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Reginald L Roberts, 2007
Shoe Trade in the 1930s

Photograph of a closing room circa 1950s
Closing room in a shoe factory

I was born in Rushden in 1918 in Thrift Cottages which is now part of the Duck Street car park and I went to Alfred Street School and the Intermediate School in Hayway.

I started work at John White's factory after leaving school at 14 years of age. What I remember most vividly of that time is the foreman coming to me just before dinner time and saying, 'You'd better bring a sandwich with you this afternoon we shall be here until 7.30 tonight'. I was just winding bobbins for 6 stitchers and rubbing channels down in between.

Man operating a heel seat lasting machine
Heel seat lasting machine
Factories normally worked 7.30am-5.15pm with an hour off for dinner and 7.30am-11.15am on Saturday. When we were working overtime it was 7.30am-12.30pm, 1.30pm-4.30pm and 4.45pm-7.30pm with Saturdays at 7.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4.30pm as we were making boots for the Spanish Civil War besides the normal shoe business. This was rather a long time for a 14 year old which I'm sure wouldn't be tolerated nowadays. At the next school leaving time I was moved to the Shirley Road factory and a new boy took over the bobbin winding.

I left the factory when I was called up in 1940 for my War service and I served in a Field Ambulance for six and a half years in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Egypt and Palestine, coming home in 1946 to my wife and daughter then aged 6. She didn't know me as her daddy, I was just another uncle like all the other men in the family!

Naturally I went back in the factory like most of us who came from Rushden and carried on in various places until I retired at 65 at G. H. Bull where I had been the foreman of the insole department, having gone through an experience of 6 different factories in Rushden and different departments but mainly Bottom Stock or as was wrongly called in the old days 'Rough Stuff', and I was for many years a Revolution Press operator.

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