Memories of a Telephonist

My First Employment by Doreen Clarke

I left Northampton school for girls in 1937 at the age of 16 and started training as a G.P.O. telephonist in September, we had to be right handed and at least 5 foot 3 inches tall n order to reach the equipment. Married women were not employed. If a telephonist left to be married after 6 years or more service she received a dowry according to the years worked.

As the training class in Northampton was full my self and another girl went to Birmingham for the first 6 weeks of our training. Travelling by train on Monday and back on Friday. All paid for of course. The last 2 weeks of training at Northampton.

Our wages were 12 shillings and 6 pence during training. The starting wage was 25 shillings a week. We were paid cash every Friday morning.

We had a duty roster covering 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. including Saturdays. The men covered 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. We had to sign in and out and to be on time in order to relieve the person going off duty. I travelled to work by bike. We had a shed in Derngate where the post office vans were kept. It cost one half penny for 2 stops on the bus o one penny all the way.

Things changed considerably in September 1939 on the outbreak of war. Some of the men were called up or volunteered to join the forces. Also some of the girls joined up. This all stopped when our job became a reserved occupation and married women were employed. I married Jack in 1942 and carried on working, although I lost my seniority. Our duty roster was changed and we worked shifts between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. also bank holidays and Sundays. I wasn't pleased when it was my turn to work on Christmas day.

We tried to arrange our holidays when our husbands or boyfriends were on leave. we all helped each other. We were asked for volunteers to help the war effort by taking a week off to go Potato picking to help the land girls on the farms. I went for 1 week - NEVER AGAIN.

I have deliberately not given details of the actual work of a telephonist, it would take too long.

After 6 years in the army my husband Jack was demobbed in 1946. He joined the Control Commission and was posted to Germany. After working as a telephonist for 9 years I left to join him.

I'm still in touch with 3 "Girls" all of us over 90.