Retrospective Chapter 31/09/64 - To date
A WORKING TALE
by Richard Wall
I had completed my schooling, had six “O Levels “ under my belt and duly arrived at Dronsfields, on King Street, Oldham (sadly defunct many years ago, now the Meridian Centre) with Martin Waller on a Monday morning in August 1964 to begin our working life in the Drawing Office.
There were seven draughtsmen, a chief draughtsman Fred Brock, who lived on Brompton Street, an assistant chief draughtsman, Norman Brock, Fred’s brother, now there’s a surprise, he lived at the bottom of Copsterhill Road facing the bus stop at the bottom towards Manchester, and a chief designer Tom Tiffin who lived Bury way.
Dronsfield Bros. was owned by two cousins, James Dronsfield, who used to spend all days playing the stock market, and Peter Dronsfield, who was hands on and used to run the place.
Martin and I spent the first few months copying drawings to help perfect our printing and dimensioning skills then gradually producing detailed drawings from the other draughtsmen’s layout drawings until such time that we were able to design and draw machine parts under our own steam.
Workshop practice was an important and enjoyable part of our training, spending periods of time in all the works departments, machine shop, fitting shop, pattern shop and in John Halls foundry which was on Crossbank Street, and had the largest cast iron facility in the north of England.
The downside part of the job was having to go to night school, to further your education, as it was gently explained, after all the previous years schooling I thought I had finished and to learn I had another 3 years was, to say the least, bad news. None the less I persevered and eventually ending up with a Full Technical Certificate in Mechanical Engineering.
It was in 1967, by now “engaged”, that my fiancé’s family were persuaded to move to Bournemouth/Boscombe to share a house with their relatives, so “in for a penny in for a pound”, I left Dronsfields and decided to give it a try and duly resided at 1319, Christchurch Road, Boscombe. To say it was an unmitigated disaster is an understatement.
Apart from being a full time deckchair salesman or a sand sweeper, work was impossible to find, even the chap at the “labour exchange, who incidentally came from Chadderton couldn’t help. I used to spend most of my day either sat at the end of the runway at Hurn Airport watching lightning jet fighters taking off and landing, or fishing on Boscombe pier with Tony Blackburn, now whatever happened to him ?.
Luckily I still had my motorbike, which we had taken in the removal van, so at least we could get around.
After about six months with no work and the savings rapidly being depleted, together with one day seeing an old “biddy” pushing a dog in a pram on Boscombe high street, we decided it was time to up sticks and return to Hollinwood.
Beverley, my fiancé and her parents bought a little terraced house and I returned to my parents.
I enquired at Dronsfields about my old job and after waiting for a few weeks was lucky enough to be taken back, that was 1968.
We got married in 1969 and bought our first house on Burlington Avenue on the Coppice, if you lived on the Coppice in those days you had “arrived”. Our mortgage was £11.50 per month and my wage, then, was £13 per week. We then moved to High Crompton in a bungalow but found it too quiet at the top of a cul-de-sac, our next move was to a terraced house on Garden Suburbs, then we moved just round the corner, to a “quasi-semi”, (that’s the end one of four), with a drive. We have been in our present house for 18 years a semi on the border of Rochdale and Oldham, that is, the house and front garden are in Rochdale, the footpath and lane are in Oldham.
I stayed at Dronsfields until 1973, the problem was the poor pay when you were in your early twenties, almost all the draughtsmen left at that age, being unable to survive on the wage and also starting a family, the Chief Draughtsman recognised the problem, but the senior management didn’t.
I had a short spell (about 6 months) at Thomas Glover in Hathershaw, going there for about 30 bob (£1.50) a week more, but was absolutely bored to tears with nothing more challenging than everyone playing chess,the chess sets being secreted in drawers.
It was in 1974 that I left Glovers and got a job in the drawing office at Carter Bros in Rochdale, having no car in those days(the bike had gone when we got married) I had to travel on the 9 bus (which stopped at every lamp post) from Hathershaw to Rochdale and return, every day. Our main ambition in the drawing office was to be on £1000 (yes a thousand) pounds a year.
As time progressed at Carters a large part of my job involved a lot of site visits measuring for bespoke equipment, I obviously got to know many customers quiet well and built up a confidence and friendship with them.
It was a nice surprise that in 1983 I was asked if I would like to join the sales team, “YES PLEASE”, as sales engineer gaining a company car in the process. I was sales engineer for about 6 years; travelling all over the country and attending many exhibitions were we used to display about 30 tonne of machinery.
In 1989 the then Sales Manager left and I was promoted to Sales Manager which involved even more travelling in the UK from Aberdeen to Dover to St Austell to Bristol to Ayr, i.e. all over the UK. Overseas travel also regularly included Germany (where was Peter Halliwell when you needed him) France, Holland, Luxembourg and Turkey.
I was still at Carters in 2003 when we were all made redundant, they went into receivership and the administrators were called in. Even worse news was to befall us, because they had gone into receivership, and had no money, we had to apply to the government redundancy fund for monies due, as anyone who has unfortunately has had dealings in this area can confirm, that after 30 years, you don’t get a lot.
I was unemployed for 15 months then found a job locally on just over minimum wage, from this time to the present has already been covered in my “Brief Lives” contribution.
Footnote re the class of 59 reunion
As I mentioned earlier because we live on the border of Rochdale and Oldham we take neither the Rochdale Observer nor the Oldham Chronicle, we don’t feel we can are interested in eithers news.
We only read the Chron occasionally on a Thursday to keep up with the housing market and it was there that I read the report about the reunion.
I give my thanks to Keith for trying to find me, even visiting my old regurgitated (yes it still makes me sick thinking about them) company, to no avail, but well done Keith for trying*.
I also give my thanks to Nigel who contacted a friend of his who used to work at Ryder and Dutton with our daughter Rebecca, Nigel asked her to phone Rebecca to let me know about the reunion. A message was left on Rebecca’s answer phone, who incidentally now lives in Cowes on the Isle of White, but unfortunately that day they had left for a holiday in Texas and didn’t get the message until they returned on, yes you have guessed, the 10th of October. Thanks Nigel for trying.
*This wasn't the first time I looked up Richard. Having spent a great deal of my time in the plastics industry I knew where he worked, having crossed paths with him a couple of times in my travels. I was near his works one day some time around 1996 so dropped in to say hello. During the conversation I asked him if he still had all the 'Shadows' vinyl LP's (I shall be forever thankful to him for introducing me to 'Little B', one of the finest drum solos I've heard).
He said he'd managed to acquire all but one, an album entitled 'From..' whose album sleeve looked like a brown paper wrapped parcel. This one had eluded him for many years and he doubted he would ever find a copy again.
The following Saturday I was in Manchester for various reasons when I happened to pass a second-hand vinyl record store. 'Well why not?' I thought. I popped in and had a browse round. I found the '60's' section and followed the alphabetically ordered boxes until I came to 'Shadows'. I had little hope and even less hope when I saw at a distance that there was only one LP cover sticking out.
Imagine my disbelief when I saw it had a brown paper wrapped design and across the front the one word........'From...'
Ask Brick, if you don't believe me.