Sue Helps



I came to Evode in 1974, only for three months so I could get back into a routine of work now that the children had gone to school.

I had answered an advertisement in the Newsletter for an office clerk. New ground for me as I had previously been nursing with the RAF. I arrived with four other ladies and we were allocated various jobs according to Tom Knowles and the respective supervisors. It must have been my lucky day as I drew the straw that was to keep me at Evode up to now for over 26 years.

Winn Pitcher took me to the Batchlog office and I was shown in to what appeared to be a sardine tin, eight people sharing an office that is now occupied by one person. The ladies in the office were all very friendly and I was offered the position at the princely salary of £19 per week. The fact that they could read my handwriting being one of the deciding factors, in those days it was not quite quill and parchment but not far off. All records were hand-written, and had to be legible.

Winn was an incredible lady with an amazing memory when it came to batchlogs and all the related products. The Banda Duplicator used highly flammable solvent to reproduce the typing onto the batchlog paper. No wonder we were all a happy crew, we were under the influence all day. The office was situated over the Coatings factory so we were surrounded by fumes all day. Thinking back it is a miracle that we did not blow ourselves up, fortunately we had no smokers in the office. Our escape route in case of fire was down the material chute into the factory and then we had to assemble on top of the solvent tanks for our fire point. Oh happy days.

Winn left the office by December 1974 and I was offered the position of Supervisor, I accepted and the rest is history.

With new thinking coming to the fore as to how the instructions on how to make our products, (fag packets were no longer the accepted medium) were to be distributed to the shop floor, I took on the role of Specifications Officer; and together with Mike Turner, Tony Talbot, Sid Carter and Charlie MacClymont we produced Key Point Cards which gave all the manufacturing instructions and safety information. The only problem was that they were inevitably locked away in the supervisor’s drawer.

When Process Technology closed down I was transferred to Ted Akerman in the Technical Liaison Dept. Here I was convinced that my days were numbered as on my first meeting with the then Technical Director I asked him if he was a member of the Mafia. The reason being, he appeared wearing a shiny pale blue suit, dark blue tie and was carrying a very large black case, I suggested that he only needed a homberg to look the part. Happily he saw the funny side, and I was not summarily dismissed.

My next move was from the laboratory into the famous Portakabin in the car park that Dr Simon insisted was only going to be used for six months. It was over 17 years before I was let out again and allowed back into an office that did not move when the wind blew, did not have an eleven degree variation in temperature from floor to ceiling and did not have water running down the walls, (on the inside). We had to cover everything with large polythene sheets when we left for a short period of time or when wet weather was forecast as the ceiling had large water bubbles in it.

I certainly served my time, I’m sure the Technical Director was getting his own back on me for my remark about his suit, mind I never saw him wear it again. Many happy times were spent there, especially when Ted Akerman got uptight one day and started shouting at me, I told him I was not his wife and he was not to shout at me. I then locked him in his office by tying the door handle to the filing cabinet and not letting him out until he had apologised. I think his thirst for a cuppa was the deciding factor.

While in our shed, I looked after key point cards, complaints, the library and the embryonic stages of packing specifications and all without the aid of a computer.

Even the labels used for the journals were hand-written, though the photocopier was used extensively, whenever possible. The technical archives were started then; this was due to the refurbishment of the laboratories and the pulling down of the ‘Filing Room’. We had our own camera and viewing screen, the technology was amazing, and microfilm was ‘state of the art’ then. The archives are now stored electronically.

I well remember my first “desktop”; it stood on the floor, measured at least 3 feet square and took the most enormous floppy disks. It was brought in and left for me to find my way round it. It took me ages just to find the on/off button. This was in 1984 and I felt perhaps that Big Brother really was watching my every move. Then the change came, the computerisation of batchlogs and all other systems on site. How many jobs would disappear with the advent of all this electronic wizardry? I only know that instead of having eight people all day exclusively producing batchlogs, I was expected to do them as a part of my role as Information Officer.

Evode all this time was growing and evolving from the family firm into an international conglomerate, taking over and finally being taken over itself. I have survived several redundancy scares and have continued to keep my head below the parapet and plod along with my role. My titles have changed over the years and my job has expanded, contracted, changed, evolved and changed again, and will probably do so again but after all these years I am still doing batchlogs. The other ladies that started with me all those years ago have all fallen by the wayside, either to leave to other firms or made redundant.

Along with all my production/ information roles, I co-ordinate the First Aid facilities on site and oversee more than thirty first-aiders.

I am now back in the house where it all started and my offices are those in which I had my first interview, I think the paint is still the same colour, although the carpet has changed.

Last year I joined the 25 Club and now am the proud possessor of the “badge”. Unfortunately I could not get to the dinner as I had a previous engagement in Newbury, judging horses. Well paid and a five star hotel, who would refuse. I’ve always laughingly said I only work to keep my horses, but I must admit I would miss the people. I suppose after 29 years you could say that I am well and truly “EVODISED”.

After an annulis horribilis I decided to take early retirement. I shall miss my friends but the company weren’t from a friendly family to a small part of an international conglomerate. Not for me, life has proved too short to just ‘work’ so I’m now going to enjoy myself.