She was just 15 when she joined Aberdeen’s first Marks and Spencer as a sales assistant.
Now Linda O’Rawe is raising a glass to the landmark retailer as she retires after more than 50 years at the company.
Linda, from Aberdeen, was recently presented with a long service award and has been recalling some fond memories before hanging up her uniform for the final time at the end of the month.
“I left school at 15 and straight away got a job at Marks and Spencer, it was seen as quite a desirable place to work,” said Linda, now 66.
“At first I was a sales assistant in the footwear department.
“Court shoes were the big sellers at the time and wet-look knee-high boots… oh gosh, when I think back to the fashions then!”
The first M&S Aberdeen store opened on St Nicholas Street in 1944.
The store served the city in the granite-fronted building until the 1960s, when work began to expand and refurbish the premises.
It was a huge job, and part of the work included the brick-by-brick relocation of the Wallace Tower from St Nicholas Street to Tillydrone Road, as well as the demolition of a number of other old granite buildings.
The refurbished shop opened in October 1966, and Linda joined the staff four years later.
“I first joined in July 1970,” she said. “It was quite exciting to work in a new building, though it was only the ground floor at the time.
“We didn’t even have fitting rooms, so the company became well known for their good returns policy.
“It was a standing joke that folk would wear their items in the town on a Saturday night and return them on the Monday.
“It wasn’t until the 1980s they added a second floor, and then a third floor in the 1990s.”
There were other big differences too, like the shop being closed on Sundays and public holidays.
“There used to be no Sunday trading or late night shopping, it was very different then,” she said.
“When I started it was still pounds, shillings and pence, pre-decimalisation.
“And we never called managers by their first names – I always remember my first manager Mr Johnstone.
“The uniforms were different too. You didn’t get to wear trousers, oh no, you had to wear a skirt.”
After spending seven years in the womenswear department, Linda left to have her son and returned to a position in the food hall.
Her work patterns changed to fit her new role as a mother and she spent happy 26 years in the food department.
In 2004 Linda volunteered to support the opening of a new store in Livingston, and worked for four years as a manager there.
“The plan was always to come back to Aberdeen and when I became a grandma I decided the time was right to move home,” she said.
She was transferred to the new M&S Simply Food store in Westhill in 2008, where she has remained ever since.
While she has seen many changes to the company, the team and retail trends over the years, working at M&S has always been a big part of Linda’s life
“The camaraderie and the friends I’ve made has been one of the most amazing things about it,” she said.
“Lots of my closest friends now are ones I met working in M&S when I was a teenager.
“My closest friend started the year after me, in 1972.
“There were always so many social things going on. Marks and Spencer stores used to have their own football teams and so teams from across the country would play matches against one another and we’d all get the bus down which was a laugh.
“We had trips to Aviemore with the team and social functions and all sorts.
“I also got flown to London for meetings and put up in nice hotels for training sessions.
“It’s not until I look back and think ‘oh we really did do a lot’.”
Things may have changed in the 50 years which have passed, but Linda maintains that the team spirit is still there.
“It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” she said, “I’ve never worked for another company.
“Honestly can’t believe it’s been 50 years – I wasn’t planning to stay this long.
“It’s been my life.
“To know that it’s all ending on May 28 is very odd but I think the time is right.
“I worked all the way through lockdown and hopefully now that things are opening up I will get to enjoy my retirement.”