Remembering Byker Woolies’ Mr Corson and his Staff
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I’ve mentioned Woolies’ old ‘house journal’, The New Bond, almost as often as I’ve written about the history of Byker’s Woolworths stores, so I was pleased to find a reference to the latter in a recently acquired edition of the former.
Under the heading ‘Byker, 276’, the ‘Around the Stores’ section of the August 1949 issue includes a “snapshot taken on the roof of the Store during the lunch hour”, featuring “Mr. Corson, the Manager” and several other cheerful-looking members of his team – quaintly described (and capitalised) as “the Staff Supervisor, the Cook in the Staff Canteen and three other members of the Staff.”
It’s a pity that none of the other staff members are named, but perhaps there are some readers out there who recognise or even knew the ladies featured in this 62-year-old photograph?
Mr Corson, of course, previously cropped up in the April 1941 ‘Forces Souvenir Issue’ of The New Bond that I blogged about back in October, where he was pictured in his guise as an AC2 (Aircraftman Second Class) along with many other Woolworths colleagues who had gone to war.
It’s good to know that not only did he make it back safely, but that he subsequently returned to work at his previous Woolies branch.
As I’ve suggested before, old issues of The New Bond provide a fascinating and incredibly detailed record of the Woolworths business at the height of its success, highlighting the obvious affection with which staff and employer held each other. For the time, they are also incredibly well-produced publications, printed on glossy paper, packed with photographs, and always featuring a beautifully illustrated colour cover, often by the in-house artist Gervase.
In the case of this particular issue, the star of the cover is a Woolies member of staff: 17-year-old “‘Miss Sheila Cockman, of Witham, 592, in Essex”, who it appears was the winner of the magazine’s ‘Cover Competition’. Inside, the Editor gushes about Sheila’s attributes, remarking upon her “eyes of blue-grey and hair the colour of ripening corn, which combined with a fair and rosy-cheeked complexion gives her a distinctive appeal.”
To modern eyes, of course, it’s all delightfully old-fashioned. Something tells me won’t be seeing anything similar in the John Lewis Partnership’s Gazette.