Memories of work in Smallthorne
by Doris Machin (nee Tyler)

Does anyone remember the small printing firm on Smallthorne bank — Robinson’s
Printing Works? I started to worked there as a linotype operator in 1947, when I was 15
years of age. I was told at the time that I would be the only female linotype operator in

The machine was very big and would easily fill one room of a modern house. I laugh
when I see my children and grandchildren on their computers. They can dash out all
sorts of printed works in seconds. Oh my! How different it was for me! I had to lean to
mirror read. I had to type words upside down and back to front.

We did all the parish magazines for most of Stoke-on-Trent, so I got to know local news
from the parish priests. who came in regularly with their scripts. These also contained
anniversary donations, where all the parishioners were on a list, according to what they
had donated. Sometimes they would start the list at £5 (goodness, how could anyone
donate that much!). Then at the very end the names of people who had only given 1/2d
(there’s no equivalent in modem money now!). I remember asking the boss why all the
poor people were called ‘anon’.

So I discovered that money was a commodity that got you at the top, and if you hadn’t
got much you were anonymous.

Grown-ups were funny people to me. The first day I started work, the boss said “you’re
thin. You will need some elbow grease. You’d better go the Graham’s Chemist to get
some.” One of the compositors shouted “I could do with a long weight”. So, off I set up
Smallthorne Bank to Graham ’s Chemist shop. “A long weight and some elbow grease
please, and put it on Robinson’s account.” Mr Graham was a lovely man. He said
“They’re having you on, Duck Here’s some chocolate. Go and sit under the Board
clock for half an hour. Then go back smiling and say ‘I‘ve had my elbows greased, and
enjoyed my long wait in the sun, ‘I’m ready for work now’- and, don”t let them give
you any more daft jobs.”

Sometimes when I was working, the type would jam, and I had to go up on a wooden
stage and free it. I could then see out of the window. I bet lots of old people around
Smallthorne can remember seeing me, looking out of that window, and wondered what
on earth I was doing.

Now, when I go across Smallthorne and enter the Samaritan Charity shop, I can’t
believe that activity that used to take place there, but of course a lot of the back
buildings have been knocked down. A lot of sweated labour now in dust!

Many Thanks to Doris Machin for her permission to share her memories.

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