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Daisy's Work.

Daisy was the fifth child of John George PRATT and Ann Maria (Ria) Hall they had grown up quite close to each other and married very young. He being 18 and she 17 although the marriage certificate has 20 and 19!. At one time they lived at 4 back 41 Guildford Street. They had 15 children of which 2 daughters and 10 sons survived childhood.

During the 1930s work was not easy to find. Daisy had many jobs often more than one in the week. One place she worked was in the jewellery quarter for a gold smith assembling watch bracelets, she told how the dust from the work benches and even the overalls, was collected at the end of each day so that the gold partials could be retrieved. We found a visit to the Jewellery Quarter Museum confirmed her account of work at a goldsmiths.

She also worked for Line Bros. Triang where she packed children's bikes there she remembered that you couldn't include a black or white bike  in orders for assorted colours. During the period between the First and Second World Wars, Lines Brothers acquired The Unique and Unity Cycle Co. This company was based in Birmingham and had been founded in 1888. They originally made bicycles for adults but the market for children's tricycles and bicycles grew so much that they later stopped production of full sized cycles.

Yet another place was Faccinos where she made wafer biscuits. Faccino's Biscuit Factory was near the Fox and Goose, Ward End, actually on the junction of Old Bromford Lane and New Bromford Lane.was demolished c1960. While she worked there her twin brothers William and Thomas were born. Sadly Thomas did not survive and “Billy” had to stay in hospital until strong enough to return home, his mum visiting as often as she could. Working in the biscuit factory, she used to wear her white overalls home Poor Ria was at her wits end when Billy came home nothing the very experienced mother could do would stop him crying. Then she realised every time Daisy came home from work and picked him up the baby miraculously stopped yelling. Wise Ria realised that Daisy was wearing white overalls not unlike  the hospital nurses wore and the baby was associating the white with comfort. She put on a white overall and the house was once again peaceful.

Daisy also told many tales of working in the kitchen at Kunzle restaurant where the chef taught her to chop vegetables rapidly. The Swiss chef Christian Kunzle had a number of high class restaurants around Birmingham. He had become a celebrity chef when working at the House of Commons. Not all the stories were complimentary but her mint and parsley were beautifully chopped for sauce.

Parkinson's Stove factory

Photograph by  B. Brown

Just before the war she went to work at Parkinson's Stove factory in Stechford where Edward was already working. She worked on a drill at Parkinson's, one day her hair caught in the drill and was torn from her head, in those days machines weren't guarded as they are to-day. Edward was on the machine shop staff and was the first-aider on duty. He attended the frightened Daisy and he accompanied her in the ambulance to the hospital. That was the start of what proved a long and happy relationship. Luckily her thick dark curly hair grew back and hid the lifelong scar that she bore. It is hard to imagine this event as Edward found it hard to watch medical programmes on tv.

Next she went to work at Forelands Open-air school for cripples at Rock Hill in Bromsgrove. Forelands opened in 1919 as a branch of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (Woodlands) - for the treatment of children with tubercular bone disease. Here she was personal assistant to the matron. When matron went on leave Daisy had to pack her case, carefully layering each garment with tissue paper. She was praised that none of the clothes had been creased in transit. She told how they strapped the children into their beds if there was an air raid and passed the whole bed through the windows to be carried to the shelters. She enjoyed chatting to the children who didn’t have visitors on open days. Daisy was very happy there but missed her fiancé Edward. And the opportunity of well paid work closer to him made her move back to Birmingham.

Daisy had to leave that job as Hazel was sick and with no family living near there was no one to look after her. Strangely Hazel’s first job after leaving school was at the NCB laboratory in the shade of the coke works which by then had closed.

Daisy also worked for a short time in the kitchen at  the South Wales Electricity Offices, Park Street, Bridgend, again by a strange twist of fate Stephen would eventually join the Electricity board as a student engineer and Hazel married Eric who was an Engineer with South Wales Electricity.

She had had a disagreement with her father so lived with the Johnsons while finding suitable lodgings. After returning to Birmingham she took work at the ICI munitions factory. The factory is thought to be Kynocks in Witton, an account of her work there can be read at Our Pratts’ War. While working at Kynocks Edward had his call up papers and they married 21 September 1940. This photograph was taken in the garden of 106 Albert Road, Stechford, the JOHNSON home, after the service at All Saints.

Daisy left Kynocks before the birth of her daughter in 1942. Edward stayed with the Nuffield factory until it closed when he took work with BSA for a short time.

As their daughter was asthmatic Edward and Daisy decided to move away from the smoky city to Bridgend in South Wales, where a new industrial estate had opened on the site of the arsenal. Daisy found the move difficult at first but once she had settled she took several different jobs, among them :- Canteen assistant at the NCB, Tondu. Hazel was still in primary school and was taken to Tondu when the school was closed she liked watching the rope hauled railway which took coke from the coke works at the top of the incline down past the old canteen to the railhead at the washery. The canteen had two sides one for the office workers the “clean side” and one for workers in “dirty” clothes.

Next she took work as a Home Help, being sent to some remote places because she was able to drive and finally she was asked to be the first Meals on Wheels driver when the council started that service.

Later daisy worked at the Girls' Grammar School, (Hazel’s old school ) she was there when the school became Bryntirion Comprehensive. This made a huge difference to local education. The teachers of the Girls grammar school suddenly were part of a massive co-education school. For the canteen workers life was much easier they now had a modern kitchen, all on a level floor. The Grammar school dining room had been down several steps from the kitchen so every thing had to be carried rather than pushed on trolleys. The children also now came to the hatch while in the former school the kitchen staff took the plates and tureens to the tables. Eventually even the food preparation became simpler and they no longer had to start the day peeling sacks of potatoes as they were brought in ready peeled. It was the potato sacks that lead Daisy to leave the school as she strained her wrist quite badly leaving her with a permanent problem.

The kitchen staff Bryntirion Comprehensive School.
Daisy is 5th from the left.

Daisy is wearing an overall standing next to the Mayor. She and her assistant picked up the food in insulated containers and delivered to pensioners and house bound people. They often had to summon help if they found the client had problems. On one occasion the pensioner had put a saucepan of water on the hob with a plate over it “warming” ready to receive the meal but when they got to the house the pan had boiled dry and started to melt, the pensioner was asleep in an adjoining room. Another time they found the client had fallen and had lain on the floor for over a day when they arrived. It was hard to be quick at some houses as they were often one of very few visitors and the clients tried hard to keep them talking. It certainly was a useful and rewarding service which Daisy missed after her retirement.