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Working in a shop on board 'Queen Mary'

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Unique ID:19439
Description:A ship worker on board 'Queen Mary' talks about the work done in an onboard shop and what was done for leisure activities.
Copyright:Southampton City Council
Partner:SCC Oral History Unit
Partner ID:Unknown


At this point a lot of Americans were coming in from America and 'doing' Europe and 'doing' England as tourists, and it was at this point that the boon in the shops had taken place. England wanted dollars, we could sell maybe four and five sweaters which were cashmere to the Americans, they had a very large allocation of what they could buy abroad.  First Class alone, they had five shops.  We sold antiques from Garrard's, we sold cashmere...and we really sold everything from a genuine antique teapot from Garrard's right down to a packet of matches.  But there were approximately five shops there.

The Queen Mary was a legend in her lifetime.  Well you had to be charming to the customers.  If there was one complaint to the Captain about you as a person, or you as a personality, then you would not go to sea at all … again.  And this was done because there was a phrase 'not suited to sea life', and it was a vague phrase but it just meant that you did not get a ship again.  Well, when … when you think that film directors, nobility, and people generally with a lot of money had chosen to travel First Class Queen Mary then they would expect you to be charming.  They would expect you to be courteous.

But Cunard demanded a lot because you also had to work in all kinds of horrific sea conditions.  You didn't have good living conditions.  You worked enormously long hours.  We worked until 7 o'clock when we had then closed the shop and had dinner, then after approximately half past eight at night on the Queen Mary we had to check every item of stock and we had to do our bookkeeping.  First of all we had to convert Canadian and American dollars down to Sterling and then the books had to be balanced in Sterling and this had to be done through the night.  So we had already done a day's work.

But the one beautiful thing I found that I could do on the Queen Mary being an outdoor type, I used to escape up onto the First Class deck, which we were allowed to do, and we had a very very small section during our lunchtime and this was immediately under the funnels which was very sooty, but we were allowed to go up there.  In the summertime I would go out on deck in the sunshine.  But also in the evening we would walk so many times round the deck and it wasn't very many times you had to go round the deck until you had done a mile, and it was wonderful to be up there, absolutely wonderful, and she was a very very beautiful ship.  She was a lovely ship.  She had a magic about her and I am just so very very sorry we didn't keep her here.


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