A Shop Assistant in Wartime

A Shop Assistant in Wartime

The Dewsbury Diary of Kathleen Hey, 1941-1945

Edited by Patricia Malcolmson, Robert Malcolmson

Insights into life in England during the second world war.
Kathleen Hey's diary provides an insider's view of an industrial city in wartime Yorkshire. As a shop assistant in a working class district of Dewsbury, she documented the stresses and complex exchanges in a grocery - from both sides of the counter. Regular customers, usually close neighbours, were eager to learn what scarce and coveted items might be in stock, and sometimes went in several times a day to discover what was available, as well as to chat about the war, complain about the provisions they were getting, or seek assistance with their ration books.
While the frustrations and satisfactions of shop-work are at the heart of her diary, she also wrote about leisure, popular culture, public events and political debates, civil defence, domestic tensions, and her hopes for the post-war future. Life was often unpredictable; events happened unexpectedly - and could be recorded by her immediately; one social encounter might give rise to a surprising and revealing conversation. Hers is a richly detailed, observant, wide-ranging and sometimes amusing account of wartime social life. It is presented here with full introduction and explanatory notes.

Patricia and Robert Malcolmson are social historians with a special interest in English diaries written between the 1930s and 1950s.

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Kathleen Hey started writing her wartime diary in July 1941, after the Battle of Britain and the fall of France and before the entry of the United States into the war. . . . [She] interacted daily with customers, neighbors, friends, and family and her diary is full of everyday minutiae, snippets of conversations, and personal thoughts. . . . [H]er diary is a significant record of daily life and attitudes in wartime Dewsbury. H-NET

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