Despite having no machinist-experience, Karen applied to the factory when her mum told her that a position had become vacant as one of the staff had left to have a baby. She was kept waiting for several hours while Mike Baldwin supped in the Rovers. She had been unemployed since December 1979 when she left school at Christmas. Mike asked her why he should take her on when he had refused lots of other girls jobs. She replied with a demonstration of logic, saying that people outside of work had said she was a good worker but how could she demonstrate that in work when no one would employ her? He agreed to take her on as a trainee but with no guarantee of a job at the end of her training period. Someone immediately attracted to her was Martin Cheveski. She began on seams the next Monday and was caught up in the celebrations when the factory girls thought that they had won a fortune on the pools. Karen was cool with Martin the first time they spoke in the Corner Shop but on the second occasion the ice was broken when Karen was the one to break the good news that he wasn’t suspected of sabotaging the factory’s pools syndicate coupon, Hilda Ogden having owned up. Karen was forced by the other staff to send Hilda to Coventry, much against her will.
A romance quickly developed between the two after Karen suggested Martin join her and her friends at a dance at St. Martin's Youth Club. When Karen met Elsie for the first time, they got on well, she having previously been somewhat disbelieving that Martin’s gran was a youthful-acting redhead who knocked back gin and tonics. The next night though there was trouble when Martin and Karen had No. 11 to themselves and he got her drunk on cider bought from the corner shop and Elsie’s gin. Elsie returned to find her barely able to stand on her feet. Her father was furious and told her not to see Martin again. Unwilling to give her up, Martin hung around the factory and invited her out but she told him she daren’t. He got her to agree to call round at No. 11 behind her father’s back but Mr. Oldfield turned up instead and threatened Martin for harassing his daughter. Elsie threatened him with the police but he then dropped his bombshell - he himself was a police officer. When Fred Gee scared Elsie with stories of what a determined police officer could to shop keepers like Alf Roberts who had sold alcohol to minors, she threw Karen out of No 11, much to Martin’s anger. The two started to see each other in secret, meeting in the evening at the Builder's Yard and even had their ears pierced at the same time together.
One night, PC Maskall found the two youngsters in the yard and word got back to Sgt. Oldfield at the police station. He called at No. 11 to give Elsie a warning that Martin would be in court if he spoke to Karen again. Elsie understood his reasons why he was against Martin but told Mr Oldfield straight that his daughter was scared to death of him and she was torn between her father and boyfriend. She suggested that he guide his daughter, rather than drive her away but he refused to take heed of her words. He also refused to listen to Martin's employer Len Fairclough who tried to convince him of the lad's decency.
Martin decided to return to Birmingham, rather than not to be able to have anything to do with Karen. He was telling her of this decision when Oldfield caught them together. He was in the act of giving Martin a final warning when he informed him of his decision to leave the area, catching him on the hop. Oldfield realised the truth of Elsie's words and that Martin was a decent lad at heart and gave his blessing to the two of them.
The romance carried on for several weeks without incident until Christmas neared, and Elsie told Martin he ought to spend the festive season with his parents. Karen was put out at this news and made arrangements to see Paul Sidall, an older boy, and other friends on Christmas Eve. They gathered in the Rovers where Karen gave Paul a present of a record by The Jam which had originally been intended to be Martin's Christmas present. When Martin walked into the pub, Paul tried to see him off but Martin sent him flying with a shove. Karen and her friends were thrown out by Fred Gee and Martin spent a miserable Christmas on his own.
After Christmas was over, Elsie told Martin that Karen had every right to see other people and suggested he talk to her. He did so and suggested a night out but she told him she'd already made arrangements to see Paul. Martin was jealous that the older lad would probably have more money and a car. Karen told him that just because she liked Paul it didn't mean that she'd gone off him. Martin sulked over the rejection but Elsie told him to be reasonable, saying it wasn't as if they were engaged. This gave Martin the idea of proposing and he bought an engagement ring. Although Elsie had reservations about his plan, Martin gave Karen the ring which she accepted, though she was shocked at the swift movement of events. After a few hours though she returned to hand the ring back, saying it was a silly idea to get engaged and that, in effect, they were finished. A devastated Martin packed his bags and returned to Birmingham, leaving a lonely Elsie in tears.
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