Karen Baker celebrates 40 years at Spalding store

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Karen Baker began work in an era when staff members called each other by their surnames.

That level of formality – parodied in the TV programme Are You Being Served – is now a thing of the past at Hills Department Store in Spalding.

What replaces it is an ethos of respecting colleagues and, for Karen, it has led to 40 happy years on the shop floor.

Karen (56), who lives in Park Road in the town with husband David, was presented with a bouquet by store director Emma Allmand and a certificate when she notched up 40 years on April 1.

She has no intention of giving up her job, working on the Thorntons chocolates counter for the past eight or nine years, though she has assisted in various departments, working part-time for the past ten years.

Karen said: “It’s been my life really. People say to me, ‘Oh, you must be sad working at a place all those years’, but I enjoy the job. I am a people person and like meeting people and I enjoy the buzz of it.”

Karen’s entry into the store, straight from the Gleed School at 16, was thanks to another once well-known local institution.

Her father, who founded Horton Bros in 1954, knew director David Turner because he had done painting and decorating for him.

An interview was arranged for Karen with Mr Turner’s mother, Ida, and her first job was as a shop assistant at the store, which was then located in the current Lloyds Pharmacy shop in the Market Place.

Her first job was in the fashion department, and although Karen doesn’t remember what ’70s fashions the store was selling, she remembers being eager to spend her first week’s wages.

She says: “When I first started we always called people by their surnames, even people you worked with. You weren’t allowed to use Christian names.

“It was quite formal, but you accepted it really because you respected the older people because that’s the way you were told to work.

“Obviously things have moved on, but they are still very much in the way of staff having respect for each other.

“With it being a family concern you get that more. We are one big family really and sometimes the girls ask me what it used to be like.

“They have been happy years. Everyone has their ups and downs at work, but generally I enjoy it.”