BNC Text G4T

Co-operative movement: conversation with Ruth Jackson. Sample containing about 11043 words speech recorded in leisure context

4 speakers recorded by respondent number C197

PS221 X m (m. glasson, age unknown, interviewer) unspecified
PS222 X f (Ruth, age unknown) unspecified
G4TPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
G4TPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 092001 recorded on 1986-08-29. LocationWest Midlands: Walsall () Activity: Conversation with Ruth Jackson

Undivided text

Unknown speaker (G4TPSUNK) [1] Right, perhaps I could start by asking you how you, how you became involved in the Co-op movement, locally?
Ruth (PS222) [2] Locally,no yo yo your not wanting [...] side of it?
m. glasson (PS221) [3] Well, yes as well
Ruth (PS222) [4] Yes, well cos you see, I mean, you see you begin life as erm your, your shop was the corner shop erm you know the shop was the Co-op and of course erm we always went each week, my brother and I, er to the Co-op for the groceries you see, so it was all Co-op.
[5] And then erm mother of course, I can always remember was in the Guild and erm she would, the Guild in those days I'm always telling the er people today, were very, very active women, very active erm and you'd got them as councillors, magistrates erm come forward to all these positions.
[6] Councillors erm went on to be mayor and erm we even had one as went on to be erm MP you see.
[7] Erm, er so of course there was always people coming to the house connected with the Co-op educational side, you know and erm I used to sort of you kn understand it all, mother was the treasurer and sometimes the secretary would come down to see her.
[8] And then of course so both sides we new about.
[9] We knew about the social side and we knew about the, the shop was our shop.
[10] The shop was our shop definitely and then we got a chappie who went on to be a councillor.
[11] He was a club man and the Co-op had got a club.
[12] And the thing that I did say to June once was erm, you know, when I began to courting and seeing all the girls in the pretty little dresses and things, Marks and Spencer's had just got clubs going and that, you know.
[13] I wanted to go into their clubs because erm I used to the, the Co-op, the dresses were a bit frumpy and er whether it was just er me, or [laughing] I don't know. []
[14] But er, you know, we had simply got to have our things from the Co-op.
[15] It was er, you know, everything you wanted was from the Co-op, you see.
[16] Er so I, it was really instilled in me from a very early age.
[17] But er, I never, never sort of thought about the Guild, going to the Guild erm at all really, because erm mother, I say, was in the Guild till she died in nineteen forty-three.
[18] But from then onwards, they were always asking me to join, but by then I had already opened a young wives' belonging to the church.
[19] The vicar had asked me in the war to do this and erm I was secretary of that and I used to say er, you know you could only do so much because we wasn't like housewives today.
[20] Our housework was hard and long and laborious and erm we'd got two children to look after and then I'd got my brother who didn't leave home until he was thirty and er, you hadn't got the time, you know, to do too many things, so er my interest was the young wives' and it was really a as regards the erm the Guild itself, I was thrown in at the deep end when this lady who was with my mother, mother was treasurer, she was secretary, erm she used to come down for me and, I know you shouldn't canvass but she used to canvass and say [laugh] erm you know the voting, you know, will you, will you come and vote?
[21] I'd say oh yes, you know but, still couldn't get me to go in the Guild and er, it was so strange that the, I can't remember, I think I've been in the Guild about twenty-five years so you'll have to do your own little sum.
[22] But, erm all that time I was running the young wives' and we used to hold a stall in the garden, at the garden party at the church, and w when you took your takings in, you know th the treasurer would say you know, who are you, you know and I used to say young wives' and then one day I said well, you know we're no longer young wives, you know we were getting [laughing] old [] and I decided there and then I'd had enough of young wives', you know and er, er because I, I said, I, I was secretary and I'll close it down it, it erm the young wives' closed down and er ... er ... it, it had actually closed down and this lady was marvellous this secretary of the Guild, who would kno known mother and she was a councillor, she come dashing down, you know you, you,th the young wives' has closed and you know you've got excuse.
[23] I said righto, I'll come.
[24] So I came on the Monday night to the Guild and it, it wasn't long after, only a matter of weeks, before this lady erm she er came back home from Canada seeing to some other woman and er she just sat down and died.
[25] So her husband brought the case in the Guild room on the Tuesday night and erm I was sort of throw'd in at the deep end because they were mostly older women and they all said, oh well you're secretary erm yo I said yes, but I don't know the Co-op dual structure.
[26] They said well it doesn't matter, you know, you'll pick that up as you go along, so I was really thrown into the secretaryship you know.
m. glasson (PS221) [27] How, how old would you've been then?
m. glasson (PS221) [28] Er well I'm sixty-five you see, so I mean I would be in my forties wouldn't I you see.
[29] But I say, the, I'd heard such a lot of the Guild and the Guild's influence was in Walsall Wood I think primarily, as I'm always telling the women today, because they were so interested in the village and you got, they were local councillors, magistrates people you went to for advice.
[30] But the Guild's now you see erm don't seem to be ... they're not, not at all as active, its, its quite honest.
[31] Erm, but I mean, I've been true Co-op through and through erm ...
m. glasson (PS221) [32] Why, why is [...]
Ruth (PS222) [33] You'd better ask me some questions I think.
m. glasson (PS221) [34] Yes I will right, that's right.
[35] Erm why, why do you think your mother was so keen on the Co-op?
[36] What was it that er attracted her to it?
Ruth (PS222) [37] Er, I think really it must've been thrift.
[38] She was a very thrifty woman because in spite of eleven children we never wanted for anything and you went through a depression like, you know.
[39] The divi was very important which is why I, as a Guild's woman erm through I suppose the memories of mother, was so adamant in against the dividend stamps because to us, that woman who I'd just been talking about, Councillor Mrs always, I'm sure ... no one would mind me saying it, but she always used to tell us that it was her thrift and she saved and they brought their house through this, the Co-op you see.
[40] And in those days erm I, the Co-op had got a building society as well you see, so it all tied up and I think mother, you know, I, I think it was a very good shop, I mean it was er so.
[41] My memories of it, I've got, I've always got wonderful memories of the Co-op, you see and that Co-op has been there m on that corner which, when it closed a few years ago I went down to see the present executive officer, he was then assistant, and we campaigned against the closing of Walsall Wood shop but erm course it was of no avail.
[42] I mean I was showing the figures and proved that er it wasn't ... paying its way but to me it had always been our shop, you know, from when I was child and wonderful memories you know.
[43] I can see, I've only got to close my eyes and I can see it all as it was.
[44] All, all men of course, there was no women in my youth, there was no women.
[45] Erm we did get a woman later on I think in this little cash desk where the money used to go ... [...] in the machine you know and er, but you'd go in and you would have, it used to intrigue me that er you'd go in and the, the dairy goods was all one side and you, you would, you would, my brother and I would have our lists and it was, we were petrified that we case we made a mistake you know.
[46] And er, then he would carry all your goods in, in, I used to think it was wonderful how he managed to pick them all up in his arms and he'd walk round to the next counter where your other, you had your other dry goods you see, your tea and sugar and your fruit and er then it would all be totted up together.
[47] And as I say, in during the war years our rations, we were all treated so fairly at the Co-op I believe you know, we were really treated fairly.
[48] Er I can't really find, think of anything else to say only that it was thrift because mother was thrifty.
[49] We were taught to be thrifty.
m. glasson (PS221) [50] Yes.
[51] What sort of things did they sell in the shop.
[52] What, what range of goods?
Ruth (PS222) [53] All, all everything.
[54] In Walsall Wood erm as I say, we used to have er two big bags full on a Fri Friday and then in the week we could go up but you've got your bread but, you know,yo the men would be, I can just picture them with their little, all this pretty coloured paper would all be in little piles and when there were no customers, they would be wrapping the rice, the raisins, the currants, all in these pretty papers you see and they knew, I mean you'd ask them for currants and they never sort of knew, I didn't quite understand how they could pick by, it'd be by the paper you see.
[55] They picked the mauve one which is probably currants and the other one was raisin.
[56] You sold er they, they'd got these sort of erm the old- fashioned, you'd see them in the corn merchants where there would be fowl er feed.
[57] Course I can remember it had a licence, a spirit licence before the war.
[58] This is the second war of course, I'm not quite that old.
m. glasson (PS221) [laugh]
Ruth (PS222) [59] And I know he was very good to us in the war cos my father was, got a terminal illness and er he used to see that I had a bottle of whisky for dad you know, er the manager did.
[60] Er and of course I seen the present managers are, are th the one you know only just lives down the road here he's recently retired.
[61] Erm they sold everything.
[62] I mean er and as I say you had everything erm when ... er I wanted coal I mean you had coal erm because after my husband ceased at the pit, er that ceased because, cos miners always had coal as part of their er it was part of their wages you see.
[63] But er afterwards you had coal, we had the milk, the bread er delivered erm I mean really e literally everything.
[64] I mean we hardly went into another shop and yet, you see, we have a young chappie like yourself who comes to the Guild once every year and shows us slides of old Walsall, Walsall Wood, Aldridge, the local area, and he said I'm not very good Ruth at talking but he he'd got the slides you know, and it, it used to end up with me doing the commentary on Walsall Wood, because you stand on the of Walsall Wood, which is there now, and your Co-op was right on the corner which is why I call it the corner store and you see people congregated there, people met there and when I'd been accused of the, we'd been at the college or at other conferences and why can't we get Guild members today, well that was the breeding ground your shop, you see.
[65] You would see a likely customer er likely one come in, you'd say why don't you come here, we only meet upstairs.
[66] We met upstairs, in a room upstairs you see and this is where you got all your contacts and of course, the men all knew you.
[67] I remember as a young woman before I, even when I was courting, a young boys was there writing little notes behind the counter trying to make dates with me you know erm ... er it was, oh it was more than a shop.
[68] It was ... and yet, I'm losing my thread with, what I was going to say was, it must've been so important because ... an in that you could get anything you liked.
[69] You got your Co-op on the corner.
[70] But you could go down there, you could get clothes, the fitted made-to-measure ... suits.
[71] You could get erm the fishmonger's, three other er butchers.
[72] The Co-op butcher was, had got his own shop lower down ... You could get everything in that one street and now in this modern age, we've got nothing, we've got to get on a bus and get into Walsall and so this is where it, we get infuriated because you know, in this progress we've lost out haven't we?
[73] And erm, this is why I say to the Co-op now er they know my feelings because my husband had only got erm he had er trans works transport which when he retired erm he, he, said well what are we going to do?
[74] We're going over to Michael three months of the year and there was air fare to find and there was holiday money, cos we used to go away with Michael and er so we didn't have a car of our own.
[75] We got a free bus pass and we, we used our money to, which I'm glad we did with my husband only having a few years.
[76] Er I'm glad he did have, what he had was full you know.
[77] But I mean, now you see erm I, I've got to er go to since they closed Central, and I haven't got a car erm so I'm not going to carry thing, I can't I'm with, with arthritis in my back I can't, I can't carry really only a very small bag, so this was
m. glasson (PS221) [78] You you feel these changes are definitely for the worse?
Ruth (PS222) [79] Definitely.
[80] Definitely.
[81] I don't know where this Doctor had this idea from but I don't know how many years ago, but I remember I had my Co-op news every week and, and he said that he could see us going a full circle and I'm just wondering when he's gon if I'll be alive when it comes round again because I, I don't think that these big mass stores erm as I say they're all right you see, people with plenty of money with a car they could fill the freezer up.
[82] But you don't get that ... choice you don't er and to me I, I hate going because the, you, you got everyone seems to be, it's, it's as bad as a road really with the trolleys erm and I badly miss this over-the-counter service but er
m. glasson (PS221) [83] It's a very personal service then?
Ruth (PS222) [84] A very personal service and er ... I just, well I, I don't know unless you ask me questions what else I can say really.
m. glasson (PS221) [85] Is it, did they have a large staff?
[86] How many people would have been working in, in the old store?
Ruth (PS222) [87] In the old store?
[88] Ooh there would, would be some staff really.
[89] I, I, I couldn't really give a figure I mean Mr he, he would've soon told you, the manager down below.
[90] Erm ... he erm I should say at a rough guess there would be at least eight.
[91] I should've of thought there'd be eight, eight.
[92] And you see, the, the, the boy would be there with his erm bike with that ... funny big er cage on it
m. glasson (PS221) [93] The basket [...]
Ruth (PS222) [94] the basket.
[95] It was like er cage as the basket fitted in and he would go round.
[96] I mean Tommy who, who he retired just as a magistrate erm and a manager erm he is in this last focus we've had you know the centenary, er Tommy and I.
[97] I mean, I can remember him on this, er on this bike and then he rose to be a manager and er as he was, I say he was the manager fo er magistrate up until he retired last year.
[98] Er, there was such a big staff and as I say, there was no erm the women didn't come into it till the war.
[99] Not in the grocery, I suppose there would be, I mean erm as I say I was never thrilled with the clothing department and when I did get involved with the deals, er I'm afraid I was a political animal and I would've have been more interested in the political side.
[100] But I was thrown into this ... Guild secretary business and er you can't do both, not when you're trying to erm [...] a family and then by then my son was away and erm I went got a job and the Co-op gave me a job.
[101] The said well, you know, if you want a job we'll find you something and erm.
[102] I worked in quite a few departments in the Co-op erm and I was secretary to the education er in those days, whereas Miss member relations er in the, when I was there we were just education department with an educational secretary and erm then, he, we did all the staff training as well.
m. glasson (PS221) [103] This was a paid job was it?
Ruth (PS222) [104] Oh this was a paid employment, yes.
[105] So then I began to be really pretty busy with running the office and then keeping my home, but I'd got a husband who was very, very, handy and helped me out in the home you know.
m. glasson (PS221) [106] This was, this was after the war was it, after [...]
Ruth (PS222) [107] Oh gosh yes.
[108] I've only gone since er, erm you know ... I say Michael'd be seventeen you know, it must be like twenty years ... er you know.
[109] I've been up here tw twenty-three years ... and I didn't go out till I came here so I should say I was about twenty-two years ago I started back to work.
[110] But you see, I just went to the education officer and I say, he, he ran it, he, it, it was, it was his responsibility the Guild's were and I went to him about a Guild matter and I said oh, erm ... [...] how I mentioned that I was working and he said well where are you working?
[111] I said well I thought I'd, er the doctor advised me to actually.
[112] He said that brain of yours wants working.
[113] I said so I've been to a local firm and he said well if you'd wanted a job we could've found you one, so I went to the Co-op and I went in the credit, working in the Co-op credit ... and er went from there to.
[114] It was from the credit that the, I went the education secretary ... his, his secretary was retiring and er he came for me because he knew I knew Guild and Co-operative work you know.
m. glasson (PS221) [115] And what sort of things did the education department as it was then, what sort of things were they doing in those days?
Ruth (PS222) [116] Oh, well I think it was different to what we're doing now.
[117] I mean I'm pleased with the way the dividend stamps are helping the hospitals, which is a, a very, very good thing but erm, I think we did a very good job.
[118] You got a very good committee, dedicated committee erm who, you see the young trainees were sent to the technical colleges and you see, erm some of them did go on if they graduated to Stanford Hall, but I mean those that went to technical college, we used to have to get the committee to sit in at the examinations.
[119] We had to pay the lads their bus fares and er the things like, when they went to college.
[120] Er, we were, as I say, responsible more or less for staff erm and er so we were pretty busy really.
[121] Erm I, I think it was er you know a good thing that in a way that it was parted and made er staff, you know, training officer and [...] business you know, sort of thing.
[122] But we certainly did some good work in the education because I think that we erm we used to, you know, of course we'd, we'd got used to use our auxiliaries naturally and erm we used to have a big conc a big er concert once a year in the town hall and er we would involve all the auxiliaries you know erm and of course we used to always erm [...] ... fell a bit flat, the International Day which is July, the first Ju Saturday in July is International Day, Co-operative International, and we have always, the Guilds have worked very closely with the International Day.
[123] And we used to go to town, we used to have really good, good er good day erm ... we used to have a procession and erm ... local, course local dignitaries used to come er, I I've got a, one or two pictures in my scrapbook where erm it, I was asking, telling Jean she would have to look up er when we did begin trendsetters.
[124] But, I know we, we, my two women won the competition.
[125] One went as Miss Rochdale in these old and the other was Miss Trendsetter.
[126] She was a very little dolly bird you know and she looked a real Miss Trendsetter you know, in the mini dress you know. ...
m. glasson (PS221) [127] Right.
[128] You were saying you, you remember the trips [...]
Ruth (PS222) [129] Oh the trips was marvellous.
[130] I mean, I remember mother saying that, you see mother had never seen the sea till she joined the Guild and they decided to save for an outing, and then the next thing I can remember was that we used to have these stamps every week and I think it come to two and ninepence erm and for that we went to Rhyl.
[131] And this was not only Walsall Co-op, it was the Co-ops as far as I can remember, because er ... er you know I wouldn't take that for gospel could I'm not ... not sure because I was only child.
[132] But we used to l I think I can remember going three times and we went on the train and we would have a big label with branch number seven, we were Walsall Wood and we were always told that, you know, you look on the sea front if you get lost, cos you've got your name and who you belong to on card was all given out.
[133] And, you, you make for that and on i on the sand there'd be number seven you see, so you could got to dive for there if you were lost.
[134] And we were given this lovely bag you know, with your buns in and your lunch and I think at these kind of things erm were very, very acceptable and you see it, it was, it was involving people er with the store, not just your groceries.
[135] You see erm ... even the erm and of course, your clubman I think coming round, he got to know er the people he's we as well you know, they could save up for things.
m. glasson (PS221) [136] I, I haven't heard of the clubman.
[137] Tell me a bit about him.
Ruth (PS222) [138] Oh.
[139] Well you see, the, we, we always had club collectors.
[140] There was twenty week club you see and I don't know, I mean up until recently I was in the credit when we used to have credit.
[141] Erm the men used to co the women used to come and pay their money and er I used to do the slips.
[142] Erm they used to call round you see.
[143] It would be shilling in the pound I think it was.
[144] But you see, you, you see, you could, you could have your goods then you'll be paying on the slip and he would give you a slip you see.
[145] And I mean, again, he was a contact with you like your milkman.
[146] Yo yo you knew your clubman was coming, you've stayed in and that is how our local clubman who is now dead, Mr became a councillor because naturally, people voted for him against the Conservative because he was someone they knew, someone like as came you know.
[147] And then of course you've got your, I think people made more use of the convalescent club, which we have got.
[148] Erm we've got a convalescent club for members and I think people made more use of that and then there was a time when I remember er you see, even the death, there was a death grant.
[149] ... The death grant has been finished quite a long time ago, but there was the death grant erm because I can remember you know this, people telling me about this.
[150] Er I don't, I can't even remember whether I had anything for mother in forty-three and forty-for, but I do know there was a death for quite a long time.
[151] And these are all things that made the Co-op so ... personal didn't they really.
[152] More than just that shop where you go in ... you can go all round and wander round and you don't see anybody only filling the shelves up and half the time they don't even, can't even advise you where to go can they you know.
[153] Where, where can I find this you know, they don't even know.
m. glasson (PS221) [154] I haven't asked you anything about the Guilds yet and this is obviously [...]
Ruth (PS222) [laugh]
m. glasson (PS221) [155] of your involvement.
[156] Erm you, you got involved through, through the Guilds because of, of your mother's [...]
Ruth (PS222) [157] As a mother.
m. glasson (PS221) [158] Perhaps you could describe how, how the Guilds actually work an and how they sort of, how the committee were appointed and what the sort of, how the or originally the ordinary meeting was organised.
Ruth (PS222) [159] Well the, the er ... the Guilds ... I can speak now because I've been up to a higher level, I've been on the section and Birmingham is a very big area.
[160] And I can tell you that erm Birmingham City Council told me this erm that ... if ever they need anyone to chair a meeting ... they would look to the Guild, committees.
[161] Even if they're sort of not erm involved.
[162] But they know these people because you co-opted on, so I was on standing conference of womens' organisations.
[163] Working womens' organisations you get co-opted on and the, we were known for the way, the business-like way we run ... our meeting you know.
[164] Erm for instance, you go to one meeting and erm you would just sort of , mind you I think probably you may not agree, young people perhaps think this is the best way.
[165] I've been to Stanford Hall where they have you in a circle but at least, I think,wh however you sit, you must have a president in front of you in a chair and someone to keep a little bit of order.
[166] Whereas er I've been to a meeting where, you know well, will you come and speak?
[167] Well there was no one, no table or nowhere to put your notes, nowhere, one to sort of say well this is Mrs she's come from so and so.
[168] Well we wouldn't tolerate this in the Guild.
[169] This has been, you know we've always, and we always go for the rule by the vote, one vote per member and er, we stick to our rules.
[170] We have our little rule book and we let a woman come into the Guild for a few weeks and then she's told the rules.
[171] Er one of the rules is you must belong to the Co-op you, you know and er you must have a Pound share in the Co-op you see.
[172] And you must also have, have that, naturally, before you can be on the committee.
[173] And you have an A G M ... once a year and every, everything is goes by the vote, you know if president's, there's no time limit.
[174] Er well each guild makes their own mind up whether they have a new pre if, if they want the same president year after year or secretary.
[175] At the moment I can never get voted out of it you know.
[176] [laugh] Er but we're very, very business-like, very, very, business-like.
[177] Erm we, we have of course, we've got a, we have a congress each year, which erm we, each Guild is allowed to send one delegate and so really, we always stress at the top level that erm you know, it's you that run the Guild you can't blame head office, the Nat National Executive, because you're the ones who send the people to the top, aren't you?
[178] And it's just as I've said in local government, er we only get what you've put in.
[179] It's your fault.
[180] You've had the vote and [...] who you've put in.
[181] But erm we're very, very business-like.
[182] But we've found out er that we have er we still keep our programme erm I can show you my programme book.
[183] Er we still er we have to submit to Miss [...] officer.
[184] It is one of the rules that er we get a grant from the society.
[185] We get our, we're very lucky because as I travel ov in the country, there's lot's of Co-ops as the Guilds don't get the grant or they don't get room rent.
[186] But we in Walsall er I say Walsall is West Midlands er been very, very lucky.
[187] I'm always stressing this to my people because we do get a room rent, a gra and we get a grant every year according to how many members you've got.
[188] And to qualify for that grant, you have got to submit two er [...] your programme for the year and you've gotta give the secretaries, you've got to give a report and you've got to give your balance sheet and er, Jean is always, I must say, very pleased with mine because erm you know, we do give quite a lot to charity.
[189] We make ourselves known in the village w erm you see we've got the peace movement at the moment and last year er we always have put a wreath.
[190] We always march in the parade on Armistice Sunday and this year erm I picked my poppy wreath up from the vic from vicarage and I said to the Vicar, you don't mind if I wind some white poppies in this one do you, because it was the Earl Hague poppy you know.
[191] And he said not at all, not at all and I said well I do want the people to know that, you know we, although we ... tribute to [...] of the lost lives in the two World Wars, we are now striving for peace and so I wound a few white poppies.
[192] And the vicar did pick this up in his sermon and he did mention the Co-op Womens' Guild and so we were very proud that we'd been mentioned you see, you know.
[193] Erm as I say we are known in the village and this is, er this is what it's all about.
[194] It's getting known isn't it, really.
m. glasson (PS221) [195] If I could just ask you what sort of activities the Guild, the Guilds are actually involved in today?
Ruth (PS222) [196] Er well er I think, I don't think they are so politically activated and this is where you haven't got your forthcoming erm members on committees.
[197] You're not, you've not got your councillors coming forward and er you know that, which, which I would like because the, the only way you'll get your, get anything is by sort of working for it and erm we are very proud you know, I don't know whether you've, you must've seen the book you know erm the, the [...] was brought out the centenary, the eighty-three and er, I mean er, er ... there's an awful lot of information there.
[198] Erm my thread's gone for a minute.
[199] This is what happens.
m. glasson (PS221) [200] about caring and sharing
Ruth (PS222) [201] The caring and sharing, yes erm
m. glasson (PS221) [202] And actually it does show how they were politically quite active [...]
Ruth (PS222) [203] Er you see there was, really activists and you see you've not got the women coming forward.
[204] They seem as what women we are getting today er just want social er and yet my own particular guild, I'm just wondering if it's the secretaries that we're, we're jus it's the good secretary we need of course really because, er this sounds really awful of me, it sounds a bit big-headed doesn't it you know we would, we would say.
[205] Erm but, I mean er you know, I tried to instil we get a good programme and we, we, we get really interesting, no we di we wouldn't like all socials.
[206] We like, we have erm a sort of er we have a current affairs and that night we pick up, we all have a say on something that's be topical on the television that particular week.
[207] Years ago we used to have the W E A Lecturers and erm that, they always did current affairs and er of course we have the different councillors.
[208] I always involve the local councillors because at the moment we have a running battle with them over the er repairs, because most of us live in council property in my particular Guild, and so we get involved and s you know what you're going to do about these [...] you know.
[209] Erm but erm we get involved.
[210] Of course we get co-opted onto other committees, so we are involved in with others you know.
[211] Erm
m. glasson (PS221) [212] You mentioned, you mentioned the erm ... movement towards peace that's, that's quite interesting.
[213] I didn't, I wasn't aware that that was still a part of, of the Guild work today.
Ruth (PS222) [214] Oh well the Guild, yes I mean first and foremost we, you know, we are pledged to help the Guild.
[215] Er help, the Guild is pledged to the peace movement.
[216] I, we're not, I don't know whether you've got, we could say we were activists, we don't, I don't even know who goes on a march or anything, but we do do our best for anything we support and get signatures for anything they ask us to.
[217] We do support them and as I say we buy our poppies, we wear our poppies and like this year we put them on the wreath as well you know er we're very keen.
[218] Of course, over the years we've campaigned, as I was telling someone only yesterday in another club that I go to at the church, that I said you know we, the Co-op Womens' Guild, were helping to put water into Africa before any of this Band-aid and Live-aid was thought about.
[219] Er we had er buy a bucket of water campaign and we did erm er you know I, we went in local shops selling little stickers and it all went to and the wells have been dug and I believe Afghanistan has got wells that have been dug with, through the er Womens' Guild.
[220] Er we, we do worldwide, we do sort of take an interest, but that again is linked up with your Co-operative International erm isn't really, you see.
[221] But the, you see if you look in the, I have information off the Birmingham secretary, er Secretary's secretary, she was involved, she even was imprisoned in Switzerland erm when the peace movement was on between the two wars, and that was when they were, I believe it was a German woman that er that was on, you know in the committee, but I'll have to refer to the Caring and Sharing book.
[222] Erm er they formed this committee and erm it was in Switzerland er where they were at the time.
[223] I mean they fought valiantly for peace but I, I think that erm ... the maternity bill I think is what everybody admits that we shall always go down as being noted for.
[224] Erm I've heard it said lots of times that whatever else er you know gets forgotten, we, we will remembered for the maternity bill, it was an awful lot of work.
[225] Because we can work.
[226] We can, we can badger our MPs and erm until they do and, and because they are oblivious to a lot of things that are going on in their own, you know till we put it in front of them.
[227] So erm and the other thing was the erm ... the maternity bill er what is the other one that so interests me that, I've got my two favourites, erm and that is the cervical, the cancer smear test.
[228] Now that, we never get any credit for it and yet we did an awful lot of work.
[229] I can remember, you see I don't think today's Guild women would go around with me.
[230] We knocked on doors and got signatures and erm.
[231] I have got of piles of papers between er still.
[232] What am I gonna do when I move next week I don't know.
[233] Because er the, when, between us and Westminster and MPs to get this cervical cancer smear test going you know and one of the women that was very prominent in Walsall was, she died with it herself, but she was an older woman you know, just too late to save her.
[234] But I think that, you know, we've got so involved we've done a lot of work in our time, but now we don't seem to be erm ... There is a younger element coming in they tell me.
[235] I've seen quite a few er in the so well you see we belong wi the Guild is fit into three tiers.
[236] You've got your er local tier, I'm a local Guild attached to West Midlands' society.
[237] But then you see we've got a section which is Birmingham and then we've got a Head Office.
[238] So you see we, we've got a three-tier movement you know, throughout the, throughout the country.
[239] Er and in the South Midlands' section, I think it is erm towards Coventry and Nuneaton, we have got erm I can even remember the name of the Guild it's [...] we've got a lot of younger women in there and these are younger women that, it's very, I'm very pleased to see them and when you see them go to the rostrum you can, you know they really are, they seem as if they're a revival of the old camp because we, we've got to campaign you see and but you, you try, I mean I'm getting beyond it really myself and yet you see, you try and whip up erm an aging movement it you, you want younger women you see.
[240] You want you say your mid- thirties erm er to sort of campaign with but I think we really, this is what we used to be, a campaigning movement and this is what we are no longer.
[241] Now you see, they, they want a social, they want a night out er but they're very, very loyal to the Co-op, er particularly my o I can only speak for my own Guild.
[242] They, they're tremendously loyal and as I say, when they closed Walsall Wood Co-op we went to Aldridge the next little visit.
[243] Then they closed that.
[244] And now some of them go up Brownhills, you know they're very loyal.
[245] And erm they're loyal to the society because it, they know really it's partly through them supporting the Guilds that we are able erm I don't know whether I would get the membership there if you've got, you see we pay ... a subscription to, see it costs five Pound a year at the moment to be, to be a member of the Womens' Guild, which we, we send dues as I say to these three sections you see.
[246] And I don't think if you've got it out of the Guilds and say now we've got to have so much for the rent this [laughing] week [] I don't think I would have a Guild very long, because they can go round the corner.
[247] There's so many clubs now isn't there?
[248] They can go round the corner to the, er I go to a church club er and I pay twenty-five pence and that includes my raffle and a cup of tea you see.
[249] And, and you see you're competing with things like this aren't you?
[250] Now Jean was pleased because I do sequence dancing which I learnt with my husband, and so now this coming September when we start back again, once a month I'm going to teach some sequence dancing in the hope that some young ones would, will hear of it and, and join because then once you can sort of get them involved with one thing you may sort of get good numbers.
[251] But I think this is the kind of thing that we really need.
[252] We, we need the younger blood because you, you talk and say well how are you and oh my leg's bad, my leg's been dreadful this week and you can't very well ask these people to go campaigning on the streets, can you?
[253] And comes electioneer election time as regards political er then you see the, the la the Labour Party would like you to help them because we are Co-operative Labour.
[254] I have stood twice as co-operative Labour candidate and didn't win either time, er much to my husband's disgust, because I, but you see at the time er Labour was very, very low but erm the local people, you can tell by your boxes, was very loyal to me.
[255] But you get the erm the little estates that've grew round Walsall Wood erm you see they were all Conservative and it was, but it was just a straight fight between but, he said it was a good fight and er we had, we had two.
m. glasson (PS221) [256] Were, what were the erm the main issues in, in your mother's day.
[257] I mean were, were there any sort of political issues she felt very strongly about?
Ruth (PS222) [258] Ooh great a, a lot of politic this is what I say they were, when I think of them I can remember them, even as, as a young girl and you know remember them they were all very, very er they were only just the average working woman er I don't think, we had got, there again we'd got an extremely good, they'd got an extremely good secretary, a well-educated woman erm and er the whole family was involved and it was one of their family was went on to be an M P.
[259] But erm perhaps because I had a good, I don't know.
[260] But erm the women were so involved, they were on all these committees, they were, you know, harassing committees and they er really working they were.
[261] Er of course as I say, they er this was the ma the maternity bill I think was, would, would've been my mother's day more than mine you see because I mean then yo the woman didn't get the maternity allowance and
m. glasson (PS221) [262] Was, was there anything your, your mother felt particularly strongly about do you remember or
Ruth (PS222) [263] Well I think it was the maternity because I mean she had had eleven pregnancies so I think she [...] she was very, very erm able to talk about it and I, I don't, I know Dad had got a good job in the, well if you can call any pit job a good job, but say that the money was decent, but I know that she always had to have two doctors and it was, it was in those days we were, it was good we were in a doctor's club because, you know, you hadn't got any er the maternity and, and the, and the ante- natal and pre-natal and goodness knows what that we've got today.
[264] So I think, if I've gotta say, mum's I should say was maternity which you, they were very, very political animals.
[265] The Walsall Wood Guild was in particular and when you look round, even the Walsall ones were like because you've got erm er you've got board members.
[266] The first president of Walsall Society was, was a woman Guild member.
[267] She was from Russia, you see.
[268] So I mean you got, they were very, very politically- minded.
m. glasson (PS221) [269] Did your, did your mother talk at all about the er the nineteen twenty-six Great Strike?
Ruth (PS222) [270] Oh yes, of course, yes, of course .
m. glasson (PS221) [271] That must've hit Walsall Wood as a mining village.
Ruth (PS222) [272] Yes, yes, it, it hit, it hit us dreadfully yes, yes and you, you would've, this er chappie who showed us slides, he showed us erm er you know the soup kitchens that we did erm they did and I think the Guilds' women were involved with that you know.
[273] Er I, you see they used to work, the Guilds work more ... with the political party, they worked, I'd, I can't see my Guild women going to the Labour Party erm you see.
[274] Er they supported me and canvassed for me when I was putting up, but I can't see them going, whereas I can remember the erm the [...] when I was a child going to the, we used to have a fete and it was a politically, I can't remember exactly what it would be called, but I know mother and the Guild were always there making the tea and got a stall and they were always in the forefront and they'd always got their rosettes on.
[275] Erm cos the Guild has sort of, this is a new thing, we've adapted the International flag and we wear the er scarves, which, which the [...] asked us to wear, we, at the church service you see, but you, mainly the Guild women in those days would be wearing the red rosettes of the Labour Party you see.
[276] Er I remember it so vividly because it, at our house it was quite er an [laughing] event because [] mother and father were so Labour and my brother, who erm he, I don't know why, he's not alive today and I can't so I, and I've no idea, I don't think I ever asked him because I'd be too young, but I do know that the friction was in the house because he was working for the Conservative and she was the first woman that we ever elected er she, this, this lady did.
[277] She was a local farmer's wife and she went on to be our first [laughing] member of Parliament [] and me brother was helping her and mum and dad, you see, was working for the, we, we got the house as a committee room and all, all the and I can remember going with mother, we had, we had a Co-op paper or it was Co-op orientated I'm sure [...] news and I can remembering canvassing Walsall Wood with me mother, well I can't see my Guild members doing that.
[278] We canvassed all round the village you know, the Guild members did and to get people to take this paper.
[279] You know they were really, but you see, in the, in, in the to modern womens' favour you see, these women hadn't got anything like we have today.
[280] They haven't got the telly which is dominating the house, have they and these other things.
[281] Er, you see wh when I'm tr when I'm speaking in favour of today's women this is what I look at.
[282] You know mother'd used to come back so thrilled with all these slides they'd had and they'd had the local doctor as well.
[283] We had a course of first-aid so that we were pr prepared er for first- aid in the home you know, which is a good thing erm in our Guild.
[284] I always seem to, I think we, we were always at Stanford Hall that we must, it was a must that we have a good programme because if somebody comes and there's nothing doing, they think well ... you know yo I, I, you see I suppose I've got that orientated into Guild work but a friend of mine enticed me to go to er a club and erm it's just simply for any age group, any sex male or female, but you must bereaved you know and erm she is a widow and I was widow, so I went but you see we, we sat round and you just, there was nothing organised and to me who had always been organised, I just felt so like a lost soul you know and er then one chappie put some records on and you cou and you couldn't dance to them and I said oh, you know to me I thought wh you know but I don't want to do it, I've got enough [laughing] to do [] but, I, I was straight away, I was looking for the organisation behind it you know.
m. glasson (PS221) [285] Yes.
[286] You mentioned Stanford Hall then and you've been on courses at Stanford
Ruth (PS222) [287] Oh yes yes.
m. glasson (PS221) [288] Oh right.
[289] So what, what sort of courses would those have been?
Ruth (PS222) [290] Oh these courses [...] mainly I've been on is being opening the Guild you know, how to open a Guild, how to open you know, a Guild erm and er I've been on consumer courses erm such as like that paper they just sent this week on what's on, I mean that is nothing new they've sent out in today's Co-op news you know that our own label and all the nutr because the nutriment, I can remember er being at Stanford Hall on, on a consumer course for a week and you see I was on the er when I was know, know longer an employee, I was on member relations you see, representing the Guild and you'd go through there sometimes and that would probably be a consumer task.
[291] I don't rea I can't remember who sent me, when on a consumer course.
[292] And I can remember having big long sheets and they would take us into Nottingham and just dump you at a shop and say now you know, go in and fill that in.
[293] And it would be you know, which tin is the best value, which has got the most in and all this.
[294] So it's nothing new really, those, those labels have always had the contents and things in you know.
[295] Erm
m. glasson (PS221) [296] I see And, and who would, who would pay for theses courses?
[297] Would it be the local society?
Ruth (PS222) [298] The, the member relations as was would, would pay, would pay for you.
[299] It never came out of er ha our pockets at all.
[300] You see they send you er and of course we always in, asked the Guild women.
[301] I've got a Congress fund which, I mean today it's getting so dear to go to Congress erm you know, the hotels are so dear.
[302] It's a three-day Congress er and what we do in our Guild, we have, we had a house party on a Tuesday night and she's told me she made twenty-six Pounds and erm we, we send our, our delegate Congress with that money you see, er because you see, er women would not if you couldn't say you could sponsor them.
[303] Erm ... that's where the money comes from because er
m. glasson (PS221) [304] So actually you think the, the, the local society had, had quite er an important role to play then really in, in sort of promoting education.
Ruth (PS222) [305] Oh definitely, definitely.
[306] I've got ... I, I as I say, I feel very grateful to the society for giving me the chance.
[307] I had, until I took the role of the Guild secretary, I, I as I say, I think I would have gone on to being politically, erm but I felt I couldn't do both.
[308] Er but I went, I've been, I've represented the society at the big conference of the Co-op union, which is you know each society sends delegates you know and erm er I've, ... I've always liked this kind of thing.
[309] I've always enjoyed it and sometimes I wonder if er probably, as I think I've think I said before, erm this goes back to what kind of a secretary you've got, you see.
[310] Erm my Guild always say they're lucky in having me because I've come back and give them all the information and they seem to be so well-educated themselves now you know.
[311] Erm
m. glasson (PS221) [312] Did, did the erm the, the central society themselves, did they, did they run sort of adu adult education type courses there in [...]
Ruth (PS222) [313] Oh yes.
[314] We've be run courses you know and this [...] they used to, they run directors' courses, directors' training courses and things like that you know and public speaking you know.
[315] We erm of course, this is besides the ordinary classes that they take erm now I believe there's doing something for the erm, what was the one I looked at on the board the other day for tracing your ancestors back, you know.
[316] Erm yes.
m. glasson (PS221) [317] I wa I was talking to erm Mr the other day and he was saying that when he started at the Co-op it was a, a very, very good place to work.
Ruth (PS222) [318] Yes.
m. glasson (PS221) [319] Erm was, was that still true when, when you, when you worked there?
[320] Do you think it was a, a good employer or?
Ruth (PS222) [321] Er yes I think so.
[322] Er but I, I think really I was probably er you know I was er when I look back, erm I was not in the, in the, er what, what words do I want.
[323] I wasn't in the actual throe er, er I wa I've always been more or less a loner.
[324] Er I was in the credit and I was with a large group of people there and they seemed very happy and I think we were fair, we'd got good conditions.
[325] We had erm very good canteen facilities erm I think er everything was quite good.
[326] But then I, I went on to be secretary and more or less you're loner again in another office.
[327] And then from there I went to the grocery manager, I was his secretary.
[328] And I ended up in the erm my ended my career as the in, I was in charge of the stone, stone masonry office working for the funeral manager.
[329] So I always say well I went backwards, I went to the dead end [laughing] you know [] I think I ended up very low in the Co-op really you know er but erm
m. glasson (PS221) [330] Did they, did they do things like erm staff discount and things like that?
Ruth (PS222) [331] Oh staff discount was very good yes, they did the staff discount.
[332] And er, you know of course, you've got employees on your committee.
[333] They've got a very good welfare committee er employees' committee you know.
[334] Erm I don't know erm ... how it is like, as I say because I, I've been left now ... ten years ... eleven, eleven in May er so erm I, I really, I don't know what, how things are with the er with the employees really you know, but erm I used to enjoys my meetings once a month erm and I think everybody seemed fair, we got and of course, according to the Co- magazine that we have, that Focus, they always send me one of those still and er I mean, you've got er, we used to have a good football team and I think they've still got a sports team haven't they?
[335] And er they did a lot for that fun run and er made money on there erm I think they've kept the, the image up really.
[336] I don't know, I think.
m. glasson (PS221) [337] Right.
[338] Going, going back to the early days you mentioned that erm the dividend, the divi was quite important.
Ruth (PS222) [339] Yes.
m. glasson (PS221) [340] Your mother used to take her, her dividend out did she?
[341] I know there, there was quite a lot of encouragement to actually leave your dividend in and build up interest on it.
Ruth (PS222) [342] Er yes I, I er I think I, I couldn't really speak definitely on this but er you I have said that we, you know that this secretary encouraged them because you know, to keep it in and even the one woman said this was how she got a deposit for her house and through, as I say, you'd got a Co-op building society as well.
[343] But I think er with a big family like mother had got, she used to like her divi day erm for erm you know, well say save up, well it used to come round about May and you'd think well just, you know just in time for the summer shoes or something you know.
[344] And er it used to be quite event when you saw all the queue and, and er of course with Walsall Wood you've got the room over the shop where the Guild room was and a rest room I think for the staff.
[345] There was another little attic up above.
[346] And, you know, the queue'd be all down the stairs and all down the road and to be truthful as a, as, as erm I, in my early married days of course erm I, my money accumulated er because of sort I didn't really need it.
[347] But er, in my later as I was rearing my two children erm I, I think I used to spend mine.
[348] I can show you now erm what I bought with my divi and we [laughing] had a speaker [] at the Guild er on stainless steel and er he,wh you know when they asked questions you said well how do we, how do we clean it?
[349] So er ... I thought well he, he was not a too good a rep because he, he couldn't answer this question.
[350] I said well, I can tell you how to clean it.
[351] I said in my teapot there is a little, and he told you to use white tide and you put a little bit of tide in it once a week.
[352] I said what I do is if I'm going, I know say, Fridays, I'm going shopping, gonna be out nearly all day, put, put it in the tide in, it comes out and I can show you my teapot, it'll be, it is clean now.
[353] And it must be, I've been up here twenty-three years, it must be getting on for thirty years old that teapot and er I couldn't have afforded that money for that stainless steel teapot, as those days, but I had it with my divi.
[354] I can remember that so vividly and it's still going today so that's saying something for British Steel erm it was local, you know the erm the one at er
m. glasson (PS221) [355] Old Hall
Ruth (PS222) [356] Old Hall yes, yes, yes, yeah and so I think and of course erm I have talked erm I talk in the different clubs you know, as I say, and I think erm the majority of women usually like this, they look forward to the divi to buy say a major item, you know.
[357] Erm but we were encouraged of course for it to go er as your savings and er something I heard that, that may be interesting to you er and er he just said to me in this other club, but again we were talking about, I think we'd talking politics then and we're not supposed to do it was a church [laughing] club. []
[358] But erm er and, and she said erm you know the little, we were talking about the little corner shop and how they used to keep open all hours.
[359] This is a private little shop you know and her mother kept this little shop, mother long since dead you know.
[360] And she said it was so funny, she said, you'd get the, the so the poorer people perhaps would use this shop and erm and yet she said, people I knew in the street erm that were Conservatives dealt at the Co-op, where it was I suppose the best buy and they were saving the divi you know, and we thought it was quite ... funny really.
[361] I don't know how it would appeal to you but we thought it was funny.
m. glasson (PS221) [laugh]
Ruth (PS222) [362] But I think this is, I think that I know it w it was the arguments that went on when we were on about going dividend stamps was very interesting, I quite enjoyed them and you can you know, definitely what came out was that erm it was a bad thing because erm people, er maybe it's good if these stamps are going to the Co-op er going to the hospitals I'm all for it, but I'm afraid mine I keep them to for myself and erm er I get so few these days now my Co-op's gone but erm you know usually I go and get a bag of er, box of teabags with mine, you know and er so I use my stamps now erm.
m. glasson (PS221) [363] You, you feel that was definitely a, a wrong move to
Ruth (PS222) [364] Oh definitely, definitely I think they did.
[365] But of course we were very strongly against it really but er, because th you know we'd been inundated with all these marvellous ideas of this progress and it's all for the best and everything, but it doesn't seemed to have work does it really?
[366] Erm I must say that on the clothing scene, because I did criticize it in my earlier statements, er that when I was so young I thought it was so frumpy and I was so pleased when I was married and got my own income that, you know, I could go elsewhere and choose something.
[367] But it, it did and, and I think there again a little bit of Guild influence because when er we were at meetings we would say, well what are you going to do about the er drapery you know and eventually we did get this better erm you know, drapery.
m. glasson (PS221) [368] Erm you, you mentioned that the local corner shop sold virtually everything.
Ruth (PS222) [369] Yes.
m. glasson (PS221) [370] What, what sort of things would be delivered erm?
Ruth (PS222) [371] Oh I should suppose just grocery I should think really.
[372] I, I can't really because we never did.
[373] We, we actually lived in th the corner shop is right on the corner if you've come up High street on the bus and your Co-op would be on that corner, your church and your Co-op's on the corner, and just turns there and I only lived just down that street, so we never had to have it delivered because we just popped up er and my brother and I, I can so remember us going with our two big bags you know and we, you know how you do when families meet you know and he'll say that's the time, because dad, we never knew dad hit us and yet you'd of thought he was, we, we were so scared it must have been his voice you know, that he erm that we was so scared that everything was all correct from the Co- op.
[374] The, the you know his tobacco had got to be ready-rubbed and we, we still remember that.
[375] But no, it was a certain type of tobacco but you'd got to bring it ready-rubbed and er you know, it's back to the Co-op you'd go and it wasn't very far.
[376] But of course it was lovely with er, er they used to trim it up Christmas time you know and it used to be so lovely.
[377] It, it was a really nice size shop Walsall Wood was, but my sister, remember is eighty-two, I asked her, I told her you were coming and I asked her if there was anything she could tell me but er she do couldn't tell me much more than myself.
[378] She used to come a long way, right from the top of to walk down to her Co-op, a long way.
[379] But again, it had always got to be from the Co-op, because it had come through mum you see, really and er sh I say she is eighty-two.
[380] But she remembers the Co-op having its first shop just, still in High street, but half way down, but then they had this prime position right on the corner, you know and it was a marvellous, a good Co-op I always thought.
m. glasson (PS221) [381] They, they always took your, they as asked for your share number when you, when you bought something, was that right?
[382] Well, a, at the Co-op store.
[383] Was that right?
Ruth (PS222) [384] Well we used to er you see, you know when you paid you had your cheque.
[385] My, my mother's was five-two-nine-seven and mine was seven-five-one-eight-one.
[386] And you know, you always you er give, gave your number you see ... and er ... course some people I believe had an a I believe in later days they'd given the older numbers out again, I don't know wh you know, because some people that've joined since me have got an older number, so I don't know whether they've given the ol they were sort of long since run out, you know.