Search

More memories from Woolies glory days

PUBLISHED: 11:49 09 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:10 05 July 2010

June Begbie, Helen Mace, Betty Vincent and Lily Knights presenting store manager Stephen Morgan with a silver tankard in appreciation of allowing the reunion of former employees to be held at the store on June 22, 1983

June Begbie, Helen Mace, Betty Vincent and Lily Knights presenting store manager Stephen Morgan with a silver tankard in appreciation of allowing the reunion of former employees to be held at the store on June 22, 1983

WOOLWORTHS closed its doors for the final time this week as high street shopping as we know it changed forever.

Stores up and down the country abandoned their key locations in town and city centres as thousands of employees started a new chapter in their lives and millions of shoppers looked for a new store to meet their needs.

Happy smiles from helpers Faith Short and Tina Catchpole at the Woolworths "Help a Child to See" event in October 14, 1988

WOOLWORTHS closed its doors for the final time this week as high street shopping as we know it changed forever.

Stores up and down the country abandoned their key locations in town and city centres as thousands of employees started a new chapter in their lives and millions of shoppers looked for a new store to meet their needs.

Over the last two weeks Turning Back the Clock has taken a look at some of the history of the well-loved Lowestoft store and this week we continue the trip down memory lane.

The shop has always been well-known for its tight-knit staff and no-one epitomises this more than friends Betty Vincent, nee Pye, Helen Mace, nee Algar, and Lily Knights, nee Challis.

The three first met when they worked at the store in Kirkley during the 1940s, when Helen was a cashier and Lily was a supervisor. Betty first joined in 1942 where she worked on the sweet counter. She later moved into the office, where she worked as a cashier until 1949 when she got married.

Despite leaving, the three have stayed in touch and have met every Thursday evening for the last 64 years.

“We have been more like sisters than friends, seeing each other through marriages, christening and the loss of husbands,” said Mrs Vincent, of The Graylings, Carlton Colville.

Betty, 80, has many fond memories from her time at the store and recalled a particularly severe winter in 1947. A coal shortage meant that the office staff had to forego heating and instead sat wrapped in blankets, with a jug of hot cocoa and hurricane lamps on the counters.

In 1983 the three close friends were instrumental in organising a reunion of wartime staff. On June 22 around 60 former employees who had worked at the Kirkley store between 1941 and 1950 met at the staff canteen above the London Road North shop to reminisce and share stories from their employment.

That evening current store manager Stephen Morgan presented a flower arrangement to Sybil Cutts, who had helped to prepare the original Lowestoft Woolworths store in 1922. Mr Morgan was also presented with an engraved tankard to thank him for allowing the reunion to be held in the canteen.

Photographer Mick Howes also evoked more memories of the great camaraderie between staff when he sent in a photograph from 1988.

On October 14, The Journal featured this image together with a story of the staff's charity efforts. That weekend employees had set out their own stalls in the car park behind the store to raise money for the Help a Child to See campaign.

A total of £456 was raised on the day as they sold everything from bric-a-brac to homemade cakes as part of the £250,000 campaign to buy special laser operating equipment.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Lowestoft Journal. Click the link in the yellow box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Lowestoft Journal