Book Binder Assistant in Aberdeen by Jane MacDonald

Jane started work in 1948 as a book binder’s assistant for a Printers between Union Street and St. Nicholas Street in Aberdeen. She was 17 years old. She fed the cutting machine, which cut the paper for the books. There were three different paper sizes for the books. She didn’t see the printing side of the operation. Jane worked from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m alongside another girl on the same shift. One person fed the paper into the cutting machine and the other person took out the paper and put the cut paper into boxes. Even though they did not wear protective gloves she doesn’t remember getting paper cuts. There was a break in the morning in a small kitchen. Jane worked there for just over a year. In 1949 there was a paper shortage so the job stopped as the printing company had to lose staff when the production stopped and the paper supply halted. Jane lost her job along with another girl who had started at the same time following the “last in first out ” principle.

Her next job was at the Woolworths at Union Street in Aberdeen as a sales assistant. Rationing was still in place from the Second World War. Customers had to present coupons and were only allowed so many sweets each. Each coupon was cut out of the ration book. The counter had a variety of sweets including Liquorice Allsorts, caramels, fruit gums, fruit pastilles, pontefract cakes (liquorice) and pan drops (form of white mint imperial). Hard candy was presented in long trays to be broken into pieces with a hammer. 

Generally they could not get chocolate if they did get the occasional boxes of chocolates there were long lines of people queuing for them. Adults bought most of the sweets as the Mother in the family often had control of the sweet coupons. They were in a family ration book and if it was lost it would not be replaced so children would not usually be entrusted with it.

Jane then moved upstairs to the Grocery counter. Jane enjoyed working at Woolworths. Mainly women worked there with the exceptions of the Manager and the Under Manager (Mr France). The Grocery sold dry goods such as tea, cocoa, rice, flour, oats, soup mix etc…. but no coffee. Tea was sold in packages as was the cocoa. There was very little fruit to sell. Occasionally loose biscuits would arrive and then there would be a long queue for that.

Memory contributed by Jane MacDonald from Keith

Additional Information

A blog by a graphic design student shows pictures of the Woolworths building along with information on the closure of the Woolworths shops.

The High Street Blog showing Woolworths on Union Street, Aberdeen There is also a page with photographs of the Woolworths shop then and now.

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