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Lifelong loyalty – Working 45 years in Dale – Frithjof Lampe

Lifelong loyalty – Working 45 years in Dale – Frithjof Lampe

Frithjof Lampe was born in Bergen in 1932. He has now lived for 87 years, but as he says himself “this does not affect me”. “I went to the normal elementary school when the second world war was happening and went on to the commercial gymnasium”. When he was done with his conscription in the air force, he started looking for a job.

With this background he started at Dale Factories in 1954. He worked at an office at Bryggen in Bergen in the sale and marketing department until the fire in 1955. The offices burnt down, and they had to move to a different location. In 1982 the sales department moved to Dale where he worked with sale and marketing of cotton fabrics in what he describes as an amazing working environment.

Early in the 50’s there were around 1300 textile workers in the Dale factories. “When I started in the company I started at zero without any clue of textile production”, Frithjof says. He eventually got responsibility for marketing of all the Dale products; Woolen and cotton based products, bed sheets came later. Frithjof had this position for some years before he in 1967 got an offer becoming the section manager for fabric yardages. The job as section manager was challenging with no significant exports and he got the responsibility for some staff in the sales department in Norway.

Frithjof has always bragged about Dale Factories. He explains that he had good relations to the employees. He was passionate about good work relations with all the levels in the company. “I had daily rounds on the floor in the company and talked to people and got to know them well”, he says.

Frithjof started in the factory in the age of 22 years old. “In the later years it got stricter and a higher education got demanded at the mercantile department that I worked in”, he explains.

The starting salary was at 500 Norwegian crowns a month and about 6000 Norwegian kroner in a year. The difference between men and women was rather small. They worked shifts and in most of the family one of them was at work as the other were at home with the kids. Frithjof’s office time in the factory lasted from 08:00 to 16:00, but for a lot of them there was the public transport that decided their work hours

Frithjof traveled a lot. He signed contracts and got a good relationship with the costumers. Others traveled around visiting costumers and had to give reports. “If you were out of the market and couldn’t answer costumers’ questions you needed to promise to contact the office and come back with timely response”, he tells. If this did not happen fast enough, the costumer was gone.

As a manager he first started selling goods in Norway, but later he realized that he had to establish export sales. Outside Norway, Sweden was the first country they sold goods to. A big clothing company ordered 100 000 meters of white satin and 100 000 meters of blue satin. This formed the basis for the export market. At the workwear side, Finland was the biggest on the market.

“What I appreciated the most was that I succeeded in the work I did”, he tells. The next on the list was good colleagues.

Frithjof sold meters to clothing. He was involved in shutting down woolen production because it was too expensive and not that profitable. In 1972 the wool production got closed down without anyone being dismissed. They got transferred to cotton division where there was need for more workers.

It was produced around 5 million meters each year. When the oil discoveries came the factory started producing flame retardant workwear.

In Scandinavia Frithjof traveled with other employees. In different markets he had to do the work himself. In Germany there was a company that bought big amounts of cotton yardages. This lead to them not needing to establish themselves a lot of places in the country. They rather focused on bigger companies as the capacity already was fully booked and there was no necessity to expand even further.

“Dale-products were always the best in our eyes!”, he laughs! “If we did not have this big competence in the different areas we would never have gotten the success that we did”, he says. He thinks that the people working with developing products earned a lot of credit for the success.

“No, it was not that common that the Dale-products got received with open wide eyes”. The laboratory took part in giving good documentation that could confirm for costumers that Dale-products was better than their contestants. It was important that some of the outsiders could give important and positive documentation for the costumers. “I think that we had good confidence in the market”, he says. There were a lot of skillful people in the company that gave them an opportunity to highlight their products.

If the costumers happened to come with wishes on pattern and qualities, it would demand a lot of work to create these qualities. “It was really we as producers that were supposed to create the benefits that the costumers wished”, he says. But you produced after the demand of the market and you needed to find products that could fit in in the different sectors in the industry.

Raw material, that mainly contained cotton, came mostly from America. From Egypt they got the cotton with nicer quality and often were more expensive. “We had to use other costumers’ purchases as the basis when we were trying to find new costumers. Former costumers had chosen the criteria and qualities that we have”, he says. They had competition with other textile producers and it was important to find a system on the delivery that the costumer would accept.

Frithjof was one of the reasons why the railway track from the factory got closed. Costumers all over the country and around Europe wanted their goods as soon as possible. A truck, which was less environmentally friendly, got faster to their ending station than the train. Customers wanted their orders delivered fast and then the trailway would not profit the factory.

Frithjof traveled a lot, especially in Europe. “The language mainly went well. Most of them talked English, but Germans stick to German”, he tells. So you had to adapt.

There is a lot of changes in this business. “Salary costs kills most of the Norwegian production. It started with us delivering meters in Poland because the workforce was much cheaper”. After a while, the sewing factory got moved to east of Europe. Textile got too expensive and graded away. Today, Pakistan is the biggest collaborator.

“Amazing workplace and really good environment, I want to go back!”, Frithjof says with a smile. The reason for this mainly was because he succeeded so well with what he was doing which lead to the work being a pleasure. The good bond between co-workers is just as good 20 years later. They get together once every other month. And you can only imagine that the talk is surrounding the textile production on Dale back in the days.

Frithjof Lampe retired in 1999 after a long life of working and 45 years in Dale Factories. At 88 years of age he is still in good shape and brings laughter to his surroundings.

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