Reminiscence and Resource Centre












In 1942, she married a young man in the Royal Artillery, whom she had met previously at a dance, and who subsequently became leather buyer Fred Reeves, a position he held for 11 years; three months ago, he was appointed chemical buyer.
“East Tilbury is a kingdom now compared with what it was when I started,” Mrs Reeves told Bata Record. “I had worked in Zlin since 1929. When I arrived here, I expected to see a busy town. Instead, there were only a few small buildings in open country.
“I did not even need to clock in or out of work, because I lived in a house which was then inside the factory area.
“The first closing room staff in the rubber factory consisted of 12 girls straight from school. They worked well, and I believe some of them are still h ere, including Forewoman Kathleen Hutton and Dorothy Dodkins. I remember that the first rubber footwear uppers sewn at East Tilbury were for plimsolls.”
Teaching Walter Bryan.
Closing Room Supervisor Marie Reeves completed 25 years service with the Bata organisation on Monday, and the first to congratulate her was Mr J Tusa, managing director, who did so in his office on Tuesday evening. He handed her a letter.
In this letter Mr Tusa wrote that hers was “a very fine achievement,” and expressed the hope that she would be able to add many more years to her service.
Mrs Reeves came to East Tilbury in December 1933, before the rubber factory was in production. the factory was then a small building opposite the leather stockroom. She has been in charge of the closing rooms since the beginning.
When the rubber factory was closed following Government directions during the war, she was for four years in charge of the sewing sections in the leather factory.
This week the leather factory and workers from many other departments said goodbye to Sewing Instructress M Reeves. To the older workers she will, in spite of her marriage, always be fondly remembered as Marie Zabranska.
It will seem strange to be without her, although she is only going into retirement on Bata Estate, where she will devote her time to the duties of a housewife.
Her history as a Bata worker is both interesting and romantic. One December morning in 1929, at the age of seventeen she set off to stay with friends in the nearby town of Zlin. That holiday trip was the start of her career for at Zlin Marie became interested in the great Bata factories to and from which she saw multitudes of workers streaming every day.
She decided she would like to join them and, a little nervous, went in quest of a job. She was successful but did not let her parents into the secret until her return home on holiday a fortnight later.
How surprised they were to see her rush in and, with a look of such self importance as even a young lady of seventeen seldom wears, produce her first earnings.
Out tumbled the great story and Marie, feeling as rich as any princess, but far more happy, was well pleased with the furore she had caused.
It was once more December, the year 1933, when Marie started out on a new adventure as one of two girls chosen to make up a party of instructors assigned to the new factory at East Tilbury. Some of the managers met them at Harwich, and Marie remembers Sunday morning in London and a really delicious breakfast.
They eventually arrived at East Tilbury and saw one house and a few insignificant buildings.
Marie, with the immense Zlin layout in mind asked, “Where is the factory?” She was told that the insignificant building were the factory. “But how,” exclaimed Marie, interrupting her reminiscences, “it has grown since then!”
Her work at East Tilbury finished in 1936 and she returned to Zlin. As the day approached she grew more and more homesick for the sight of her native hills, but on arrival there she found she was still homesick - for England and East Tilbury.
In 1937 she was told that she had been selected to go to America but, if she wished, she could go to England instead. Marie jumped at the chance and returned to become sewing instructress in Dept 320.
In 1942 the rubber factory closed down and Marie transferred to the leather factory. She found the work there more interesting, mainly because of the variety and changes of design.
Later that year she wed Lieut. F. G. Reeves of the Royal Artillery who, on demobilisation some months ago, was “recruited” for British Bata. In spite of holding a responsible position and having to run a home as well, Mrs Reeves found time to dig her way to victory in Estate Garden Competitions.
There seemed just a tiny note of regret in her voice as she said, “I am content to settle down now and in the quietness of my home I will have many happy memories to keep me company.”
“Mr Tusa, Mr Dolezal and Mr Chytil and all the management, have been most kind and have always given me every help and encouragement. I would like to say how much I appreciate the support and comradeship I have always found among the forewomen, and to pay tribute to the girls who are doing such a fine job.”
Rubber factory manager A R Chytil and Leather factory manager F Dolezal both spoke in glowing terms of the long and loyal service given by Mrs Reeves.
Floormanager F Newman, and the foremen and forewomen of the top floor leather factory, on Tuesday evening bid Mrs M Reeves farewell and presented her with a standard lamp and a clock. Floormanager Newman said that Mrs Reeves had been a great help to him and her place would not be easily filled. The forewomen and foremen expressed their regret at losing a good friend and comrade. Mrs Reeves, who was obviously touched by the spontaneity and sincerity of the little ceremony, said that she had intended going round to say goodbye to everybody in person but could not face the ordeal. She thanked the donors for their gifts and all their kindness.
Later Mrs Reeves was presented with a silver tea set by the management of the leather factory.
She will always be Marie Zabranska. - 1946
25 Years in the Closing Room - 1954

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