Book brings memories to life for Great Yarmouth factory staff

Reunion of people who used to work for Johnson's and Sons - the Great Yarmouth employer famous for m

Reunion of people who used to work for Johnson's and Sons - the Great Yarmouth employer famous for making sou'westers.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

Former employees of one of Great Yarmouth's biggest firms have been reunited.

About 60 people gathered at the Time and Tide Museum on Monday to reminisce about their time working at Johnson & Sons, the clothing manufacturer that employed thousands of Yarmouth people during its heyday.

The firm, famed for producing oilskins and knitwear in its factories for more than a century, is the subject of a new book written by historian Ann Green. Ms Green, who runs a bookshop in Halesworth, organised the reunion to celebrate the book's publication.

'The response was amazing and I loved hearing all the stories of the men and women who had worked at the factories in Yarmouth, Gorleston and Norwich,' said Ann, 53.

'They were all such lovely, positive stories, although you only have to look at the accident book to see that it was fairly fraught with danger – everyone said you weren't a proper machinist until you'd had a needle in your finger – and these were big industrial sewing machines, not to mention the band knives the men used for cutting through piles of heavy duty fabric.'

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The writer was inundated with information, pictures and old catalogues dating back to 1905, which show the range of items made by Johnson's from sea boot stockings and fishermen's sou'westers to navy uniforms, and heavy duty oilskins.

At this week's reunion, David Johnson, who was the last member of the family to have worked at the firm himself, said: 'I'm astonished at the number of people who have come along, and how happy they all are.'

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Former machinist Joy Hawkins said: 'It was a lovely reunion. We had such happy days at Johnson's; it was very hard work but the bosses were good to us and gave us freedom to fit around our family lives, a lot of girls couldn't have worked without that flexibility.'

The book is available to order from any book shop or signed copies can be ordered direct from Holm Oak Publishing for £11.60 including P&P. The address is 24 Church View, Holton, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 8PB. Or call Ann Green Books in Halesworth on 01986 874447.

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