Dormitory Life - Baťa Boarding Houses
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Following the decision to set up a separate boarding house district, young women, after staying at makeshift accommodation, moved to three boarding houses, built in the early 1930s on the eastern side of the náměstíPrůkopníků while it was still under construction. Young women lived in similarly designed spaces and under comparable conditions to young men. Depending on age and education, 20 newly trained apprentices or up to 8 fresh graduates from the Baťa School of Labour were placed in rooms whose sized was defined by the axial distance of the supporting columns (6.15 × 6.15 m). The rooms were furnished with simple iron beds (in the case of higher occupancy by bunk beds). The amount of storage space in the form of built-in wardrobes and bedside tables was minimal, often these were substituted by cardboard cases stacked under the beds due to the lack of space. The rooms were meant to serve mainly as bedrooms, and other functions were suppressed. Tables, chairs or seats were the prerogative of higher grade students.
The service facilities of female and male dormitories also showed a high degree of correspondence. Barber and tailors had their premises on the ground floor; with the number of residents, they were relatively busy. Some of the dormitories also contained kitchens, buffets and dining rooms. Regular linen change was supervised by bed linen operators. The caretakers living in the rooms on the ground floor controlled the movement of people across the building, registered property defects and fixed the smaller ones themselves. Together with the cleaners, they kept the interiors of the dormitories and the buildings around them clean. Flats on the ground floor were occupied by tutors and their supervisor – the boarding house manager.
Although the work and leisure activities of young women and young men varied, there were not substantial differences in their daily schedules. Subtracting sleep time, the duration spent in the boarding house was not long: a few dozen minutes in the morning when getting up, a short rest after returning from the factory after 5pm (usually taken up with ablutions) and occasionally a little time saved at noon break. The only longer period of time occurred in the early evening, when there was no school on the agenda, and before sleep. Even this gap was to be filled with organised education and orderly entertainment for young women and young men.
The interiors of the dormitories were adapted to these demands. They included reading rooms - rooms for study, reading and writing – and were kept clean and in complete quiet. They also offered classrooms for language and educational courses. These courses were taught every day and when they ended, the classrooms were used for individual study. There were also social halls for festive evenings, weekend dance lessons, theatre performances and planned meetings of graduates. "Clubrooms", on the other hand, were more practical. In the girls' version, meals were cooked and served here, the girls crocheted, knitted, sewed, and managed linen in the evenings. Sewing machines were also provided for the girls so they could make use of their knowledge from courses. Men's dorms were adapted mainly to the social activities - film and photographic clubs with appropriate equipment, brass music and singing rooms, and workshops for modellers were available. For small sport activities there was a corner with table tennis, chess tables, and billiards.
Unlike men's activities, some of the women's leisure activities were directed towards charity, for example, most of the November and December evenings at dormitories were filled with the sewing of dolls and making balloons for Christmas gifts in children's homes.Most of the activities carried out required a consideration of aesthetic and artistic sensibilities, which young women measured in ever new competitions (competitions in order and cleanliness, arrangement of boarding interiors, in aesthetics of planting flower beds in front of buildings, but also in listening to gramophone records whose quality was measured in polls).
The experience of boarding has contributed to the formation of opinions on the quality of life in an industrial city. There were undoubtedly differences in the perception of male and female inmates of boarding houses. For female, unlike male workers, dormitories were the main form of corporate housing they would encounter. If they did not marry a Baťa employee to whom the Housing Department allocated housing in a company house, their employment was usually terminated before they were given the opportunity to apply for a higher standard of accommodation.