers’ Union in the factory. A union branch was formed with one of them as Chair and the other as Secretary. Attending T.U.C. meetings – spoke out in 1953. They left when they married and organised playgroups in the local community. They recall the comradeship and value the sewing skills they learned at Sidroy’s.

VSW059 Hilda Glenys Rees (Glenys), Louis Marx, Swansea;Smiths Crisps, Swansea;Mettoys, Fforestfach

Glenys left school at 14 (1946) and followed her friends into the factories. She worked in Mettoys for the Xmas rush, 1947 and then in the new Louis Marx factory. Her number was 312. Office staff ‘a bit above’ them – had tablecloths in the canteen. She made pop guns and Daleks. Piecework. Time and motion man working out targets. She left when she was pregnant (Worked 1948-54). Maternity benefit if you worked six months of pregnancy. Singing on bus. Unions – stop work if too hot. Variety in work. Football and netball teams and concerts in canteen. Handpainting toy cars. Cleanliness. Had something in her eye - to hospital. Everyone helping one another. Security at the gate. Strong language. In Mettoys listened to Queen’s wedding on the tannoy. At Louis Marx one minute’s silence when King died. Banter. Later returned part-time to Louis Marx. She also worked in Smith’s Crisps before returning to Louis Marx – frightened of big machine. Smelled of crisps. Worked like a robot there.

VSW039 Sylvia Poppy Griffiths (Poppy), Flax Factory, Milford Haven

Poppy left school at 14 (1939) and went to work on a farm, then as a potato picker and then she worked in the flax factory during the war (c.1942-8). She was afraid of the big machines. She found she was still moving as if on the conveyor belt when she went home at night. Moved to the seed room. The flax was used to make parachute harnesses. She helped harvest the flax too. She was caught smoking in the toilets – told off because it was dangerous. Huge factory – after being in the seed room, her work was to keep the sheaves on the conveyor belt. Very dirty – dust like fog. Given head-scarves to protect their heads. Accidents – one of boys lost an eye, her friend's arm ripped by the machine. Singing all the war songs. Lifting heavy bales. Highest paid job – dressing and grading the flax and she moved on to this. Went to King’s Lynn to be trained. Helping the war effort. Factory closed 1948. Went off to Berkshire to work in a canteen. Dismissed because she spoke up during a strike. Back home.

VSE064 Martha Irene Lewis (Rene), Bernard and Lakin, Mountain Ash;Alexon Steinberg, Treforest

Irene left school at 14 (1941) and stayed at home to help her mother for 4 years before starting in Steinberg’s in 1946 (new factory). She worked on the buttons – for skirts and suits. She used to be used as a model to try on some of the clothes. Many of the clothes went to America – they were expensive clothes. On Saturdays they had open days – people could buy seconds. Her sister had a nervous breakdown while there – but she was given a light job to help her get better (she stayed there for 50 further years and got a gold watch!) Music and singing. She couldn’t afford many clothes from the factory. The factory was dry because of the dust from the clothing. It was hot because they were making heavy winter clothes in summer. She stayed there until 1952 and left when she was pregnant. In the early 1960s she went to another clothes factory – Bernard and Lakin. She was there for c. 3 years.

VSE047 Hilary Adams, Burlington Gloves, Treforest;KLG (Kenelm Lee Guiness) Factory, Treforest

Hiilary left school at 15 and started in Burlington’s Gloves in 1953. She worked in the fabric section; they made leather and industrial ones too. Buses carried the workers to all the estate factories. They worked piece work; listened to Housewives’ Choice and some were home-workers. She got fed up there after c. 9 years and went to KLG to work making sparking plugs. This factory was part of Smith’s Industries, a good family firm – which paid sick pay and after 10 years gave extra holidays. When Ford’s took over the factory their wages doubled - they received equal pay. She worked 10 years for KLG and altogether 44 years in factories. She notes the social activities.

VSE055 Caroline Isina Aylward, Louis Edwards, Maesteg;Christie and Tyler's, Glyncorrwg

Caroline left school at 15 (1952) and started in Louis Edwards. She worked there until she had her son - 1959. Before she started they made army uniforms but she was making evening gowns and lots for M&S. She sewed the collars mostly. Description of factory layout. Men/women balance. No talking, Dancing. Perks from factory – buy dresses with flaws. Garment Workers’ Union and paying on a Friday. Very hard work – Chinese labour. Time and motion on new styles – pricing jobs. Needles in fingers. She caught her skirt in a machine – so they had overalls after. Played netball after work a few times. She returned for a couple of years later (c. 1967-9) and a happier place. First time the workforce was disgruntled. She also worked in furniture factories - Colonial / Christie Tyler. She worked part-time when her son was small. Thicker material but earning good money. Easier sewing – not fussy. Describes processes. Moved to Trefforest (1980s?) when shortage of work in Glyncorrwg. Same company but different names to factories. Then she was aked to work with a designer as a machinist developing furniture She did private sewing for one of the male workers. Later factory in Glyncorrwg closed and they went to Pendragon in Bridgend. But made redundant and she went into Social Services.

VSE059 Esther Baitup, Revlon, Maesteg;The Rubber Factory, Maesteg;Cymer Bookbinding, Maesteg;Louis Edwards, Maesteg

Esther left school at 15 (1965) and started in the Edwards Factory, ticketing and inspecting. Machinists didn’t like to have their work returned. They made dresses for M&S. The workers – pressers, cutting etc were divided into cages. She was not on piecework but had some bonuses. She used her wages to buy a sewing machine. She stayed there about 3 years. Everything in the factory would be covered in paper overnight and doubly so on stop fortnight. She left when pregnant (uncertain from which factory); she worked temporarily for Cymer Bookbinding on shift work with machinist sewing catalogues. She went to Revlon’s in 1988 – evening shift, part-time and after 3 years full-time. Changed shifts. She did all kinds of tasks there – labelling, filling, etc. In the beginning in aerosol dept. dangerous - if a can was faulty it would explode. Other workers were afraid of this job. Also using boiling water with the perfumes – dangerous. Many of the workers there didn’t like the factory. Talks of some workers who took advantage and didn’t do their work. Bad management. Revlon taken over – Cozy? She stayed 15 years + 5 others, off and on. She had bonus of £200 every year for not being off sick. She only worked in the rubber factory for a few weeks because of the smell – trimming the rubbers that go round the windows of cars. She discusses unfair incidents. However she earned good money.

VSE066 Alice Jill Baker, St Margaret's Clothing Factory, Aberbargoed

Jill left school at 16 (1953) and started in the garment factory, making clothes for M&S. They made blouses, men’s pyjamas and liberty bodices. She discusses the different jobs. Jill had polio as a child and in the factory the treadle of the machine was adjusted for her. Piecework, - collars would be 2/6 a dozen. She was good at collars and zips. She could do 10 dozen zips a day. She explains the intricacies of working for bonuses. Time and motion. The buyers for M&S were very thorough. She enjoyed the company but hated sewing. Although some were rough and swore they would help others out if necessary. Other factories in England and there would be a beauty queen competition in Bargoed itself. They also had a newsletter. Wages - to mother and pocket money. Not on board and lodging until 18. She talks about the new fall-back rate which meant less money and she walked out because it was unfair and because the supervisor was rude to her. She had worked there for 10 years. She returned part time later but by then, things weren't the same. Factory work was an experience for her.

VSE072 Marguerite Barber, Polythene Factory, Cardiff;Stamina, Cardiff

Marguerite left school at 15 (1958) and started in the Stamina Factory, putting buttons and hooks on overalls and the buttonholes. These were industrial work-wear. Permission to go to the toilet. She stayed there less than a year. Machinists on piecework but she wasn’t. She bought a wind-up gramophone with her money. She moved to the Polythene Factory and stayed there 9 years. She sealed bags there – cutting them out, sealing them and putting them in bundles. It was like a family. She talks of condemning the houses in Loudon Square in Butetown. Canteen and one toilet. Complaints about cold (but too hot in summer) but no strikes. Outings by boat once a year. Day before Xmas – everyone went to the pub together at 12 o’clock. She left when 7 months pregnant. . Later she was a hotel chambermaid.