I got brassed off with starting early each morning and catching an early train up to Naenae and the Phillip’s factory. I decided it was too big of an effort, so swapped to working at the, ‘Empire box factory’, just around the corner from mum’s, Moera flat. I joined a lot of other girls working on a machine that turned cardboard into egg cartons. Right off the bat, the other girls were quick to warn me about being on the lookout for one of the bosses, named, ‘Hec’, who they reckoned, was a dirty old man.
Sure enough, ‘Hec’, who I discovered lived in Strathmore Park, on the road up to Sidlaw, where we used to be, started coming by, pestering me. His chatting up and suggestive remarks, from someone old enough to be my grandfather, gave me the creeps. One of his favorite tricks on his rounds of the factory was to fiddle with the back of the girls bras. He thought it a great joke to get them undone, and see them left to carry on working unsupported until the break.
An Irish man with a very amusing accent working at the factory asked to take me out, but I had to tell him, I already had a boyfriend. I thought that might be cheating on the one I had been seeing for a few months.
‘Hec’ kept on asking me to go out with him ans along with his other antics soon got me fed up. I only stayed a couple of months before moving on to the Griffin’s biscuit factory, over the bridge from Moera, in Woburn. They placed me at the end of a row of girls, all standing alongside, a conveyor belt going round and round carrying rows of bickies past us, really fast. Our job was to pick up a row of biscuits, lay them in a stainless steel tray, drag a cellophane bag over them and seal the end up with a hot iron.
As the last one on the line, I copped all the biscuits the other girls missed and no matter how much I tried to speed up, I couldn’t get to all of them. The ones that went on sailing past me fell off the end of the conveyor into the broken biscuits box. When I kept missing too many they put me on a line that went slower.
My boyfriend decided he wanted us to get engaged and arranged for his jeweler friend to make us a ring with two hearts on it surrounded by little diamonds. When we told mum she put on a little party with a very fancy cake from the bakers and other eats. I got a new frock to wear and had a tight curly perm put in my hair, the new fad. Some of our friends squashed up into mum’s tiny flat to help us celebrate, drinking beer, listening to our latest records on mum’s radiogram, while I showed off my new ring.
Engaged girls were expected to start gathering the essentials for their future married life, (tea towels, linen, china, etc), in a ‘glory box’. My college friend, Judith was doing this when we both attended Intermediate School. Not having a real wooden, ‘glory box’, I put all the gifts given at my engagement away in my bottom drawer. At Christmas time, I also added the Sunbeam cake mixer, with all its fancy attachments for doing baking, my boyfriend had bought. I was not expecting to see any of them again, anytime soon.