Con­fi­dent Ken got a job af­ter telling bosses he was the best

FOR­MER BLACKETTS WORK­ERS RE-LIVE THE DAYS OF THE FAM­ILY FIRM WHICH MADE EVERY­ONE SO WEL­COME

Sunderland Echo - - Features - CHRIS CORD­NER LOOKS BACK

A gran­dad has re­called the good old days when he told a Sun­der­land store di­rec­tor to take him on - or miss out on the best young sales­man on Wear­side.

We asked for your mem­o­ries of Blacketts, the city cen­tre shop which was known as one big fam­ily em­ployer by its work­ers.

And Ful­well man Ken Barker cer­tainly agreed.

He worked in the sales sec­tion from 1958 to 1960 and still vividly re­mem­bers the con­fi­dent way he got the job.

“I marched in to see the per­son­nel di­rec­tor,” said Ken who is now a fa­ther of four and grand­fa­ther of eight.

“He asked me what I wanted and I said ‘you can give me a job’.

“I said ‘if you don’t you are go­ing to miss out on an op­por­tu­nity of hav­ing the best young sales­man in Sun­der­land.”

It worke da treat and the per­son­nel di­rec­tor told the young 17-yearold Ken: “I like your style!”

Ken was over the moon and re­lieved all at the same time. The re­lief was be­cause he had just been made re­dun­dant from a job in an­other shop.

But he was back in the land of em­ploy­ment and work­ing as a sales as­sis­tant in the menswear depart­ment.

Then it was time for Ken to be­gin work at Blacketts and he re­mem­bered his first day there.

“I was a month away from my 18th birth­day and it was a great place to work. I re­mem­ber that every­one was friendly. When I wan­dered through the de­part­ments for my first cup of tea at break­time, every­one was say­ing ‘are you new?’ and ‘hello’.”

Ken was work­ing un­der the lead­er­ship of Bill Harkness and his col­leagues in­cluded Bert Mears, Ribena Styles and Mary Frazer.

The man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, he re­mem­bered was Hughie Auld and Ken added: “The one man that stuck out for me was the handyman who lived in Cleve­land Road and em­i­grated to New Zealand, but I can’t re­mem­ber his name.”

Can any­one help Ken to name that handyman? Send an email to chris.cord­ner@jpress.co.uk if you can.

Ken, who is mar­ried to re­tired mid­wife Mar­jory and was also a foot ref­eree ball for

51 y ears, also re­mem­bered

that all the girls in the ac­count of­fice wore pink over­alls, He added:

“It was a won­der place ful and I loved it. I only left be­cause I was am­bi­tious and joined the po­lice force.”

But Ken never for­got the Sun­der­land depart­ment store where he was made to feel so wel­come.

An­other for­mer em­ployee also got in touch with us.

Edith Par­ish, nee Shafto, said: “I worked at Blacketts just af­ter I left school, about 1956 and worked on the drap­ery depart­ment.

“Mr Smith was the buyer and there was Miss Brown, Mrs MacKnight, Mrs Wright, and my­self - and one other girl. Can’t re­mem­ber her name.

“We had good times and I re­mem­ber when the sales were go­ing to be on, we had to go into the stock room where the blan­kets were kept and cut them up into quar­ters and they were sold for blan­ket ends.

“The peo­ple used to go mad for them, to make into cot blan­kets for the ba­bies.

“As it was named Blacketts, we all had to wear black so can you think how we looked af­ter cut­ting white blan­kets up.

“Af­ter all these years I am still in touch with Sheila and Les who got mar­ried and are now L& S Irv­ing at Bolden.

“Les used to re­pair the TV for Blacketts. There was also a Mr Nel­son, a big man with silver hair.

“He was a di­rec­tor and he would of­ten look inside your book to see how many sales you had.

“If you had a busy day he would just look at you, then say well done.”

Ear­lier this month, we told how Blacketts had once em­ployed 500 peo­ple in the 1950s. By the 1960s, you could buy the lat­est records af­ter lis­ten­ing to them in one of the mu­sic cu­bi­cles. Top ten sin­gles re­tailed for just 6/8d.

But the times were a chang­ing and so were peo­ple’s shop­ping habits. They had lots more choice and in Sun­der­land alone, there were lots of other depart­ment stores to choose from such as Jo­plings, Binns and Liver­pool House.

In 1963, there were four Blacketts stores and they were taken over by the Hide group. Those chang­ing habits led to staff num­bers drop­ping.

And by the time the end came in 1972, 150 peo­ple were out of work.

If you have mem­o­ries of Blacketts, email chris.cord­ner@jpress.co.uk.

“The di­rec­tor told me ‘I like your style’ and gave me a job!” KEN BARKER

Ken Barker who told the Echo all about his time at Blacketts.

Blacketts in Sun­der­land.

Ken pic­tured in his ref­er­ee­ing days.

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