Making a permanent impression since 1994
October 3, 2005
At 14, she worked in a Bristol clock factory
By Katie Jordan
it hasn’t always been this way, according to Mary D’Alesio, who has lived
all of her 100 years in
had a shop on every corner,” she said. “Today we have nothing in
the age of 14, D’Alesio began working at the E. Ingraham Co. clock factory, one of
the clock factories that put
was born to Italian immigrants in
14, she said, she “had had enough of school.” So she decided to quit school
and find a job.
parents didn’t give her a hard time about leaving school, D’Alesio added.
“What are they going to do, string me up?”
of her brother and two sisters who chose to stay in school, she said: “They
were smart. They graduated.”
applied for a job at the Ingraham clock factory, one of several factories in Bristol
at the time.
was something about it that drew me there,” she explained.
D’Alesio went looking for a job at Ingraham’s, there was no real job
interview as we think of it today. She simply met with Mr. Porter, the
superintendent, and he hired her, she said.
surprisingly, a job in the clock factory was hard work, especially for a
had to work 55 hours a week,” she said. “Being a kid, it wasn’t easy.”
pay was only $9.25 a week.
wasn’t much job training to prepare the factory workers, either. “They give
you a pair of pliers and a foot press, and they tell you what to do,” said
jobs in the factory changed over time, D’Alesio said. But she started out
working on the 3rd floor using a foot press, and spent much of her time with
Ingraham’s working on that floor.
also worked in the plating room at one point. The plating room, she explained,
was the room where clock parts were dipped in acid and inspected.
my, was that terrible!” D’Alesio said. She didn’t stay in that position
for long. “I couldn’t stand the smell.”
the work was hard, the working conditions were fine and the employers were good
people, said D’Alesio. “If you did your jobs, the bosses were wonderful,”
she said. “We did our jobs and we were treated good.”
during the Depression, when “you couldn’t get a job if you paid for it,”
D’Alesio found help at Ingraham’s.
had been out of work for five years, since 1929, and by this time she was a
married woman with two children. She went to see Mr. Ingraham, who told her he
couldn’t do any hiring.
Eloff Carlson, who had been D’Alesio’s boss when she worked at Ingraham’s
before, had been promoted to superintendent. After he told another woman looking
for work that there were no jobs available, he offered D’Alesio a position
because she’d been such a good worker before.
time, she worked on the fifth floor as an assembler. Though it was a new job for
D’Alesio, her boss was confident she could do it. “He said, ‘You learn
your jobs quick,’” she explained.
involved putting parts in the clocks. There would be 60 clocks in a wooden tray,
D’Alesio said, and workers had to assemble a certain number a day and test to
see if the alarms worked.
didn’t find it hard to pick up what I had to do,” said D’Alesio.
with children to care for was hard, though. Fortunately, her employers at
Ingraham’s were more understanding than employers might be today.
would walk home during the day to see her children. “We never had a car,”
the 100-year-old woman said, adding, “Walking is good for you, believe me.”
new boss, Mr. Wines, told her she would have to try to get to work earlier. But
when her children were sick, she said, “He knew how to replace me for that
got along together better in those days than they do now, D’Alesio said.
were lots of other women working at the factory, she said. She made many friends
there as they worked seated together at benches. “I can’t say that I ever
had an argument with any of the girls.”
course, men worked there, too -- for instance, in the case shop, making cabinets
for the clocks. But in those days, D’Alesio said, the men behaved themselves.
“They didn’t flirt with you,” she said.
was no dress code, she said, but the women wore dresses. “We didn’t dress
like people today,” said D’Alesio.
woman who went to work in a factory at the age of 14, she says today’s youth
are spoiled kids. “The luxury people live in today, they don’t appreciate
it,” she said. “The more they get, the more they want.”
many things about the present seem to trouble D’Alesio, she still has fond
memories of her past -- the bustling
were so many factories here when she was young that finding a place to work
wasn’t difficult, she said.
of all the different jobs she worked at over the years, D’Alesio said,
“Ingraham’s was my favorite place.”
Making a permanent impression since 1994
In cooperation with the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, The Tattoo is helping to collect oral histories from former clock factory workers like Mary D’Alesio.
All former factory workers willing to share their stories are encouraged to contact the museum at (860) 583-6070.
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