Judy Walker started working in the newly opened British Home Stores in 1956 in Coventry’s new shopping precinct before leaving to work in the fashionable boutique, The Blouse Box. In the following extract Judy talks about the professionalism of BHS sales assistants and the mood of Coventry and shoppers at the time:
Length of audio clip 2 mins 23 secs.
Judy: We took our jobs very seriously. I most certainly did, Ann did and you, you just had to look at our counters and you knew we all took our job seriously but we pulled our weight. We done our job to the best of our ability and it was always first class from what I can remember. I don’t remember anybody getting told off for dirty counters, untidy counters, we were too proud because I suppose as well, again it was all new, it was a new building, a new job, everything was happening in Coventry, everything was starting to happen and you got things to look forward to now, you, you’d got rock and roll come in so things are looking up so everything was getting a little bit lighter and better for you.
Hilary: Who shopped in B-H-S at that time?
Judy: Just your average housewife erm, nobody particular. I mean it’s a new shop along with the Marks and Spencer’s and Woolworths so it brought everybody and anybody out so, you know, you can’t turn around and say there was a certain class of people come in, it was everybody. Everybody came through that store, old, young, with money or no money because you can still look, you didn’t have to have a purse full of money to come in, everybody was always made welcome and you always ask, ‘Can I help you madam?’ Well, you know, and they’d say ‘No I’m just looking’ ‘Is there anything you’d like to see, was there any colour you would like to see in this’ whatever. You’d always be helpful and I used to love doing it, I’m still helping people now come to think about it but, you know, that was, that was just it, I used to love doing it and that’s why I went to the Blouse Box because it’s more individual and boutiquey you know, so, it was a different help then. So it was erm, it was just anybody and everybody and it was times was a little bit more exciting, we’d got more things to look at, to go at and all the different styles coming in so it was good, it was a good time, it was a good era, it really was.
Ann Lanchbury and Hazel Wood started working at the age of 15 in the newly opened Woolworths in Coventry’s new precinct area in the mid 1950s. Below Ann and Hazel recall using their wages from Woolies to buy the new fashions from The Blouse Box to wear to the Casino or Matrix Ballrooms, much to Ann’s mother’s chagrin:
length of audio clip 2 mins 28 secs.
Ann: I did used to leave Woolworths and go and find something to wear to go to Courtaulds to go to the Casino or to the Matrix to the dance, I can remember going to the Blouse Box and they used to sell incredibly cheap clothes and I’d go and buy a pair of stockings and I can remember buying fly away blouse, can you remember those fly away collars?
Hazel: I tell you what I remember buying with that money
Ann: And the Dirndl skirt.
Hazel: Yeah the Dirndl skirts, I was just gonna say that. That’s what I do remember was with that ten shillings was buying clothes…
Hazel: And feeling so important and we had those like, Rara skirts, you know.
Hazel: …they were fashionable. Dirndl skirts and I can remember going into C&A which you don’t know about but the C&A was quite cheap wasn’t it…
Ann: I can’t remember C&A then.
Ann: I can’t remember that.
Hazel: It was quite cheap anyway and getting these skirts and different things…
Ann: And because of our sizes, I could buy children’s clothes, you know I could buy things that… I mean I remember going to the Blouse Box and buying a bra and buying oneish blouses and I bet this blouse buried me, I mean I just wanted a grown up blouse with a flyaway collar and no sleeves, I can remember that, I had a sugar pink one and a white one and probably they sold for about one ninety-nine, one…
Hazel: Yeah and oh…
Ann: A shilling and I can’t convert that.
Hazel: No it’s difficult we’re not, we’re so.
Ann: A shilling and ten pence or something like that. That would be right wouldn’t it? One and ten pence…
Hazel: How did you get…
Ann: One and ten pence because it’s twelve pence to the shilling.
Ann: So you’d probably pick up a little cotton blouse really cheaply but I do remember saving up for a Dirndl skirt and do you remember I had, I don’t know whether you do remember, I had a sugar pink, my Mother went mad because I spent I think it was two pound something on this skirt, underskirt and she said ‘What on earth have you bought?’…
Hazel: They were paper nylon underskirts were fashionable.
Ann: That was right.
Hazel: It was like, cause it made your skirt stick out cause we’re talking about the rock and roll days aren’t we with jiving…
Ann: Yeah but I had one that was all net, sugar pink net.
Hazel: Oh yes they used to have net as well didn’t they.
Hazel: You’d put them under your skirt
Ann: And your skirt was like this, you know, and you had your little socks on or whatever.
Hazel: With your ballerina shoes.
Ann: Yeah, yeah.
Hilary: And so your Mum got a bit upset?
Ann: She got a bit upset because I’d spent some much on a piece of underwear which was a lot of money in those days but I saw it in a shop window and I thought I’m having that. Yeah and it was a lot of money for what I was earning as well.