My name is Marjorie Gill, I am 64 years old. Born a Geordie, bred in Sussex - married a Serviceman (RAF), travelled around and raised 2 children - Stephen and Deborah. Now a grandmother to Natasha 9, Thomas 7, and Hannah not yet 1 year. Philip, my husband is now retired as I will be before too long. We were posted to Stafford from Germany 26 years ago, did not like the quarters we were allocated, so bought a house and have been here ever since.
Enough of my background.
I started work at Evode in 1975 as a telephonist which is the trade I trained in when in the WRAF and had continued as a civilian in this country, Europe and the Middle East. My intention was to work at Evode a couple of years and then move on!
The exchange was PMBX and there were 5 of us. Rene Luscombe was the supervisor. Our duties included telex which we took turns in doing for half an hour at a time. That was fine except twice a year we had to do the financial report which Dulcie Bell-Nash would bring down to us, she was a tarter! She insisted that whoever did the report was shut in the telex office alone - no-one, but no-one else was to enter. As the telex office was the size of a broom cupboard, it got very hot in there. The report would take all morning at least.
At that time we had a sports & social club, which was well appointed and well attended. I joined the pantomime club, - that was a lot of fun. Every panto was staged around Evode and its personnel. In fact it was a case of attending the panto to see if you were going to be insulted, if you weren’t insulted - you were insulted!!
Members of the cast I remember were Tony Parsons, Dick Read, Bob Bunker, Liz Lovell, Jenny Sibley, Roy Ecclestone, Fred Waygood, Colin Lovatt, Rochelle Riley, Ken Hanlon, myself and a few others I can’t remember. We would never have gained points for production costume, acting or singing, but they were performed with gusto and had a spark that reached most of the audiences, as soon as one panto was over we’d be asked which panto we were performing the following year. Each person bought their own piece of magic/pantomime to the stage. Roy was usually the Dame which he did brilliantly - I still call him ‘mum’. He could hold the panto together when it started to fall apart. Fred was notorious for coming on stage at the wrong time, or not at all, forgetting his lines or jumping forward and back in the script.
I remember being solo on stage, lamenting my lost love, oh so sad, and on wandered Fred looking confused. Off stage there were loud whispers of “Get off Fred” Him saying “What?” And “Aren’t I on yet?” It broke the moment and we and the audience just fell about. Tony, Dick and Ken usually played the ‘baddies’, Bob Bunker the fool, Jenny was very pretty, Rochelle was a sweet tiny princess, barely 5’, I am 5’ 11” and wore high heels - it did look a bit incongruous when we were together.
When we we couldn’t get a panto horse, we used a panto cow and told the audience it was very confused and always wanted to be a horse, - it’s dream had come true!!
Another time, I had to make a quick exit from back stage, run round the building to the front to get to the loos, snow had been falling for some time, on the way to the back stage door I slipped, lost my shoes and was soaked through. I arrived on stage just in time with my shoes still in my hands, lamely telling the audience - “It’s snowing folks” - this was in Sinbad. How did we involve the audience? Just before curtain up we’d check the audience out, make notes and use personnel in quips and situations.
After Dr. Simon died the clubhouse was sold which was a great pity. Apart from the pantos it was used regularly at lunchtimes as the canteen was not a pleasant place to sit, cold , stark and barren. Also in the evenings to meet up for a drink and game of darts, pool etc. During the winter months, at lunchtimes I used to organise meetings in one of the meeting rooms in the offices. Just one a month, I would get a speaker/demonstrator in for a talk or demo on diverse subjects as hallmarks, paperweights, home security, ‘bears & bulls’ cake decorating. For 5p they could have a cup of, coffee or tea and a sandwich (The 5p was to cover the cost) It was always well attended. Could that have been the cheap snack I wonder!!
For years Evode was involved in the Hospital Fun Run and also the ‘It’s a Knockout' I took part in both until the doctor stopped me running (I have a back problem) Evode made thousands of pounds for the hospital. ‘It’s a Knockout’ was very competitive amongst the town companies. We won the first competition that was held at Rowley Park and I remember the rope burns all down my arms after the tug-of war! A pity these activities have now ceased.
About 79/80 the tel. ex. was changed for a modern one and moved down into a posh revamped reception where we are still. (I think the switchboard is due for retirement) There are now only 3 of us. There were too many of us at the time as we only had 2 displays so I volunteered to help out at Re-Solve which started its life in the ‘house’. For some years now we have had an extra switchboard put in so the 3 of us are fully occupied.
I know everyone, and everything has to move on, but I do feel its a sad fact that people are not personalities anymore, merely a number on a pay slip, and dispensable as a throw-away razor. Now Evode is in the past, I am proud that I have had the best of it, to have been involved in so much of its social as well as business life. To have got to know so many people whose company I enjoy. It has not always been sweet sailing, there have been times I wished I was the other side of the ocean, but I have not let those times and people wear me down. I love my job too much.
What will I do when I retire? I’ll find a cause, I’ll enjoy my home and grandchildren and occasionally pull out a memory or two to chuckle over.
4 August 2000