Interviewed by Betty Jordon
Betty Jordan (nee Taylor) began work at Austers in April 1946, after leaving Bolton & Paul of Melton Mowbray. Her work at Bolton & Paul involved making noses for the [Hauser] gliders, and she therefore had experience of the maintenance units, terminology, etc. required for working at Austers. She began work in what she recalls as the buying department in Broad Street, Syston before moving to Rearsby. The names of some of her colleagues come to mind, in particular Charlie [Room], Freddie Steward, Dougie Makepeace, Jock Watts - remembered as being a somewhat formidable character but who the young Betty managed not to cross! - a Mr Spratt, Sylvia Barrowdale and Madge [Fionder], the latter being a friend of Betty’s whose role at Austers was as a stock controller. Betty discovered that Charlie [Room] and Freddie Steward were keen `pigeon fanciers`, as was her brother in Melton Mowbray, and it was not long before Betty was given the task of transporting boxes of pigeons to and fro on the `bus or train for the benefit of the pigeon fanciers!
After a while, Betty was moved to sales, working alongside Jim Harrison, Mr Porteous, Margaret Collington, Gerry Garner and, at a later date, Irene Marriott then of Gaddesby with whom Betty is still in contact. Part of Betty’s job was to send literature to young men abroad who were interested in becoming airmen or working in the aircraft industry. One day, Betty and `Rene` decided to write to one particular young man, asking if anyone would like to correspond with them. Betty received a reply from a Gordon Burns who was in the New Zealand air force. They corresponded for some time until Betty received a letter inviting her to New Zealand and asking for her hand in marriage! Betty declined, and never heard from him again, but wonders how things might have been had she accepted, and whether he is still around, in which case he would be about 75 years of age now.
In time, Betty was moved on, where she was able to practice her shorthand skills working for a Mr [Hitchman], who shared an office with Eric Hall. Betty replaced Win Robinson who in turn moved on to work for Mr Bates, the Managing Director based next door. Betty shared an office with a June Hancock of Rearsby, celebrating their 21st birthdays together with a cake in the office, which would have been in 1949. Two more colleagues recalled were Leslie Wilson and `Norman` who at that time lived in Millstone Lane, Leicester. Many others came and went but one particular colleague remembered was Margaret Evans, known as Meg, who became a great friend of Betty`s. Meg shared telephone duties with a Mrs Church.
One of Mr [Hitchman`s] duties in June of each year was to organise the Kings Cup air race, this involving quite a lot of typing. Betty often used to despair at the reams of shorthand to transcribe, along with her normal duties, but somehow managed to get it all done, prioritising where necessary, tapping away on the old `Imperial` - no modern-day `spell-check` in those days either so there were no doubt a few errors along the way! From time to time, one of Betty’s tasks was to fix an extra-long carriage onto the Imperial to enable her to type Ministry `returns`. This was a long job and no mistakes were allowed, so a colleague would read the figures out, as Betty typed. These then had to be checked over to ensure they were correct. Another of Betty’s duties was to cut stencils and fix them onto the old [`Roneo`] machine, smoothing out the wrinkles and running off the copies, although Betty remembers a kind David Thomas in the drawing office who would help her if she got into difficulties.
Betty recalls that the accounts department, next to sales, housed a Mr Pembleton, Pat Shuttlewood (now Evans - with whom Betty is still in touch) and Karen Bentley. Another friend recalled was Betty Lowe, who worked `across the way` from the accounts office. Betty used to share holidays with Pat and Irene, which sometimes took the form of cycling/hostelling expeditions - a cheap holiday costing around three shillings a night for bed and breakfast. Austers ruled that the staff should take one of their week`s holidays in the August Bank Holiday week which, taking into account the Bank Holiday Monday and Tuesday, only actually gave them three days` holiday but in those days the staff tended not to grumble, being grateful for what they could get which was seen as a great improvement on their fathers` lot, they probably only benefiting from the odd day off in their lifetime.
Whilst at Rearsby, Betty used to catch the bus from Melton at 7.00am, walking up the lane with, amongst others, the carpenters who Betty recalls as being Sid Smith, Mr Pratt and Charlie Stapleton. Betty remembers with fondness that, on her 21st birthday, the three men cut out a large key in plywood and Charlie `silvered` it and presented it to her. Betty began work at 8.00am before the Leicester staff arrived on the 9.00am bus. One of Betty’s tasks at that time was to open the post, dust Mr [Hitchman`s] table every morning and do the filing, the odd mis-filed letter being blamed on her early-morning start!, which eventually came to an end when Jim Cobley, who worked at the top of the aerodrome, was given a van, enabling those living at Melton to beg a lift, giving Betty a much-relished `lie-in` from then on!. At that time Austers had a hanger at Melton, and occasionally a Mr Harrison, when needing to swap an aeroplane at Melton aerodrome, would tell Betty to `grab her bag` and she would be given a flight home, which would only consist of a few minutes, Melton only being seven miles away by road, but which Betty thoroughly enjoyed.
Betty recalls the particularly bad winter of 1946/47, snow piled high onto the hedgerows, and having to trudge some distance every day to and from the railway station at Rearsby, the buses having stopped operating - not a problem in those days for the young Betty but not something she would relish these days! The spring/summer of 1947 Betty remembers as being a lean time for work at Austers. As a result, the staff were put on a `three day week`, for which all staff were assembled in the canteen to sign on - something Betty had never had to do before or since. During that time, Betty recalls Mr Hall selling chicken huts, and she was involved in some of the typing. The huts were made by W Foulds of Thurmaston and Mr Hall sold them at a small profit - which no doubt helped boost the Auster 'coffers' a little!
Thankfully, Austers` workload did improve, and they went on to give a few more years of good service.