“I must have stayed at the C.T.O for another 18 months to two years as it was here that I caught first sight of my husband to be although I didn’t really know it then, but I did fancy him like mad, and he was unaware of my existence but things were to change” (24).
My second blog post focuses on Patricia’s transition from adolescence into adulthood. It’s through her time at the C.T.O office that Patricia deals with both love and loss, friendship and heartache, joy and sadness. Although throughout her memories of labour she has in her corner as Regina Gagnier puts it, “the wisdom of the past” (1980). Not only this, Patricia through labour also explores London. From where her office is primarily positioned, she gets some nifty benefits as well might I add! Below contains a picture of the youthful messenger boys hard at work during the time Patricia worked in the C.T.O office, London. (1947).
Selina Todd argues that “women workers failed to engage with their workplace relations because they saw their futures being outside of the workplace” (2009, 146). For Patricia? Not the case! Let’s start when Patricia was at the tender age of fifteen. During her earlier years of labour, Patricia had the pleasure of meeting her first boyfriend, “fondly” remembering how he would “torment her unmercifully putting learner plates on my bike” (25). It was this kind of workplace banter that helped her get through the long, busy working day. Not to mention her lifelong friendship with Ron and her short-lasted promotion. It’s also within the confines of the C.T.O that Patricia finds her husband. She recalls “fancying him like mad” (24), unbeknownst to Roy who at the time was unaware of Patricia’s existence.
Having said all that, as David Vincent accurately points out: “Writers seem to have believed that revelations of sexual activity were at the very least undignified and might well conflict with their deep desire in some way to improve and not degrade their readership” (1980, 228). And in Patricia’s case this is very true. When speaking of relationships with both Ron and Roy, she dedicates only a small single paragraph to them justifiably leaving out any details that may well “degrade their readership” (228). She instead keeps her recollections light hearted and simplistic.
Moving back to youthful working life, Patricia finds herself moving from the C.T.O to the district offices. This was notably a very rewarding experience for Patricia. For one it was in front of “the Hendon dog race track” (25). So, when the long and tiring day of work was over, Patricia indulged in having a bird’s eye view of the tracks without having to pay a penny to view the lightning fast dogs on display.
I also realised how interesting it was when reading Patricia’s memoir to see that there are a few instances of loss that she appears to scan over. The ‘messenger boys’ for instance played a vital role in shaping Patricia’s early working life experience. She recalls of how they were sent out on “Bantams” (motorbikes) (25) from the impressionable age of 16. As you could probably tell these ‘Bantams’ (motorbikes) led to a “few fatalities due to a combination of youth, inexperience and minimal training” (25). Without saying so, much like the death of her sister, Patricia dedicates very few words to such tragic events. This instance was clearly a very saddening experience for Patricia. Much like the picture depicted below, you can clearly see the joy the messenger boys brought to Patricia amongst a very busy and tiring job. (I know this picture has been used before, but it really does grasp the labour life of Patricia. And also might I add her love for bikes!)
Moving swiftly onward: “XN was a large office employing approximately two hundred staff working shifts that covered the 24-hour day. Only men could work nights, but I think they managed to get a few hours sleep by leaving one person to cover the switchboard” (25). ‘XN’ was the code name Patricia used to describe the north London area. The district office was indeed a very busy working environment where Patricia spent most of her days. (8am to 7pm to be exact). This including Christmas, bank holidays and the new year. No rest for the wicked as they say!
As specified before, Patricia’s working-class environment was positive through working relationships however the working day itself was anything but. The gruelling 11-hour shifts were typical of 20th Century Britain. Long hours, little rewards. You had the long hours. The repetitive phone calls and the “repetitive strain injury” (26) workers oftentimes felt but never complained about. You just got on with it. Furthermore, having a fixed wage led to lack of motivation from Patricia. She oftentimes remembers achieving a lot more than the “100 telegrams per hour” (26). However, the long, tiresome working day was still an indulgence for Patricia. It oftentimes prevented her from doing her domestic duties in the household. This oftentimes led to rows with her mother and far from domesticated dad!
Referring to the working shift, I noticed how it was only the men allowed to work night shifts. Although seen as “the norm” in 1940’s London, this was still quite unfair to the more than capable female workforce. It appeared as Selena Todd puts it that “Higher grade clerical posts continued to be a largely male preserve” (2009, 103). In the instance of the C.T.O this was certainly the case as most of the higher paid posts were given to a predominantly male workforce. (See below a picture of a man hard at work amongst the operations room).
Conclusively, (something I hadn’t pointed out before), what we have is a sense of community amongst Patricia and her working- class colleagues. As Mike Savage puts it, Patricia and her colleagues “feel a sense of loyalty towards their own class” (2014, 364). I thought it was only right to end this blog as I began it. With a romanticised quote that promotes Patricia’s attitudes towards working life: “As I said earlier I fancied him when I saw him briefly at the C.T.O., anyway he must have felt the same way, he always said it was my titian hair and freckles that attracted him. Gradually we all seemed to pair off, the Post Office was a real mating ground, there always seemed to be a collection for someone who was getting married” (27).
Written and Published by LJMU student Brian McCloskey.
Proofread by: Tom Dinsdale
Gagnier, Regenia. “Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.” Victorian Studies 30, no.3 (1987): 335-63 Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3828397.
Savage, Mike. Social Class in the 21st Century. Great Britain: Pelican Books, 2015.
Saville, Patricia. “The Daughter I Never Had”, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4.
Todd, Selina. Young Women, Work, and Family in England 1918-1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Vincent, David. “Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class” Social History, Vol.5 No.2 (1980): 223-47 Available From: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4284976.