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Advertising Sectioned: Meridian - This Could Be You! c.1968

15 May 17 words: Wayne Burrows

Nottingham adverts ripped from the pages of history...

It wasn't that long ago that the notion of getting a job was, for most of us, a necessity, done with a certain reluctance, and not sold as an improbable dream to be fulfilled. That development seemed to follow the ever-growing quantities of passion and enthusiasm required of wage slaves by even the least desirable employers during the nineties, so no doubt has a lot to do with the growth in the unemployment figures a decade earlier. When people have fewer options, they take what they can get, and skilled knitwear machinists in the sixties had plenty of options in a city like Nottingham.

Let's face it, what Meridian is offering when headlining its advert “it could be you”, is not a life changing lottery win or the fulfilment of a lifelong dream, but nothing more or less than a practical arrangement. They even hint at regular financial recompense for the necessary skills, a requirement that present day employers appear to regard as distasteful proof of insufficient passion and enthusiasm when applicants for posts outside the management offices try to insist on it.

Work as the end goal of our lives might be hard-wired into our own day's arrangements, then, but this shouldn't be as widely accepted as it seems to be. And in Meridian's case, benign employment conditions were not an issue of hard measures excused by hard times. It was, after all, a firm established by James Blount Lewis in the 1830s and, like its better-known contemporaries – Morley's and Boots – had long made a selling point of its relatively enlightened attitudes.

The Haydn Road factory mentioned in this advert, for example, was originally opened during World War One and, by 1930, according to at least one source: “included a heated indoor swimming pool, bowling greens, tennis courts and a hockey pitch, all for the use of employees...” The fact that J.B. Lewis remained profitable through the depths of the thirties depression ought to put current austerity measures into some kind of perspective.

J.B. Lewis became Meridian in 1951, after changing its name to one of its best known trademarks, and as a leading wholesale underwear and hosiery business continued to thrive and expand in the post-war years. Courtaulds bought a stake in 1963, and took over entirely during the seventies, but the Haydn Road factory remains a key part of Courtaulds to this day. Whether it still has the bowling greens, tennis courts and heated swimming pool, however, is a question for another day.

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