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C&A staff grand reunion

PUBLISHED: 15:28 04 February 2002 | UPDATED: 15:25 03 March 2010

FOR most of us, C&A conjures up memories of school blouses, sensible shoes and that pioneering range of high street ski-wear.

But for the hundreds of people who worked at the Ipswich branch, it meant so much more.

By Nick Richards

FOR most of us, C&A conjures up memories of school blouses, sensible shoes and that pioneering range of high street ski-wear.

But for the hundreds of people who worked at the Ipswich branch, it meant so much more.

The department store closed down in Ipswich one year ago and Saturday night was the first chance for old friends and colleagues to meet up and chat about old times.

Many people had not seen each other since that last fateful day of trading on January 31, 2001, but organiser Marion Spurling, said the turnout was very impressive.

She said: "There are at least 110 people here, which is brilliant. There are so many old faces here, not only from a year ago, but also from when the store first opened in 1971, including Jean Bolden, who was the first employee in Ipswich.

"People have travelled down from Scotland, from Norwich and Cambridge to be here tonight so we are all very thrilled. Some of the people I have not seen for 25 years."

A handful of staff, including Marion, worked at C&A for the entire 30 years. They were joined by a larger group of original members – who would have been selling flared trousers and paisley shirts back on that first day in 1971.

So what made them stay in the same job for such a long time?

Christine Theobold, who also helped to organise the reunion at the Orwell Meadows Caravan Park, Nacton, said there was one very simple reason.

She said: "C&A was like a small family and had a great tradition of looking after all the staff – from the managers right down to the Saturday staff."

Ian O'Connor, who worked as a sales manager between 1987-1991 agreed. He said: "It's a great chance to see some old faces again, some of whom I've not seen for ten or12 years. When I look back there are lots of good memories – it was always a good company to work for, with good staff and they always offered lots of support.

"The poignant thing is that there are probably around 100 different parties like this going on all over the country as this weekend was the time when most departments closed a year ago."

C&A, which was founded by Dutch brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer, opened its first store in London in 1922 but in June 2000, it decided to close its 109 British stores with the loss of 4,800 jobs.

Despite closing in Britain, the chain lives on with 577 stores in 12 European countries including Germany, Holland and Portugal.

Since leaving C&A both Marion and Christine had joined Royal Doulton in Allders, though they said there may be plans to hold a reunion every year.

Highlight of this years reunion was a display board with pictures of the old days at C&A and a rather interesting selection of fashion catalogues showing how our fashion tastes have changed over the last 30 years.

Over the years a group of staff set up a charity committee which set about raising funds every year for local charities.

Thousands of pounds have been handed over to a variety of good causes in the name of C&A.

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