Posted By The Sugar Girls ~ 19th June 2012
In The Sugar Girls we wrote about a young woman called Joan Cook, who penned cheeky little ditties between shifts on the Hesser Floor at Tate & Lyle. But it turns out that Joan wasn’t the only poet at the sugar factory. Marie Hindmarsh (nee Crabb) worked in the Syrup Filling Department at Plaistow Wharf from 1956 to 1960. Now widowed, she spends much of her time recalling memories from her early years and setting them down in verse.
Here are a couple of Marie’s poems, which she kindly sent us earlier this week, along with some of her photographs from her time as a sugar girl.
MY FIRST JOB
At age fifteen I went to work in a local factory.
It was Tate & Lyles in Silvertown, and the syrup floor for me.
I was given a pair of Bib & Brace and a green check blouse to wear,
Although not very fashionable, I really didn’t care.
Betty Philips was the forelady, a gentle soul was she.
Unlike Becky the supervisor who was a different cup of tea.
She would chew you up and spit you out without a second glance.
So I knuckled down, did as I was told, and didn’t give her the chance.
Packing tins of syrup until my brain went numb,
Why am I working here? I thought. I really must be dumb!
But then I was upgraded, filling tins with syrup no less.
But if I overfilled one it made an awful mess.
Then along came Automation, which did away with this daily chore.
Not only sticky scales to clean, but syrup all over the floor.
We sang along with the records that over the Tannoy played.
Bill Haley and Lonnie Donagon, along with them we raved.
The best part of working there for me was the lovely friends I made,
And also the generous bonuses, after big profits the company made.
I worked there for almost four years so it couldn’t have been so bad.
I have many happy memories and for that I’m truly glad.
I wrote this in honour of my old workmates, some of whom I know are now deceased. Julie Farmer- Rita Palmer- June Rumsey -Rita Gundry -Coleen Coker- Maureen Turner-Frannie Jenkins-Pat Taylor- Maureen Mason-Dolly Brooks. These are the ones I remember well with fondness.
Working on the syrup floor for almost four years,
Sometimes the repetitiveness would bore us all to tears.
So we left for a seasonal job, my friend Julie Farmer and me.
Deciding on Warners Holiday Camp, and that waitresses we would be.
We really had a ball and would have liked to stay there longer.
But London was calling, and the urge was getting stronger.
So at the seasons end, our waitressing done,
Back to London we had to come.
Looking fit and tanned with a healthy glow,
But both without a job, where were we to go?
Let’s go and see Flo Smith, Julie laughingly said.
What’s wrong with you I uttered, are you sick in the head?
Walking in her office would be some task.
But we’ll never know, she told me, unless we really ask.
We got past the Commissionaire and halfway accross the yard,
When we were confronted by The Dragon, who stared at us real hard.
Where do you think you’re going? she shouted with an angry voice.
We’d come to get our jobs back but she didn’t give us a choice.
GET OFF THESE PREMESES, she bellowed for everyone to hear.
We turned and almost ran away, she had filled us both with fear.
When safely outside, we thought it was really funny.
She was never going to take us on, not for love nor money.
Whenever, I have time to reminisce, letting old memories in for a while.
Thoughts of this day come flooding back and it always makes me smile.
RIP Julie Farmer & Miss Florence Smith