Interview transcript

By Pam Schweitzer


Pam: I would like to ask Renee to tell us about the first job that you got when you left school. What it was, how you got it and how you felt about it.

Irene: Right. I can tell you how I felt about it. I left school at 14. As you know in those days you didn’t stay on any longer. My mother said to me one day, she said, 'Rene. Now I have packed up a case for you and I have got you a job (my mother got me this job ). I said what is that doing Mum She said well it's in service. This lady's house was at the top of Vanbrugh Park Hill running down by the side of the park. So I goes there this day and I was expected to start straight away. I wasn’t given the option of whether I wanted the job or not and it was so hard to leave home because everything was all cut and dry. I was quite happy there. I did not want to leave school actually. But anyway, I started this job. I had to sleep in as I was up at six o’ clock in the morning to clean out their grates in their lounge. This was where they used to sit of an evening. Also the one in the kitchen and there was a little tiny back room which I was able to sit in. I had to get all these grates out and get them ready for the morning when I took up jugs of hot water to so many rooms, because there wasn’t any hot water up there then. So I had to make sure that I had done that ready for them. Also cups of tea ready, when they came out, as some of them had to go to work, sons and daughters. In the end I began to wonder just how many there was in the family because it seemed as though there was such a lot of people there and after all I was only fourteen.

Pam: And did you have to wear anything special?

Irene:Yes I had to wear a navy blue dress with a pinafore, like a nurse’s pinafore, you know, and a band around my head Well it was all a hat during the day but at night time I had to wear one of these bands as though I was a nipper or something

Pam: Did they provide that?

Irene: Yes they provided that. They took me to a shop, an outfitters, and had me fitted out, y' see. so that was okay. I used to have like an hour or two off in the afternoon, then I was back at again after that. So I was back there for tea time and then at supper time. It seemed as though I was never getting any time off at all. I used to have Sunday afternoon off and my mum only lived at Plumstead, which is not very far away from there, so I used to go there for my time off. Each day I did not like going back, I really resented going back, but I had to do it. I felt as if I had to get to like it

Pam: Did you argue with your Mum at all about it?

Irene: No you did not argue with your Mum in those days. Your mum said that you had to do it, you had to do it... One look was enough, she did not have to say anything else. In her day as well, she had to go in the service, so I suppose it was in the family. When your daughter left school that was where she went. 

This page was added by Pam Schweitzer on 15/05/2014.