I left school in 1961 in December. My birthday was 20th December, so I was just 15 at the time. My first job was at Frost’s Engineering in Oak Street. They are not actually there now; that’s moved to Drayton but the factory is still there although I believe that’s now a funeral establishment. I’m not quite sure who that belongs to.
I went there mainly because my dad wanted me to go into engineering, although I don’t know that I ever had the same enthusiasm that he did for it. At that particular time it was quite easy to get a job; I think whatever you wanted to go into, the chances are you could probably have got into it in those days. Most people went into the shoe factories because obviously Norwich was quite large in that particular manufacture.
I went to Frost’s and I enjoyed my time there, mainly because the people who worked there, they were really good. The people that I can remember, there was a Mr H. who was the foreman, J.C. and a chap called P. The others, although I have racked my brains, I can’t really remember their names now but I can see them quite clearly. It was a really good atmosphere. It was a family business. Mr Frost seemed really old to me at the time and probably he was, I don’t know. But he didn’t say very much; he would just walk through the factory and speak to Mr H. and that was about it really.
Some of the things which went on there were that there used to be a sweet shop on the corner of Oak Street. It’s not there now because that particular corner part has been pulled down, but as you go over the bridge, Oak Street used to go straight across from one side to the other. The bypass has now taken that out of the way.
This sweet shop, the apprentices used to have to go down there every day and get the bits and pieces for the other chaps. I always remember the things they would get up to. They would send you down there for a “long weight”. The chap who worked at the sweet shop, he was obviously in on all of this and you would go in there and say you had got to come in there for a long weight and he would say, right OK, I will be with you in a minute and he would serve somebody else and about 15 minutes later he would say, oh we have run out and send you back. I didn’t actually get caught on that one but one or two of them did.
Frost’s was an engineering company. I’m not actually sure what they used to make now because it was such a long time ago but I think they used to do smaller parts for other companies. The machines that I worked on there were called capstan lathes. The reason for that was that there was like a turret on one end of the lathes and every time you turned the handle you would put a drill in that came back again and that would then swing round and the next there would be a rematic which would actually give you the correct size for the bore of the hole or whatever you were doing. That would carry on like this for three or four times until you actually got the shape of the part that you were making.
It all sounds very nice but you have to remember that after you have been doing this for eight hours a day it got a little bit tedious to say the least. They did try to change you round from different types of machines but a lot of that work was obviously based on that kind of production. They would make some kind of casting for another factory in Norwich, Autowrappers. I don’t know whether they have got a different name now but they used to make parts for them.
They also used to make their own machines as well. They would make wrapping machines for tins, and that was quite interesting because they would have these complicated systems made up in the workshop and they would have to get the tins to come down; the wrapper would come on them and then they would go to somewhere else and do some other bits and pieces, but that would probably only be one part of the main factory that they were going. Another factory would obviously make the larger parts, so there were interesting jobs there. I wasn’t actually there that long to get involved in that because I did leave after about a year and a half, from what I can remember.
There were other things they used to get up to, and I remember there was a young apprentice there and they sent him down to one of the wholesalers where we would get drills and so forth, for a bag of washer holes. They had just left school and they would wander off down there. That was the kind of thing they would get up to. There were other things they used to send them for as well. Sky hooks I think was another one that they would send them down the wholesalers for. The good thing about it was that the wholesalers were obviously all in on this as well so that became quite a joke for everybody. It was a really nice atmosphere.
The only other thing I can remember them making was garden stakes for fencing. There was a young lad, about 20 I would imagine, he was a little bit older than us and he had to stand at this big machine like a guillotine and he would stand there all day with these pieces of L-shaped metal with holes in for the wires to go through and he would stand there turning them to put the sharp end on one end of these stakes. I think he must have been bored out of his mind after a week but they made thousands of these so that was quite incredible really. I suppose at that time that was just one of the things.
I started there in January 1962 and I left round about the middle of 1963. In the meantime I actually went to Tech for a year. I didn’t have a lot of luck there really because I remember they had this machine which had this very precise table on it, and it used to have grooves in the table where bolts would slide down and you would clamp the piece of metal that you were working with to the table. The cutter would go over the top of the metal and take it down to what you wanted. I don’t know how long they had had this piece of machinery, but that was obviously well thought of. I went on there and clamped one of these pieces of metal down and not knowing my own strength I pulled the clamp right through the table, which I don’t think went down very well at the time. I didn’t get the sack for that, so they obviously thought that was something that was going to happen one day anyway.
The chaps I can remember were Mr C. He was an exceptional bloke, really good at his job and he was probably one of the ones who didn’t join in with the frivolity that everyone else did. He was a very serious bloke, or he seemed it to me at the time. All the rest were probably a few years older than me and I think that was why the atmosphere there at the time was probably quite good because everybody was of a similar age and obviously the things that we have nowadays were not about so we would chat and talk about things that we were used to.
I did eventually leave between 1963 and 64. Although I really enjoyed the people there, I never enjoyed the work as much as I should have done. Most of my friends worked for one plumbing firm or another and I felt that I would like to do this. I don’t know why because I didn’t know anything about plumbing at the time. It was funny really because I don’t know how on earth I got this job, but there was a firm at Newton Flotman called King & Son and they were a small builder. They had one plumber work for them, J. I think he obviously found it difficult at times working on his own, so they decided to get someone in to help. I don’t know how on earth I managed to find out about this particular job but I went there for an interview anyway and I got this job with King & Son.
They were not a huge building firm but they did small properties. King himself was married to a lady whose dad was a big farmer around that area, B. his name was, so I think they got quite a lot of work with the farmers out that way as well. So we were lucky enough to go into some really lovely houses out there. I can remember even though we were a plumbing firm, we did this huge copper fireplace, we had to put the hood over the fireplace. That was actually at B.’s farm and that was quite an eye opener to see the farm. I always thought they were pretty poor but he had his own bar in there with at that time I think it was Red Label on. You can’t get that particular brand now. He had a swimming pool as well, so I saw the other side of life round Norfolk working there.
We did have a good time. They built flats I think at Beccles and one or two sites they had at Newton Flotman where they were building houses. It was quite a varied amount of work. Although I never became apprenticed there, I probably had more variety than if I had been with a big firm in the city because we moved about quite a lot. Then the work began to dry up and Mr King took this big contract on at Lowestoft, I think it was, which was a sewer, and J. said to me, I think it is time you got out of this because you don’t want to get involved with this.
I always remember we were working at Newton Flotman at the time. There was J. and two other plasterers in this particular house. We were talking at break time and they said you need to get another job now before it is too late, because once you get down Lowestoft you will be there forever and you will never learn any more working on this sewer. So they got together the three of them and they gave me all these pennies for the phone because it was a penny phone in those days. I remember going down to the bottom near the garage, which was B.’s garage as well although I don’t know if it was the same family. There was a phone box down there and I went through the phone book picking out all these plumbing firms and phoning up saying I was looking for a job.
Eventually, one of them said we would like you to come for an interview. I said when would you like me to come and they said you come whenever you want. So I went back up to where they were working and I said, one of the firms was a firm called Spurlings which was in Merton Road in Norwich. In fact I think that is still there today. They told me to get on the bus and go now. You probably wouldn’t do that nowadays.
I went down and got the bus back into Norwich and went to see Mr Spurling who owned the company and they gave me a job. I probably gave a week’s notice, I can’t remember now but after a week I found myself working for MrSpurling which I was quite pleased about. J., who I had been working with for ages and was quite a nice chap actually although not with us now, he did everything he could to make sure I was going to be OK whatever happened.
So I went to work for Mr Spurling and that would have been in 1964/65. I am not quite sure, although I have probably got some things here which would tell me. I think that must have been winter time when I started there or late autumn, because that was extremely cold. I always remember the first job. I went into the office and W. said I haven’t got anything sorted out for you today but there is a leak round the corner, which would have been at a funeral parlour, funnily enough, in Bowthorpe Road. He said they have got a leak in their outside toilet, let’s see what you can do with that.
I always remember going round there and thinking I don’t know if I am going to be able to do this. Anyway, I walked into this outside toilet and there was a lead pipe going up the wall with this fine spray of water coming out. I looked at this and I thought, I haven’t really done a lot with lead. For some reason I hit it with a hammer and obviously that must have been the right place at the right time because that stopped so I was amazed at myself. I kept there for a little while just to make sure everything was OK and I walked back to see W.S. and said I have done that job and I think he looked really impressed with this and thought my goodness me, he must be really good. I never did tell him exactly how I had stopped it.
I think for the rest of that week there was a yard in Merton Road. The yard was part of the terraced houses and that is still there today. I think I was sort of clearing up and doing odds and ends for the first week and he said to me, I have got a cistern in Middletons Lane which needs repairing. He said it is not working right, do you want to go and have a look at that and I said, yes fine. When you think about it, this Merton Road is between Dereham Road and Bowthorpe Road, near the hospital. He said take the bike and go and have a look. So I had to bike all the way up to Middletons Lane to a bungalow up there to have a look what was wrong with this cistern. Then I had to bike all the way down to St George’s where Rump’s and another company (Gunton’s I think they were), they were both plumbing and building wholesalers. I had to bike all the way down there, pick up the piece that I needed to repair this cistern, bike all the way back up to Middleton’s Lane and then when I had finished all the way back to the yard again.
I think it probably took me all day just to do this small repair on the cistern. That was just the way that they worked. I think there was only one van in the firm. That was the way we had to get about on a trade bike so things were not fast. It was no good anyone phoning up for a rush repair because they would have to wait until you actually got there.
Rump’s which is obviously not there now, that was beside the river down StGeorge’s, and I got to know several of the boys down there because I spent a lot of time going down there getting bits and pieces for different repair work. The things that they used to get up to down there were amazing really. They had this chap who used to come to work on his bike every day and he used to have his lunch box in the front of the bike in a basket and he would leave it outside, certainly when the weather was cool. I always remember one day when I went down there, they decided they would lower his bike into the river and they would tie the bike by ropes so they could get it out again, to be fair. There was the bike dangling down the wall with the river just below where his sandwiches were so I don’t know how he got on about this afterwards. That kind of thing was probably the kind of jokes that they would get up to in those days. That would be one of the pranks because there was quite a lot of boys worked at Rump’s and they all seemed to have really good fun as well.
One of the other things that they told me about was that they used to store things at the top of Rumps and someone would go in and say, oh so and so firm needs 50 pumps down and they knew that they were stored at the top of the building so they would get this boy to walk up and down the stairs all day taking down these small boxes of pumps but obviously quite heavy after you had done one or two. He would get these large number of pumps down and they would say, the bloke has just phoned up and cancelled the order, you will have to take them back again! So up he would have to go again. That was just the way that things would work in those days. Obviously, although money was tight, I suppose labour was cheap so they could afford for this kind of thing to go on and not worry too much, although whether the management knew about it I don’t know – probably not.
I worked round Norwich not for that great amount of time and then Spurlings had their main works at Thetford. They worked on the Thetford overspill which was going on at that time. Building large estates for the London overspill to come down. I probably worked out there for the next three or four years. The building firm Pointers used to have this old bus and we had to be down there at about 6 o’clock in the morning at Eaton Red Lion and get on the bus and that was slow. It seemed as if it would take all day to get there. We would go with the building firm, the bricklayers and the carpenters all the way to Thetford and work on the houses there.
That went on for not that long actually and then Spurlings actually got their own van, a Bedford van that was. and the difference in comfort was amazing. The other good thing about that was there used to be a café just through Attleborough called The Chequers and we would stop there every day and they would all have bacon rolls. One boy in particular, R.W., he would always have a cream doughnut for breakfast in the mornings. He obviously liked those better than he did bacon rolls. We carried on going in our own van probably for the next two to three years to Thetford.
We did an enormous amount of work there. There were factories and we then got work at Lakenheath on the RAF base and at Brandon. I can remember at Brandon they did this car warehouse and they had just laid all the tiles and this chap, S., had done some plumbing work, probably the toilets and the canteen bit of the garage. When they came the next day all the tiles were floating because he had had a leak, so this enormous area where they were going to put all the new cars on display, all the tiles had decided to leave the floor and they were floating around. He took quite a lot of jokes about that for a very long time. I don’t think we had many mishaps like that, but that is always one that I can remember.
Lakenheath was another nice place to work because the Americans were quite friendly and always had plenty of money, so they would give us cheap cigarettes like Pall Mall. Goodness knows how much they were in those days but I think they would probably give them to us for about 5p a packet. I think we used to take them back and sell them.
We spent quite a lot of time at Thetford and a varied amount of work. I can’t remember all the names of the factories that we worked on now but the last one that I can remember was Jeyes. That was quite a large factory and I always remember the factory itself was probably the size of a football pitch and they had concreted over this factory and someone was looking for some pipes that had been concreted over and they couldn’t remember where they were. I said to them, I’ll find them for you with welding rods. I used to walk along and the welding rods would suddenly cross (I don’t know how this works!) and you would come in from the other way and they would cross and you would mark on the floor where they had crossed and in the middle would be where the pipe was. I always remember this because people watch you do this and they think this is a joke, you know. There was one bloke there he said, I’ll have a go, so he did it. He walked along – nothing – they just kept straight all the while. He said, “I don’t believe you, you are just having me on”. So, someone else had a go and they crossed and that made him even more convinced that this was a joke and the fact that they didn’t work for him but for me and this other chap who I didn’t even know, that worked. Anyway, they dug down and knocked the concrete up and there were the pipes! He still thought that we had actually tricked him, that we knew where they were anyway and that we were just doing this as a bit of a prank. That does work, but I don’t know how it does. Even today if I do it they will cross. You have got to have a little idea where to look because it will obviously pick up other things as well so you have got to have some idea where the pipes are.
I felt quite important then; they were very impressed, especially because they didn’t have to dig half the concrete up in the factory floor. I have done that once or twice since then but only in fields or something like that where they have been trying to find something but when I do it I have to hope it is going to work because anything can make these rods go for some reason. One of the things which works for me and for some people, but for some reason doesn’t work for everybody.
During the end of my apprenticeship with Spurlings, I was still mainly working in the Thetford area. We also did work on the battle area as well, l which was at that time extremely cold out there. I felt sorry for the soldiers. It always seemed to be two degrees colder than anywhere else round the battle area. Then I think the last job I probably did for Spurlings was me and a chap called J.B., who was a nice chap, a very good footballer. We did this absolutely enormous nine inch water main in this field. They were going to put a new housing estate up somewhere, I can’t actually remember where it was now.
I always remember the foreman he said, “I am going to drop you off there one day just so that you can take a look round”. Anyway, he dropped us off and we saw these nine inch pipes which were about 20 feet long. While we were there, we did four of them quite easily. When the foreman came back he said, “I didn’t really mean you to do all this work on the first day, you could have just taken it easy”. J.B. was a very shrewd bloke and he weighed this one up and he said, “I think we have got a job for the summer here”. That was a terrific summer and we spent the rest of the summer months in this large field doing about four or five of these a day, which they were pleased about so they must have had a good pricing for this particular water main.
The foreman, J.W., his name was, he had to go and pick up blokes from Lakenheath, Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds so he was gone from about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Johnnie lived in Thetford and at about 2.30pm he would say, well I’m off home. I used to go down the café which I think was the Three Bridges Café in Thetford, I don’t know whether that is still there now. That was a terrific summer and a lovely way to finish my apprenticeship in some ways.
The reason I actually left was because, I am not quite sure how I came to go to Thrower & Hammond, but I know they offered me six pence an hour more, which is 2½ p an hour, which in those days was quite a lot of money. In fact, I am pretty sure that when I worked for Thrower & Hammond, I had my first pay packet which was âï¿½¤20, which seemed quite a lot of money to me. I probably spent most of it on drink and going to clubs from what I can remember!
That was the reason I went to Thrower & Hammond and they had this huge contract with Norwich City Council to install central heating into the existing housing stock. At that time gas central heating was just coming in, so I think Baxi was one of the main gas fired back boilers that they were using at the time. There was Parkray and Rayburn which were coal-fired for people who didn’t like gas because there were some people who at that time were worried that it might blow up, so they would not have gas put in their houses.
I spent probably a year and a half to two years with Thrower & Hammond which was working in people’s houses and was really enjoyable actually. I met some nice people and some strange people as well. All in all it was a really nice time.
Then the money from the Council began to dry up and Peter Hammond said to me, I don’t think this is going to last much longer. I was actually the last one in at the firm at that time, and I think there were probably about six people working for them then doing this Council work. So he said “Keep an eye out and if you get anything, don’t worry about leaving, look after yourself”.
At that time an advert must have come up in the paper for the UEA, which I made a go for and was lucky enough to get it. That must have been around about 1969 to 70, difficult to remember then. I just clicked there and that was a really lovely place to work at that time. It was more like a village actually. Probably not quite the same now, because it is so big. At that time, everybody knew everybody and it was a really lovely place to go to work to every day. It was the kind of place you didn’t mind getting up in the morning for. The foreman there was A.E. and there was a charge hand P.S. They had been there some time, since the University actually opened, as part of the maintenance team. There was quite a large maintenance team there. I can’t actually remember how many there was now but I would think you were probably looking at half a dozen or more. That was just on the mechanical side and you were also looking at electrical, carpentry and the gardeners, they had their own staff as well so that was really nice.
While I was working there, another post came up and one of the chaps, S.B. who I used to be an apprentice with at Spurlings, he was looking for another job and I told him about it and he came to work there as well so from Spurlings we finished up working together at the UEA! It was a lovely time and lovely people there at that time, as I am sure there are now. The fact that it was so small and everybody knew each other, we had parties at Christmas time and that kind of thing. Things just seemed to be really great.
They had high pressure hot water which did all the heating of the University, which I had never worked on before, so that was something a little bit different and interesting. Some of the equipment that we used to work on too, obviously you wouldn’t normally touch unless you were probably at a hospital. They had autoclaves for sterilising the equipment and that kind of thing in Biology and Chemistry. We also did the fans so we used to go up on the roof once a week and check the extract fans from the labs. That was sometimes a bit worrying, knowing what they used to put in them. I assume they used to clear them out before we did anything with them!
I always remember we went to Biology one day and had to go in on a Saturday morning because there was like a main maintenance for the year and they had to turn everything off, take everything out of the fume cupboards for this weekend. I always remember we were on the roof working away and the Biology was right at the end of the UEA and the residences used to come right down as well, the ones which look like steps going up. The whole of Earlham Park was just a cloud of mist hanging over and all of a sudden these students with nothing on at all, they all came running out in this mist. It was absolutely unbelievable. Whether they had been on drugs, I don’t know but they seemed quite happy. They just disappeared towards the river and we never did see them return. We assumed they all managed to get back somehow or other.
I suppose that was one of the things about the UEA. You never knew quite what you were going to see. There would be things happen like we would have to go in and repair the showers. One of the students would be sitting in the shower with an umbrella and Wellington boots on on a stool. Don’t ask me why; we never did find out! This was the kind of thing that you would just come across. Very strange indeed.
The other thing that always stuck in my mind about the students was that they used to make bread in flower pots. That used to be amazing because the dough would go out of the bottom piece and go all over and they would probably break the bottom piece off but that was one of the things that they used to do there. It always amazed me that they would spend enough time to make their own bread really. I don’t know whether that was just when I was there that that used to happen.
You did see some sad sights there as well. For some reason we had to go in one of the rooms to do some maintenance when the student wasn’t there. When we went in there was an enormous amount of plants in this room and it was quite obvious what he was up to. The thing that really got to me was that he came back when we were working in there and I have never seen anybody actually look so white. Whether or not that was the drugs, I don’t know but he just looked a different colour. He probably was in a poor way but I suppose that was part of student life in those days.
The other thing about the UEA was that we had one of the doctors there, a DrIan Gibson, who has been in the news quite recently as he was a Member of Parliament. He was another terrific bloke. He always had time to speak to you and was a really nice chap. I must admit I was a bit sorry when everything happened to him this year. He used to invite us to his parties. Over the other side of Earlham Road was The Barn. I assume that is still there because they built residences over that side; that used to be schools in those days. He used to invite us to his New Year’s bash every year, being from Scotland obviously. That used to be really great because you would never believe he was a doctor. I believe my wife said the first time we went there, where is this doctor you talk about? I said, well he was on the door. He stood there with old plimsolls on and you expected him to be in a suit and a tie. That wasn’t Ian’s way obviously, not at that time. He was a great chap.
We did have some interesting work when we were at the UEA. The extremely large boilers that they had there were run on oil which was a very thick oil when it came in a tanker. It wasn’t like the domestic type of oil; it was much more viscous and it had to be heated to get it to run. One particular day the tankers came to deliver the oil and no-one really knows how this happened. They were quite large tankers and they delivered the oil and away they went. About a week later there was oil seen in the river. What had happened was that the tankers had emptied all their load into what they thought were empty tanks and they were already full up and they had overflowed into the drains. We had to spend summer with boats and different methods of getting this oil out of the river. I’m not quite sure how many people knew about this. It was a terrible sticky and horrible oil. The only good thing about it was that it did keep together so it was easy to get it out of the river. We used to take a boat both ways down the river every day just to check, which was quite nice because that was during the summer as well. We used to clear up if any had broken away from where we put these booms round to contain it where it came out of the large pipe. I don’t think the river actually had any problems from it because they acted fairly quickly with it and luckily it was a kind of oil which didn’t break away.
We used to be on call as well, because that was a 52 week a year job. We used to shut down for two weeks a year when the boilers would close down and they would go round and check for leaks and renew flanges or whatever needed to be done while the boilers were down. That carried on all the while I was there. That used to be when we would get all our overtime in as well because we would work Saturdays and Sundays for two weeks and probably to 8 o’clock at night each day trying to get all the work cleared up. That gave you a little bit of money for Christmas as well in August by the time we had had our holidays, I think I used to keep that money for Christmas. That was really good.
While I was there, I think the university grew quite large. When I first went there, there was Biology, Chemistry, the Computer Department, the Library and the Arts. The Chapel was then added to the UEA with more residences that we had to look after and they gradually built up the Environmental Science block. I had probably left before that had opened so I missed the finishing of the UEA itself. Still, it was a nice time and I have some nice memories there.
I left the UEA I think in around 1974/75 time. I had been there five years. I mainly left because the money wasn’t that great and we had children and I felt that I needed to earn a little bit more money. I actually went into insurance for a year. I worked for Prudential Insurance Company, which did earn me more money, I must admit. Probably a third more than what I was earning at the UEA. Although the job was nice, unfortunately, the hours were not that good and you had to work nearly every evening. It just didn’t really fit into family life. Some people could do it and they enjoyed it, they didn’t have any problem with it.
After about a year I decided that I had had enough and I assumed that I would go back to plumbing and in a way I did. There was a job came up at Norwich City Council in the housing department. At that time the repairs used to be done by the rent collectors. They used to be called rent collector and repairs inspectors, so I put in for one of these jobs. I went for an interview. I always remember the chap there, Mr G. his name was, a really nice chap. I was lucky enough to get the job there. I started in April of I think 1976 and I was there for another 30 years which seems an awful long time.
When we actually started there, you had a rent collector round. You used to do rent collecting on Monday mornings, Tuesday mornings, Wednesday morning and a short Thursday morning round. You used to be able to take your collection home and add it up at home and then come in in the afternoon and hand the money in. There used to be A.F. and J.S., they were the main rent collecting management team, I suppose you would call them. A couple of really good guys.
It was strange really because when you think of the amount of money we used to walk about with, even in those days. As far as I know no-one ever had any problems and was never attacked. We had a car but we would park somewhere and would walk round for the morning. I always remember one chap, L.R., he used to do the Heartsease and he would collect âï¿½¤3,000 which was quite a lot of money in the late 70s to be walking around with. No problems that I can ever remember occurred.
It was a lovely job because you used to meet people and the older generation always wanted you to have a cup of tea and you just didn’t have time to do this. They wanted you to come in and have a cup of tea and a biscuit, so what you had to do was work it so that you only had one stop and you would usually make it to someone who was in need of a chat more than anyone else. Some of the old dears used to collect the rent for around about ten houses so you would go there and you would have ten books to collect and write up so you would probably have a cup of tea at one of those particular houses. I can’t remember ever having any problems really.
At the same time you would have to do the repairs if anybody had any repairs that they wanted doing. If anybody had any repairs that they wanted doing you would have a look at them then report them when you got back. On a Thursday, that was when you had your short collection day. You would probably get back before dinner to the City Hall. You would then get all your sheets for your next week. You had two fortnightly rounds so everything would be made up for the next round the next week, which would obviously be a different area. That was the way that we carried on.
On Fridays we used to do what they called the empties inspection. We would go round and if somebody had vacated the property we would go round and write all the repairs out that were required. That was probably why I got the job because obviously I would be OK for that part of it and the fact that I had done the insurance round for the money so I suppose in some ways that fell in nicely.
It was a different atmosphere and a different way of working in those days. Some people you didn’t see from one week to the next. I don’t know where they used to go or what they used to do. They had been there probably 30 years themselves and they knew the way of working so well I suppose they felt they could have a little bit more time off than other people and they would just disappear once they had come in and paid their money. Nevertheless, they used to get the work done, so there never was any problem.
After about two years working on the rent collecting round, I went into what they called the debit, which actually did the accounts for the rent collectors. I was probably in there for about two years as well. Not much really happened; that was quite a nice job but I don’t think I ever really got into going into the same office every day. I found that a little bit difficult, just going in and you knew what work you had to do. It didn’t really change that much. Computers were then coming in so that was all done on screens as well so you didn’t have to worry about adding up or anything else.
I was probably there for about two years and then a job came up in the technical department of housing. I then put in for one of these jobs which again I was lucky to get. So, I then moved over to the technical section. In that role at that time, it was basically going round empty houses because they were bringing them up for a new standard for that era. That would probably have been around about 1978/79/80 time. Quite a lot of work was going on in trying to modernise the houses. As the empty houses were being modernised, we were also modernising houses for people who were already in there so that they were having the work carried out around them. There was more admin work between the builders and the housing required. If anything went wrong we had to try and sort it out fairly quickly if that was going to cause any problems.
The Council then had a huge programme of modernisation for all the council houses and flats within the city. Originally, this was all done more or less under one contract and we would do the structural work and the central heating would all be done within the same group. As things moved on and it became much more difficult to do that, we were split up into different groups. I went with the heating group. The modernisation group was still left to do that. At the early time they would put a lot of extensions on the back of houses so there was quite a lot of detailed work in that part of it.
The central heating became a much larger contract in itself, probably dealing with several million pounds worth of work each year so that had to be taken out as one particular part of technical. Also, there was a painting section which dealt with the painting of the council houses and also new windows, which at a later time more or less became replacement windows with the UPVC as they gradually moved over to that kind of material.
It was nice to work at the Council as well because the work was varied. You were always in a different place every week. The working conditions were really good. When I left the Council we had 26 days holiday plus statutory holidays. We also did flexi-time, which probably to the end of my working time there we were allowed to take two flexi days a month. Mind you, you had to somehow get all these hours in and if you were on holiday anyway that was practically impossible. At least that facility was there if you wanted to do that.
The money became I would say, reasonable. You were never going to get the same as industry because they never paid bonuses, for instance, or anything like this. In saying that, the other facilities which you got and the working conditions probably made up for this anyway. We didn’t have a great deal of people leave the Council. I think all the time I was there you could more or less say that most people would stay until they retired. There must have been something fairly good about it for all these people to stay there.
In the latter time the specifications had to be much more detailed and it became impossible to work in different various sections because legislation changed, Health and Safety changed and even in the heating there were so many different clauses and the European Union brought their own bits and pieces into building so it was impossible to do a lot of the work that you used to do. You really had to specialise, in a way.
I suppose since 1994 I specialised in the energy efficiency side so I was seconded to that side. I went with a chap called C.A., who I do occasionally see in the city even today, but he retired before I did so I lost contact with him and one or two of the others that we were with. It was nice really. The only unfortunate thing about it was we didn’t finish up at the City Hall because the City Hall got rather overcrowded. We were taken down to Mile Cross to the City Care works. We had some offices down there for three or four years which was OK, and the technical department actually finished up at Pilling Park Road, where it still is today, as far as I am aware.
I suppose, looking back, we had a really nice time. It used to be the kind of job where again you enjoyed going to work every day. Everyone knew what they were doing and everyone had to be on the ball. The training was really good with the Council. They wanted you to do as much training as you could so that they could say that people were as good as they could be at the job.
That was where I finished up after just over 30 years so quite an enjoyable working life, I suppose. I am still doing a bit now but not as much as I used to anyway.
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