My employment with Evode commenced in August 1950, at Glover Street. At that time, I was 16 years old having some two and a half weeks previously concluded my full time education following completion of my school certificate (the precourse of the G.C.E. O Level) from the old King Edward VI school.
I was engaged as a Laboratory Assistant, where staff at that time apart from myself comprised 4 persons, Elias Peake, who was Chief Chemist (also functioned as Production Works Manager), Cyril Lawton (with whom I directly worked under) Ken Wood who moved to the Evode (Swords) factory when it was set up near to Dublin, and Mrs Cybil Homer who did secretarial duties.
By later standards, the staffing levels were low. In the then Adhesives Department, there were only 2 full time employees (one of whom was Eddie Newman) and one part time (Cyril Cartwright who also worked as a nurse at St George's Hospital). Whilst in the paints 2 full time (its output being greater than the adhesives at that time!) and about half a dozen in the Building Chemicals, which included bituminous solutions and the making of Evoset, which was a major production product for frosty weather. These departments were all housed in the central factory block, with additions at the back overlooking the River Sow, above part of the Building Chemicals Department part of the roof was flat and it was on this roof that exposure racks were set up for trails on paint exposure trails and other external material testing.
As one came through the factory gates out from Glover Street, straight ahead took one into a yard enclosed by the front of the main factory buildings and adjacent to that was a 2 storey building built onto it. At right angle to the left before entering the yard was a further 2 story building, gable end onto the road and joined to it was a single storey building at right angles, so almost completely enclosing the yard (the single storey building didnt join up to the main factory building).
To the right, once through the gates, the road turned right and then left to run along side the 2 storey building joined to the main factory building, this was an access road to the electricity transformers which were sited along the river bank. On the other side of the road was a large single storey building, it was in this building that the Dove Polish manufacture and filling out was done. The staffing was nine in total, Reg Moseley, John Forman, Nora Nicklin in the Finished Goods Store, one man to make the polish (Reiner Gehab from 1953-53) and 6 girls who filled it out on a long table (close to 100 foot long, I would guess - there were two parallel to each other on opposite sides of the main part of the building) Along the edges of both tables were rails along which fitted the filling out container can, which consisted of a tank on wheels (for movement along the rails with a number of holes in line underneath. Rods fitted into the holes which could all be lifted simultaneously to allow the liquid polish, which was poured from the container as required. Quite a hazardous operation! The number of rods could be adjusted to suit the size of the polish tin to be filled, i.e. All would be used when filling shoe polish, being the smallest size tin .
The picture, taken at Common Road, shows the filling out process. The two people shown, Mrs May Swinson - Adgie Goughs mother and Valerie Stryer, that was, both worked at Glover Street.
On the top floor of the 2 storey building on the right of the yard, gable end looking up Glover Street, contained the Laboratory and downstairs was a lab machine area, with a small triple roll mill for making small volumes of paint and several small horizontal heating mixers, which could make up to 10 gallons of adhesive, also 1 gallon and 5 gallon size.
Also on the ground floor, Mr Alf Bailey made and packed samples of applied product e.g. little concrete slabs, showing the building up of coatings from the bare surface to the finished surface, whilst Mr Joe Parker on the clicker from the local shoe trade cut up rolls of membrane of various types for use in the Evode Roof Waterproofing System. This later was used as offices as the business grew.
The other two storey building upstairs had offices for Dr Simon, Mrs Wood (later Peak) and Betty Simkins (as was), Dr Simons secretary, together with the telephone exchange, reception, manned (I dont know from when) by Miss Mary Emery, who later emigrated to Australia to marry her fiancé, but actually married someone she met on the way out! On the ground floor of this building was a small typing pool (at least two typists, Mrs --- Pat Sylvester and Joyce Tonks) In the single storey building were offices for Mr John Forman, Mr Hadleigh, Company Secretary, Ernie Nixon, Don Ferguson, Charlie Hill and Ron Dale (these latter ones having both come to Evode together from the old Stafford & Stone Co-operative Society and Mrs Formans secretary, Sheila.
At that time there was no Maintenance Department, when required, outside contractors being called in.
During the preparations for the second World War, the polish production building had been converted for use as a mass morgue, because of its close situation to the hospital (my father worked on the conversion). This was probably the main cause for the companys transfer to Stone Road (where the Manhattan Furniture showrooms ) When I joined Evode, the move back had been completed and one major improvement being completed then was an indoor loading dock in the Building Chemicals Department.
Concerning my employment, I mainly worked with Cyril Lawton on the Surface Coatings side, although from time to time I worked in other areas. If only practically testing developments in polish formulations, having some of the shiniest in Stafford! One particular development in the early 50s was a dry bright liquid shoe polish which is now quite commonplace 40-50 years on!
In Sept 1950 I commenced a part time study course to qualify as a Paint and Varnish Technologist, which I completed in 1955. The technology aspects meant mostly up to 3 evenings a week at the Northern Bolton College of Technology in Birmingham, but I was allowed to persue my pure science studies at the then Wolverhampton College of Technology, which greatly eased the travelling. In the first year I attended a course of Paint Application and Colour Matching at the Birmingham School of Painting and Decorating. At that time National Service was still in being but to avoid the break in my studies at 18 I was able to get deferred until I was 21. This was achieved by belatedly taking up indentures as per the Paint Industry Council Apprentice Scheme for 5 years back dated. My completion of my contribution has been partially delayed by a fruitless search to locate my copy of the indenture since they are signed by Dr Simon, Cyril Lawton, my father and myself. I believe Im the only person to have been indentured at Evode. Cyril was a signatory, since to use the old vernacular, he was my apprentice master and I would like to record the great debt I owe him for all the out of hours time, energy and patience he gave me, he should be able to confirm my apprenticeship.
In 1953, the growing rate of expansion of the company with the employment of more technical staff. Firstly at the beginning of that year Dr Barry Jackson started together with Mr Alphonse Adomenous, who emigrated to Australia in early 1956. Also in that year on the adhesives side came Jock Anthony, V Vohralik since it was on the adhesives side where there was the major growth potential with the opening of the Common Road site in 1954, with the completion of the first building on the left as you enter the gates. From this in 1955 in the former adhesives area of the Glover Street factory the first mastic production was set up by Mr Harry Wynn.
As the employment of senior staff started, or the appointment of juniors took place - John Richardson, Norman Birteck and Brian Pease amongst them. Mention of Brian Pease needs comment since much later on he continued to make some of the old building chemicals products in his own establishment on Astonfields.
At this time the transport aspect of the business was developed by Ken Shardlow ably assisted initially at Glover Street by the then Miss Myra Davies.
In the early 1950s the factory was hounded by the local electricity generating station and the gas works. Production of electricity finished in 52-53 time and the first works engineer came to Evode from there, Mr Vin Weaver.
On the sales side there were expansions, in particular with the adhesive sales, with the appointment of Mr Edwin Beaumont as Sales Manager.
In Sept 55 I commenced my 2 year National Service at the Royal Artillery, being eventually posted to Hong Kong. During this time the Polish Department and mastic production Transferred to Common Road followed later by Building Chemicals and Bitumens. The Paint Department didnt finally complete its transfer until the summer of 1961. Officially on the last Saturday of the transfer period, I was the last person to go round to examine everything had been moved though Im sure Dr S. Would have also gone around himself if only for old times sake!
By coincidence the company I later was to be employed by Therma Acoustics Products Ltd., had in the meantime taken over the old polish manufacturing business factory to make plaster of Paris ceiling tiles. This setting up in Stafford was probably due to the friendship of Dr Simon and Mr Victor Hann, the chairman of the Clerk & Fenn Group who owned T.A.P. This occupation continued until 1964 when T.A.P. Mineral Fibre plant was set up at Veralum Road (over the fence to Evode), when the plaster tile production was set up within the same building, the Paints Department moved into the original building on the left at Common Road which was made possible by the building of the 2 storey Adhesive/Mastics also at this time the manufacture of polishes and associated products caused the furniture/floor product manufacturing being acquired by Kiwi, who wished to expand into that part of the market.
The late 50s were a period of significant expansion for adhesives. This was partially due to associated business with Formica (Thomas de la Rue) resulting from the early TV advertisements fro Formica laminates being stuck down with Evo-Stik. An odd sized container containing 0.8 pints of Evo-Stik Household Adhesive sufficient to a particular size sheet of Formica (I think it was 4x3 foot) Also there was a steady growth in demand for small tubes containing about 30-35 grams of adhesive which retailed the at 1s/9d (about 9 new pence) These were filled by pouring by hand into the open tubes, which were then squeezed together and then crimped. Production by this method produced regular rated of production close to 1 gross (144 tubes) hour/girl (usually teams of 4). This consisted of filling the tops and bottoms of empty cellotape canisters with the empty tubes nozzle down vertically (held about 12), then the tubes were filled and squeezed, crimped, placed in individual tube cartons then 24 individual tubes in a display carton and to display into a despatch carton. Also the œ pint, and 4/5 pint, 1 pint and 2 pint tins of adhesive were hand filled from barrels into which compressed are was introduced - rather dangerous really, it should have been nitrogen. These again were filled by young women. One girl, Sheila Henny (became Johnson by marriage) was extremely adept at filling. The barrels and 1 gallon containers and above were all filled by men from the adhesive churns.
The tube filling was the first to be automatically filled which lead to a more consistently packed product and later a machine for filling tines was introduced (up to 1 gallon). Later the cartoning process was automated, I was involved in the introduction of the tube and tin automated filling.
A further mention of the Building Chemicals is required. When I joined in 1950, it was run by a George Dale with Bert Titensor on the bituminous solutions. Not long afterwards George Dale left and Bert Titensor (his wife was the Mrs T of Cafefrome at Pitcher Bank) joined Ernie Freeman as lorry driver and Ted and Dan Wojtulewicz took over their roles such that the Department became the poles, since all members of that Department were of Polish extraction, with one exception, - Adgie Gough (he became known as Adgie Goughski This situation continuing for next if not all of Ted and Dans employment.
Perhaps now a few anecdotes that come to mind:-
1. Towards the end of 1951 (November I think) one Friday morning as I got up, my mother said to me that I hadnt talked to her about the fire at your place. Apparently it had occurred the previous evening and it was both reported upon and inserted in the Newsletter of that day (the Newsletter is still printed in Stafford and was put to bed on a Thursday eve and printed overnight) the fire apparently was thought to have started on the ground floor under the lab (where the samples were packed and prepared and the membrane for the roof waterproofing was cut) caused by a flash over from a coke-fired hot water boiler in that place. Most of the lab was gutted with part of the roof open to the sky, so there was no lab to work in and until a temporary one could be set up in the building known as the Little Room which was built along the boundary with the gas works. It was called the Tiled Room since the inside walls from floor to ceiling were lined with glazed bricks and had quarry tiles on the floor. As an interim we used the office at the front on the main factory building looking out onto the yard, in the corner where the 2 storey building (containing the lab), jutted out. Later this became the first transport office until it was put just inside the gates at the end of the rebuilt lab building.
2. This office had previously been used as a sort of assembly point for the factory staff when they arrived at work each morning before starting time. On a particular morning, Dr Simon came in earlier than usual (before 8 am) and since this office looked straight up Glover Street to Foregate, his car was in view from the turning into Glover Street. All of the men, except one, Geoffrey left the office and went to their departments ducked down behind a desk, to be surprised a minute or so later by a voice which said Geoffrey, why are you hiding from me ? The voice having a slight mid-European accent!!
3. When the lab building was repaired the downstairs became a set of offices for increased sales, accounting staff with the transport receiving office at the end facing up Glover Street and upstairs apart from the Chief Chemists tiny office the lab ran the length of the upstairs (the previous storage area and staff toilets being moved) right up in the gabel end and a French window with a fire escape was built (looking up Glover Street) This French window became the scene of a prank realised by one Reginald Aloysius. The adhesive chemist at that time was courting a young lady who lived at Church Stretton, and every other Friday evening he caught the early evening train to Shrewsbury thence to Church Stretton, returning to Stafford via Crewe to arrive back about 2 am on Monday (The weekend in between the young lady came to Stafford) Some time previous to this particular day the relationship had been terminated. Apparently we did have 2 visitors to the factory, someone with her new baby had called to show it off, Reg took it into his head to dash upstairs in all haste and breathlessly ran up to Ken and said that there was a young lady with a baby in a pram who had come asking for him. Ken became very white faced and dashed to the window to be much relieved, in fact it was a former employee (Mrs Sybil Homer I believe) who had come to see no one in particular.
4. In 1952 and 1953 a company entry was made in the comic section of the local pageant for 52 it was Our Gang and in 53 the Flower Street Tribe - appropriate since 'Redskin' was Evodes name for their equivalent of Red Cardinal. In Stafford a 2nd prize was won, whilst later it was 1st. To give the redskin effect, Elias Peak made up some red/brown cream which supposedly would easily wash off, which it did - eventually - as I experienced. Im on the back row, second from left in the photograph.
5. The formal setting is for the company Dinner and Dance, which was attended by most if not all Stafford based employees. Assuming everyone had a guest , gives and idea how few people were employed then. It was held in the then ballroom at the Swan Hotel, Im in the back row 1st from left.
5. It was usual for the hourly paid and weekly staff at Christmas to receive a bonus of a weeks wage. One particular year, a few days before Christmas a lorry was being loaded with cartons of polish, one of which happened to be dropped at Dr. Simons feet just as he was passing on his rounds. It was claimed that the bonus was suddenly halved at the last minute because of this incident, though I was never able to substantiate this. It could have been as the result of a poor company performance that year as was reflected by the monthly staff bonus I enjoyed in later years.
6. In 1958 I had an accident with ammonia (weak dilution) but such as needing to spend a week in hospital. Over the years Ive also heard various stories about it, even it being shifted to the early 1960s, as Ive heard more of recent vintage (1998) when I was supposed to have made up supposed flu treatment in the lab (I hadnt worked in the lab since 1956 during my embarkation leave) although in the early 60s the company made an offer to employees of the provision of free flu vaccines on a voluntary basis, obviously administered by qualified medical staff. Many did, including me, took up on the offer and as I recall many had varying degrees of effect, self included, much as happens currently with the modern vaccines.
7. In addition to the bonus mentioned in number 5, those who were monthly staff, i.e. not paid for overtime, in late October or early November each year received a very generous annual bonus, popularly referred to as the Golden Eagle, and the day of payment the golden Eagle had flown It was customary for many of the recipients to hold a social evening at a local hostelry. Also any new boys had to be initiated by drinking from a special initiation cup which consisted of three tinned-steel cups welded together held Œ, 1 and 1 1/2 pints respectively, which were filled to the brim with beer. The initiate was required to drink all without spilling any. The cups were for measuring a prepared concrete additive called Mellitol, which was mixed in horizontal powder mixers (a product of the Building Chemicals Division).
8. At Christmas the senior staff also received a reasonable gift from Dr. Simon, cigarettes for the smokers, sherry for the drinkers. If you smoked you visited Dr. Simon in his office at receive them personally, but the drink was delivered to your home with a suitably endorsed card. Tow of the recipients had the same surname, Me H and Mr A, due to a mix up, Mr H received the sherry (he was a smoker) and Mr A cigarettes. An attempt was made to politely rectify this, unfortunately, Mr H still continued to receive sherry and Mr A received cigarettes in place of sherry, so they had to do a swap! Mr H only likes sweet sherry and mostly hed receive Amontillado, always a brand called El Cid (very popular at the time) so for evermore Mr H became known as El Cid
9. In 1953, a few days before Christmas it was instructed to everyone that no-one was to go drinking at lunchtime on Christmas Eve and return to work. It was deemed to be a dismissable offence to do so. The staff of 3 in the paint Department took in their heads to defy the ban and returned well under the influence, this did result in instant dismissal which meant on the first day after Christmas and for several months afterwards the department was run by the four lab personnel associated with Paints, Messrs. Lawton, Adomenous, Birbeck and myself. It was during this period that involvement in stock taking became mandatory, and on one occasion I had the paint finished stock to stock take. This I only did and when Dr. Simon came for the re-check he decided to accept my figures. However, at my instance, I suggested he did one or two checks, in fact he did 3 and all were wrong. This meant I had to do the whole lot again and none of the others were incorrect.
10. During my earliest days, I heard of a process problem for which an answer was not forthcoming for some time but was immediately solved by Dr. Simon, with a very simple elementary test using litmus paper, i.e. acidity or alkalinity had changed within the process. In some what similar circumstances in the early 60s major problems were being experienced in the mixing of Greenseal Richafix a water-based adhesive made for Richards Tiles (later for B.A.L. Ltd.) for sticking ceramic wall tiles. The adhesive was gelling up as it was made. Eventually it was found that the synthetic rubber emulsion used as the binder in the adhesive had been subjected to change by the manufacturer i.e. The pH (acidity or alkalinity) had been altered giving the results experienced. On discovery of this the alkalinity of the mix was raised using ammonia and the problem was solved, much to the red faces of the suppliers. ( The manufacturing side became my remit on return from my National Service, on the adhesives/mastics/polishes and building chemical divisions, since I returned as assistant to Elias Peak)
11. During the first few weeks of employment, I was given a special assignment in that I was required to cycle up to Thark, 29 St. Johns Road to collect a stray cat, which I was to give assurance to a very young Andrew that I was taking away to a good home. In fact the situation was that a local vet had previously arranged with a local vet that attempts would be made to rehome it, and feeling that it would be put to sleep, prior to leaving the factory I did draw from petty cash the princely sum of 7 shilling and 6 pence (31 new pence) I never did learn the outcome.
12. Mention of Andrew brings to mind further early contact with him. When I first started we worked a 5 day week normally but after a few months instead of working 08.30 am to 6.00pm with one hour for lunch. This was changed to 5.30 pm finish but we worked 08.30 to 12.30 pm on Saturdays. On many Saturdays young Andrew came into work with Dad and I had the problem of keeping him amused!
13. 50 years ago in early 1951, was Cyril Lawtons wedding. His bride to be was in service at Thark, so it was made more imperative to give the day extra memories in that several men from the factory and myself formed a guard of honour of crossed joint stirring sticks all dressed in clean new overalls, also a chimney sweep was in evidence.
14. The old Evode was very much described as a family concern. One aspect was of members of the same family employed. The most notable example of his was 4 members of one family, the Dodds, 2 brothers and 2 sisters (in the polish).
15. Perhaps finally I should mention the apparent absurdity of my early salary (and wages and salaries in general). When I first started, my salary was £2.00 per week of 42 œ hours, from which 2 shillings and 6 pence (12 œ new pence) were deducted for National Insurance, no tax. After 3 months I had a 25% rise 10 shillings (50p) and by the time I was 21 this had risen to over £7.00. When I returned in early 1958, I started at £550.00 p.a.
Perhaps mention at least of some prices I used frequently. Day Return Train Fares to Wolverhampton and Birmingham 2s/6d (12 1/2p) and 5 shillings )25p) - the ordinary fare to Birmingham as around 14 shillings (70p) whilst a normal fare to London was £2.2s (£2-10p), the fastest, i.e. Non-stop trains taking 2 Œ hours although for a period one took 2 hours. Medium priced shoes around £2-20s (£2.50p) the best £4.5s. In the early 1950s one could still buy 78 rpm records, the most expensive around 10s (50p), 12 inch size, whilst long players were around £1-1s to £2.00 (£1.80p - £2.00) these prices for the most expensive and varied with purchase tax.
Cigarettes were 4 s 2p (less than 21p) - I didn't smoke but fetched many for those who did and Mars bars 6d (2.2 new p)