A Volunteer’s View …”York Remembers Rowntree” Interview No. 10

By Jaanika Reinvald.

Usually the idea on an interview fills me with dread and makes me lose sleep while I go around listing the skills and qualities that I bring to the company and what exactly I hope to gain in return. It was a very nice change to wake up in the morning of an interview and not worry about how to leave a good impression to the interviewing panel as this time I was going to be the one with the questions and the clipboard. And with the recording equipment and the attentive silent nods to not leave “mhm” and “oh” sounds on the tape. The morning of my first oral history interview had arrived.

Even though this was the tenth interview of the “York Remembers Rowntree” project it was my first and as such I got special back up from our project manager Suzanne. Not only did she drop off background notes and information about the interview to my house the previous evening but she also very kindly offered to be my chauffeur to and from the interviewee’s home and spent an extra couple of minutes explaining the recording equipment. Thankfully the recorder we use at the Rowntree Society is rather fool-proof and only requires the use of two buttons to start and stop recording. Having said that, the recording quality is very good and we are hoping to add extracts of interviews to our project pages in the near future.

Mrs CM had gotten in touch with the society already a few years ago when the entire memories project only existed as an idea and when she was contacted about sharing her memories a couple of years later she was eager to get started. Even though Mrs CM had worked in the Rowntree Factory for only three years her story provided us with a new and interesting point of view that we had not had the chance to consider previously. Unlike the majority of the female staff in the factory who would have been somewhere on the production line Mrs CM started out as a computer programmer in a Rowntree’s graduate training program. It was fascinating to hear about the recruitment process in the late 1960s and how computers were incorporated into the everyday life of the factory as well as touch on the topics of unequal pay for female workers and trade union involvement in everyday work.

I had spent the previous night coming up with interview questions trying to plan for every possible way the interview could have gone. I still think it was a good idea just in case I got too carried away in the story and lost my line of thought but at the same time the interview was a fluid process, a dialogue between me and Mrs CM (and Suzanne when I ran out of questions) and it could not be too rigidly planned. The interview went very well. We collected many interesting factoids and have a rather good understanding of Mrs CM’s time at the Rowntree Factory. Now we just need to figure out the best way to share our new-found knowledge with the rest of the world.