ALL IN A DAYS WORK
THE LIQUORICE FACTORY
by EMILY MONEY
Money worked at Wilkinson’s from 1935-1939. Emily loved factory life
and affectionately recalls the excitement of being sixteen.
know what they say about factory girls having a hard life but I loved
it. There were seven if us girls round a table and we did have some
laughs, chattered all day. Somebody would hiss "Sshh!, Mr. Baxter’s
coming!" and we’d all go right quiet then crack out giggling soon
as he’d gone. Friday night when we got us wages, the whole gang of us
would run up into Woolworth's for silk stockings, sixpence a leg. Man
used to give me two shillings pocket money out of me wages, threepence
went on spice, a shilling on stockings and ninepence for pictures.
Saturday night we’d all go out with the lads to the Crescent or the
my big sister, worked at Wilkinson’s and we used to help her out while
we were still at school, me and my twin, selling Pontefract Cakes in the
Park, sixpence for one of them green tins.
I left school I started work at Featherstone’s hat shop but that were
only five shillings a week, not enough money for me. Our Alice said:
"Come down to Wilkinson’s, they might set you on." I had to
see Mr. Harrison, the manager. Soon as he laid eyes on me he said:
"Are you one of the twins? Haven’t I seen you in the Park?"
They started me straight away.
was put on rolling and packing laces. There were tables all round the
room, which left the middle to put all us boxes we’d packed in. The
old lady who did the pipes sat at a table on her own. You’d a big pile
of laces on table in front of you. If the strippers had got them off the
board at the right time they were lovely to roll. If they were left too
long they would stick.
get two laces, fold them in half and in half again, then roll them and
put a little label, a coloured band of paper, round the middle, just
like real shoelaces. You’d pink coloured paper and blues and yellows.
We’d pack three dozen in a box, put greaseproof on top and a little
card. We packed juice sticks as well, that was Spanish with a bit
flattened at the end and Wilko stamped on it. At Christmas we did
novelty boxes with six each of different kinds of Spanish in. There was
rolled braids, they were treadled on a machine, and pipes with red non
pareil on the end, that’s little sweet balls, to make them look lit
they were busy I’d be put on glazing. You’d get a handful of sticks,
dip them in the warm liquid in a bowl in the middle of the table and
then stand them in racks like wire netting, each stick ina separate
hole. We got the glaze all over us, us hands were in a shocking state.
You’d buy a lemon to whiten your hands when you were going out.
was liquorice mixed with treacle and molasses but Wilkinson’s kept the
recipe secret. Wilkinson’s made soft Spanish, we always reckoned it
were nicer than Dunhill’s. The most skilled women did the Pontefract
cakes. You’d to know just how much to nip off, and they could stamp
them like lighting. We had overalls and pinafores, brown with green
collars and cuffs. You’d steep your smock overnight in cold water and
it’d turn the water all brown. You couldn’t wash them in with other
clothes as they’d leave a stain. WE’D white hats, you had to cover
your hair up. We used to tuck and sew them at the back and add a bit of
trimming to make ourselves look beautiful. Otherwise the hats stuck up
all round and looked awful.
were always laughs with new girls.
down and see Joe in the boiler house, will you, and fetch us a bucket of
be so silly," I said. They didn’t catch me.
most exciting time was the fancy dress competition. It was the annual
Christmas dance and Mr. Baxter said there’d be fancy dress and he
wanted volunteers to advertise liquorice. Our Alice was right full of
ideas. She said to Mr. Baxter, "My sister’ll do it if you agree.
I’ll get her up as a Hawaiian girl."
Baxter agreed so Alice got started. She made a hula hula skirt out of
Spanish, all braids attached to a belt, sewed then on a sewing machine.
"What about top?" We didn’t know what to do.
know, I’ll make it out of plug." That was glazed pieces of
Spanish. "I’ll cut a butterfly shape out."
not wearing that next to my skin, Al, when I get warm it’ll all
right then fusspot. Get a pair of old gym knickers, navy ones. I’ll
cut a piece of them to same shape and you can put that underneath. It’ll
give you a bit of padding anyway."
the bodice was made of plug. It had Wilkinson’s Plug stamped on in
medallions all over or! We made earrings out of plug too and fastened
them with cotton hung over me ears. Then we used sherbert dabs for round
don’t want any round me ankles, Al"
do, you do. Get on. Leave it to me."
wanted slippers or sandals on my feet but Alice wouldn’t have that.
"You’ll take effect away altogether." I had to have me hair
all fuzzy wuzzy. Alice did it with Mam’s old curling tongs. Then she
stood back to look at me.
can’t see what," said Mam. "There’s no room to hang any
more on her."
know what it is. Get cocoa tin out, Mam. She’s got to be a dusky
competition was held in Pontefract Town Hall. I were right nervous.
Alice had me practising the walk.
you come on, get your hands on your hip and sway your hips like this.
And smile, for heaven’s sake. Look like a winner, don’t look so
glum." I were terrified, lips clenched.
walked round the dance floor several times so everyone could get a view.
I wouldn’t have liked to have all boxes on, that was what most of the
other fancy dress girls had. Every time I walked past the balcony, a
shout went up "Yes! Yes!" All me friend’s were yelling and
clapping. Eventually the judge got up.
have Miss Skidmore because she was the most original and the best
dressed." We did laugh at that after, best dressed. Truth was I
hadn’t much on!
prize was a right big basket with Heinz 57 varieties in, one of each. Me
Mam had that. And a green trinket set from Bagley’s – our Alice had
that. It was all buzzing and chatting in the Hall because I’d won. All
the young lads started grabbing the strands off me skirt and eating
them. I’d only about five or six braids left on me as I came down Town
Hall steps. Just as well I’d black knickers on! The boss was a bit put
out with that and said I shouldn’t have let the lads do it. How could
I have stopped them I’d like to know.
weeks later Mr. Baxter got me to put costume on again to go and have a
photo taken at Maud’s. Alice had to get a whole lot more braid to
replace the bits of skirt that’s got eaten!
by Emily Money, is reproduced from 'All In A Days Work - Wait
While I Tell You No.2', edited by Richard Van Riel and published by
Yorkshire Arts Circus. It is reproduced with the permission of
Richard Van Riel.