Working-class entrepreuners

The practice of using the familial home for industrial production had a long history in Coventry when gardens and top shops were used for watchmakers’ and bicycle making workshops. This practice continued into the postwar period as gardens retained their production value which reinforced residents’ sense of a productive working-class identity. Frank Gogerty, born in 1916, was demobbed from the army in 1946. While working for Carbody’s, one of the many car factories in Coventry at the time, he set up his own business as a panel beater in 1947 from his back garden and workshop. He recalled that other tradesmen in the street used their gardens to make some extra money:

Frank Gogerty, Coventry, February 2007

Hilary: Why did you decide to start working for yourself?

Frank: Why? It was, to give you a truthful answer I don’t know. I do not know. I can only suggest that, sorry, I, I was doing a few odd jobs at night here and there and I realised how much, what I was getting at night for these jobs and I thought well one day I probably multiplied it by forty-two and a half which was the hours a week I was working and eh, plus the fact that I would be completely my own boss, I come to the conclusion that there could be something in it if I worked hard. Yes that’s the only thing I can think of. It was simply and solely for money. Yeah.

Hilary: And how was that received by other people? Or how did people react to you starting up a business?

Frank: I don’t think anybody worried about it. So long as, so long as you didn’t worry anybody, upset anybody or do anything else nobody worried, nobody worried what you did. I mean being a panel beater there was certain jobs down there that I couldn’t do because it was noisy, so I had to limit that, I had to limit the noise. I didn’t upset the neighbours in any way shape or form. That was why we started other little bits and pieces, such as these you know wrought iron things and all the things that went on the walls because it was a quiet job. Now Nan’s, Nan’s husband living over there had a big garage over there, a big shed in which he had about four or five lathes and he used to do a lot of lathe work in there turning so he had, he had a life like that. But it was quiet. I mean he had a chappie with him, Tom Hobday and they run this little thing at night turning you know turning bits and pieces out. Fred Hall down there did quite well on, he had a sewing machine down there on his head-linings and all door casings and all that. And he got a few more up here. But everybody integrated well they got together.

Hilary: So were these men working full-time during the day and coming home…

Frank: Oh yeah.

Hilary: …and doing something similar to you

Frank: Yeah at night yeah. Oh yeah.

Hilary: Make an extra bit of money.

Frank: Yeah.

Hilary: Why were they doing that? Why? What was the…

Frank: Well, why they did it? I suppose it’s, it’s the law of money if you like to call it that way you see, the more money you earned the more you could save, the more rainy days that would not happen to you. And that was one of the things that was instilled into us at all time, it was to me at any rate.. Save for a rainy day. Because it will surely come and it was just that. So therefore you went out you got more money. The more money you earned, I’m not going to say you were going to be better off because you’re not going to spend it all straight away but if you’ve got anything about you at all you used to save it. Yeah. Yeah I mean if you’ve got it saved up, if there come an emergency you was catered for it. If you haven’t got it saved up and an emergency come well it was hard up wasn’t it.

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