Memories of Chatwood – Part 5
Memories of Hall Engineering (Formerly Chatwood Milner-safes)
By Allen Warrender
During my time with Johnny Ducket, I had to attend `block release` at the technical college (one week, every so often) – this is situated right next to the crematorium! Sitting there, sometimes looking out of the window, I idly reflected on the frailty of life and that it`s shortness and death is only but a `second` away – it certainly brought it home to this youngster, but, as with all of that age, the thoughts are fleeting and I very soon got back to thinking about more positive things (girls?)
I had now finished my long time relationship and was taking full advantage consuming the fruit offered to me on a fairly regular basis?
I was never particululary good at technical drawings, but I got by and passed my exams (well, scraped through would be more descriptive of my efforts in this regard!) I seem to remember that even in tech` I had several dodges and scams on the go!?
I was always glad to get back to the factory(and my foreigners)and John, although demanding that I do some factory work, also gave me plenty of rope to `lasso outstanding and pending home projects!`
I spent much time `shot blasting` just about everything! This process was achieved by placing the object to be blasted( sand pushed around under high air pressure) in side the glass cubicle, donning heavy, thick gloves and pointing the gun at the object-it was marvellous-I think the management were at a loss to understand just why this machine needed constant maintenance!!?
We used to make enormous machines (in the fabrication shop, where I learned electric seam welding, `mig` and many other skills associated with building these huge devices) some that had huge semi circular phosphor bronze bushes in them. They were locked tightly together with bolts or `Allen screws`. Pilkington Glass was a regular customer. They were fitted in the bay where I was working with John. We would `blue` the split halves of the bearings, and them fit them back tightly together with a `dummy shaft`(turned to very tight tolerance) for reference, and then dismantle and scrape until all the blue was off and the shaft moved, with absolutely no `play`, very smoothly. This again was very exacting work-too much scraping would result in the shaft being loose in the bearings-wear and subsequent life of the unit would be greatly reduced-not enough and the shaft would `bind`, eventually locking and causing potentially catastrophic consequence.
This part of my instruction taught me precision – it was a monotonous process, and it had to be repeated many, many times until the shaft and bearing were operating exactly as envisaged.
Several other names I remember from this period were Cecil Gurr (a very staunch union man) Reg and Les Hall.
This was the time of the union rule – I am all for a man receiving what is due to him, and not being exploited (as he had been in past times) but it really got ludicrously out of hand, and I, as an apprentice, had no say whatsoever in this respect and I used to dread hearing the words, ”all out, brothers!”
I remember, sometime late in my five year apprenticeship, that I was standing outside the factory gates, one morning-snow was on the ground. I was cold and miserable – `and why were we there-the factory was, apparently, 1degree below what the factory act stated!`It was then that I vowed to leave light engineering when my `time` was served. I recall the sad old times of the `three day week, strikes, industrial unrest and regular electricity cuts offs-it all was too much for me.
I always used to arrive, somewhat breathlessly, just as the factory klaxon was sounding, but there were older men there who arrived about one hour before and settled down with a cuppa, sandwich and read their paper-`silly boys`, I used to think, `I want every second I can in my lovely warm bed.` Meanwhile, at home, suffice to say that all was not well.
In a `nutshell`, my father and I never got on!
I can see now, as a parent myself, it was not all his fault, but these constant eruptions invariably ended up with me having to move out into `digs`, until he relented and mum had to invite me back home! The stem of the problem seemed to be that when he asked me about what I had been doing and I told him, he, as a very experienced mechanic advised me that there was a quicker and better way. We all know that as you become more professionally adept in any situation,` corners can be cut`, but not when you are learning. This coupled with my `cocky` outlook, as I was now the official `Bodger` caused no end of concern.My poor old mum was always in the middle, trying to calm the situation down, but it always ended up the same way.
I can see her now, dutifully bringing my clean washing around to wherever I was `posted.`
I spent some time in the flame cutting department-this bay was outside because of all the toxic fumes created when metal was cut by gas flame. Here I met Billy McNamara – we formed an instant rapport right from our first meeting. I was by now, in the `pop group` and we would very often sing parts of the popular songs of the era-me singing harmony!
Right at the other end of the factory was the die shop-I spent a period in there, mostly making and scraping `dies`(a wooden former was made first and then the metal one) that would be used in the presses to make various parts for the motor industry.
Then came the day that I had to disguard my overalls, put on a suit and a period in the offices was planned for me. I went into `Estimation (or `guestimation` as it was fondly called) where I was introduced to and met Ken Smith, a section leader, who was extremely polite and always ended every conversation with `many thanks!`
This office is where all the jobs were costed to establish how much material and `man hours` would be involved.
I got on quite well there, but nothing really of consequence happened, except I used to fancy like mad one of the office girls, Christine – with her extremely tight pencil skirt, high heels and tight cardigan that showed of her ample assets, she was my type of woman-I did get to speak, but I think she thought I was far too young for her-shame!
Another highlight of the day (work was secondary!!) was the arrival of the tea lady-she was an older woman, but `wow, was she well endowed where it mattered`, and with her tight black skirt, ultra tight black cardigan stiletto heels, seemed nylons and flame red hair, I was ever eager to be her first customer each morning-but, alas, she never looked at me – and me, the (in) famous `Bodger`- was I ever deflated?! I saw her out with her husband one day-a balding thin, sickly man and wondered what she saw in him, but he obviously had something that I didn’t! So, I eventually returned to the factory to complete my apprenticeship.
I learned much during this time that has been of great benefit to me since-I opted for a career (much to my father, and Harry Barber’s dismay) in music. I secured a job, playing solo organ at a holiday camp which is only a relatively short walk from where my home is now-by the seaside.
If you want to contact me, or read about my further adventures, please go to:
Allen Warrender- August 2009.
Many thanks to Allen for this fascinating insight into his time at the company.
Made in Shrewsbury