I was born at Chartley near Stafford, and moved to Manor Estate in Stafford where I went to Rising Brook School. When I left school I went to work at Masons supermarket (where Dixons is now) I remember a little lady who used to come into the shop, she couldn’t speak good English but I could spell her name Joyce DELLACOPAGNI!! She kept saying to me “You come to my house and my son, he will cut your hair” I always refused, one day he came into the store from Victor Francis the hairdressers, he was drop dead gorgeous. I worked at Masons for eighteen months earning £3. 5s 2d a week, until my friend who worked at Evode told me how good the pay was there, so I went for an interview with Tommy Knowles. I got over £9 for the first week, it was like being paid three times a week!
When I got to Evode I realised that the little lady who used to come into Masons was Italian, and the wife of Alfie Dellacompagni who worked at Evode, her son was Frank, and Alfie used to say “If you had come to my house and had your hair cut you would never had worked in the factory” I have recently done my family history and found I have a bit of Italian in me, so I wonder if that’s why Joyce latched onto me, she recognised this. Frank now owns the Franscesco Hair Group chain.
I worked in the Adhesives with Basil Holloway (when he had really orange hair, he must only have been about 25 years old), Dawn Woodman (who married Dave Bentley) Maureen Edensor, (there were 2 Maureens in the Adhesives, they were spelt the same but one was pronouced Ensor, and the other Edensor) Chris Kilford, Sid Wootton, Brian Thomas, Bob Hulme, Esmerelda, Fred Grey, Margaret Follows, Sheila Johnson (who was married to Johnny Johnson), Betty Morris, Dorcas, Sheila Goode, Dorothy and Doreen ‘the Middleton twins’, Janet Turnbull, Joan Gask and Sandra Maddocks (who we called Smiler, everyone called her Smiler because she didn’t smile!!) It was very much a family place in those days. I worked in the Adhesives, and my first job was cleaning the batch filler, Marg Follows and Sheila Goode would empty it then I would stand on a box cleaning it with MEK on a rag, but I got paid 3 times what I was previously earning, and as I say where there’s muck there’s money! I didn’t get affected by the solvent fumes, but you did notice it when you came in on a Monday having had two days off. We also filled out Butyl into a cartridge, it was grey and went like strands of chewing gum, it would break off in strands as you pulled the cartridge off the filler, they were all cardboard cartridges then, and the tops were wiped, there was no waste, not like today, if it was underweight then we topped it up, we didn’t just throw it away. I also filled out Baltad tile adhesive into green and white tins, and packing tubes into boxes, they had a key so the tubes could be wound down Ron Firker also did the Baltad, he used to put the clips onto the tins and was always ‘firking about’ for years I called him Mr Firker, but that wasn’t his real name. He used to shave on a Sunday and didn’t bother for the rest of the week! Arthur Lake was over the Baltad.
Mr Peake was always on the factory floor, you always jumped when you saw him. There was also Abe Moss, it was always first names. There was no training as such, we all trained each other in those days (still do today to be honest).
I stayed in the Adhesives for six months I remember (Nellie Tinkler and her friend May). Then I transferred into Twinstik in Paints Department where Reg Moseley was over us he really was a lovely chap (I went to his funeral) Reg always knew when a girl was pregnant, usually before she knew herself - he said he could tell by their face! I worked with Brian Davies, Alan Smith, Tony Rogers. I packed the doubled sided tape, and the Print-a-puff this was brown and was filled out from a trough onto paper and sent off to the shoe industry we did Free Edge Twinstik which had blank edges then we did Polka-Dot at a later stage, Alan Smith used to be so terrible to me when I first went into Twinstik, he used to put the cleaner which we used to clean the machine onto a cloth and press it onto my clothes so it soaked through and my bum went cold and tingled, he also put a house brick into my handbag and I never noticed and took it home!
There was a bus up to Evode, always a double decker, there were not many people working at Evode when I started, a lot of people used to walk. We used to walk to the Rifleman sometimes for a glass or orange juice, it was kept by John Jones who later took over the Evode Sports & Social Club. (It was originally run by Keith Ferguson and the Dennis Follows before John took over) Keith had a little office in the Twinstik which he used to run the Sports & Social Club from. Keith used to pirouette to the tannoy music.
Harley Powell came to work in the Twinstik, he used to be a milkman at Doxey, I think it went pear shaped, when he came to Evode he’d never worked in a factory and we didn’t think he’d stick it, but he’s done 25 years and he retires at Christmas this year.
A rat once came into the Twinstik, it was as big as a cat and it walked past my table, one lad chased it with a cardboard core, I guess that’s why we had cats in the factory, you could go to the little shed where Rainer Gehab and the lads were and they’d be having their dinner surrounded by cats, they used to feed them. Rainer loved his cats.
All the sales reps came in and you saw them from time to time, if they wanted any samples or anything specific they would come into coatings for it as there was no sample room in those days.
I remember them knocking down the chimney, not long after they had put EVODE in big white letters on it!!
There was a chap called John Gilliat working in Vik Supplies, he was so good looking he called himself ‘The Dark Seducer’, he worked night shifts with Cyril Hancock and he used to come and talk to me when his shift ended just to eye up all the new girls, he was drop dead gorgeous, just like Cliff Richards, I think he’s in the army now, training on guns. The girls used to say “Why does he come talking to you in the morning?” And I used to tell them that he was eyeing up the talent!!
Ozzy Challinor, Dennis Loveys, Larry Lewis and Gino Serino worked in finished goods with Arthur Lewis as supervisor.
In May 1966 we all went out for the night - England won the world cup, we went into town and had a good drink, fortunately it was a Saturday and we didn't have to go to work the next day. We had some good times.
I remember Billy Petrie, he married Brenda and was the coach at Stafford Rangers. He always used to put black fishnet tights on, he said they bought him luck!
There were 20 girls working on the skiving making shoe puffs for the shoe trade, Muriel Scrivens, Joy from Penkridge, there was Chebby Butler, and also Anne Ray (before she went to work in the Sample Stores). Bernard Preece was over the skivers in the Vik, the Vik eventually went to Enderby in Leicester. The girls in the factory were always singing as they worked in the factory, we used to have the radio on over the tannoy and on Thursday afternoon the girls had their rollers in their hair and headscarfs on, so they could go out at night to the Top of the World. Jack Pellin did trips to Blackpool, he was a bit of a sports and social organiser, Big Bill who worked in the Export Packing always took the young girls up to Blackpool under his wing to chaperone them but we tried to get away to go to the fun fair, he would count us out then count us back, we could do what we wanted to on these trips but the factory girls always stayed together. We had an invite from the army at Donnington to go to a dance, they sent a coach to collect us, but I didn’t go The girls tried to fix me up with Dave Fairholme, he lived at Trentham and he came over to Stafford and waited outside the pictures for me one night, I thought it was a joke, but on Monday he said that he had stood for 2 hours outside the pictures waiting for me, - he was very nice, very quiet.
We had a sweet machine in the old canteen and a man from Boults, the sweet shop that used to be by the Odeon used to come and fill it up with sweets, we used to all go to the canteen together for our breaks, we used to have free tea, Mrs Lambert was the Tea-lady, her daughter Carol married John ‘Tutty’ Talbot.
We used to do all sorts of jobs, when there was no work we used to move around the factory doing what jobs were available. I used to work in the canteen with Margo washing up, she wanted me to stay in the canteen but I said no, I preferred the factory wage. I also worked in the Quality Control Lab with Fred Waygood testing primer and Mellitol in a little place at the back of the hanger. Val Durose (now Val Haycock who works in Quality Assurance) worked with Fred, we have been on holiday together to Spain twice, and I have only found out recently that when we were young, her mum saw me when I was 2 hours old, and Val has recently given me some photographs of me as a little girl in her garden!! It’s funny we both went on holiday and bought the same pair of shoes! Shirley Bruce also worked with Fred she was marvellous. They had a ‘fertility stool’ in the lab, first Shirley sat on it, and then Val, the rest of us never sat on it. I remember Mark Flello coming into Freds lab in the late 70’s I pulled his leg something rotton. Fred used to say “Now Janet, take Mark into the sample room and put the samples away” he was only 17 and frightened to death of me!!
We used to fill out gallons of EMP Plasticiser, in jerry cans and also the Mellitol by putting polythene bags into the sacks for the men to fill, it used to come with a little pink metal cup, I don’t really know what this product was used for - we packed all this stuff but we never read what was on the packs. Sometimes if I ran out of work I would go and chat to the Polish men in the Bitumen, they were always so caring, and smiling. They used to bring chocolate covered plums which someone used to have sent over from Poland, they were so big you couldn’t speak with one of those in your mouth! There was Frankie Szupak, he worked in the Mellitol, but he never married I think his sister worked with Nellie Tinkler. There was Stephanie Rutyna, she married John Rutyna and they worked in the Paints (there are living in Canada now). We used to have a type of webbing called Waterbar in the paints it was a very hard rubber about 6” wide and John Rutyna would weld it into shapes. Then there was Stan Halberda who worked in the Bitumen on the Flashband, he was lovely, always had his pocket watch in a shoe tin, and he always wore his little scarf round his neck. When he retired, he used to stand outside his house and wave to us when we all knocked of from work. He lived in the first terraced house as you went onto the Marston Road. There was also a lady called Betty Podmore who worked in the Bitumen, she grew up in a children's home and when she started work at Evode, a lady in Bramhall Lane took her in.
In the transport office was Renee, she lived at Doxey, a big jolly lady, she used to go down to the station to pick things up. John Sandolewicz picked her up, all 22 stone of her and put her high in the air! There was Roy Ecclestone, he was a Rep, at Vik Supplies – he’s now in Evacor.
They used to have inter-departmental football matches and after the lads would go to the Amasal Club for a drink, and we’d go too. I never saw Dr Simon there but I think he used to go to the football presentations. I don’t really remember John Forman, I didn’t see much of him as he worked in the offices, I vaguely remember his retirement do in the car park.
Dr Simon used to come round the factory every morning and he always knew my name, he knew you and he spoke to you. He was a lovely man, he had a personal touch and a real gentleman, (like Barrie he would always come and speak to us too). Everyone worked so hard for the Doctor because he was such a lovely man. Dr Simon always had a Christmas message which he gave over the tannoy. No-one would finish early until the Doctor’s message had been heard - I think this could be where the Christmas bonus started. After the message had been heard we all went to the Amasal, which was really a little shed in those days, the Doctor never came. We didn’t decorate the factory for Christmas then, that came later.
The place was always tidy, we weren’t on piece work or had targets like we have today, you worked and you worked hard, every Friday the packing tables was cleaned down with borax, and you swept up every night. We are too busy to do this today. It was a pride to scrub it down with a cloth and borax ready for Monday morning to start again. We worked overtime 3 nights a week and Saturday mornings, it wasn’t compulsory, but you earned good money at Evode. We could take our holidays anytime, we had two weeks. Students came in to do the work there was no factory shut down until Keith Lewis came, and I think it was in August when the summer was finished and the same in October. I think we had shut down because everyone wanted time off for school holidays.
In 1968, when I was 19 years old, I went in for Miss Evode, I went in for it the previous year but didn’t get placed, but I got coaxed into having another try. There were 12 girls who entered, we were given the afternoon off work to prepare, during the evening at the Top of the World ballroom someone knocked my arm and spilled my drink down my dress. Liz Silvester came second (she later married Terry Lycett) When I won I was crowned by Ann Lee who was the previous Miss Evode, I had a lovely bouquet of flowers and a voucher for £5 5d which I think I spent on records. We went up into the Bali-Hi suite on the top floor and had drinks with Barrie after. During my year as Miss Evode I think I went to a do at the Lotus Club, and Mr Knowles organised it so that Miss Evode crowned Miss Lotus. Also as Miss Evode I went to the children's Christmas party as one of Santa’s Maidens, we had a cape, Bob Studzinski was Santa, and we helped give out the presents.
We used to have our Christmas do at the Top of the World, the tickets were like gold dust, there was one for you and one for your guest. One year we had the Christmas do at Bingley Hall, it was a one-off and not very popular.
There was an Evode Sports & Social Club in Mount Street, and I had my 21st birthday there with a folk group.
I remember the first bomb scare, we were on the Common for hours - all afternoon, it was in the Adhesives between the making and the filling machine, it was taken seriously. Good thing there were no cows on the Common or no-one would have gone on. They didn’t have fire drills and I can't remember any fires, but I do remember the bitumen tank going up, it was the same week that Johnny Pinder got killed on the stacker truck. Bernie from stores had got a cold and came over for some Karvol capsules in the morning, there was a relief nurse on duty called Hilary, and after the accident she thought that it was Bernie who had been involved. Originally Jack Pellin and Lionel Wilcox, who was a ex-policeman did the first aid before we had a nurse we never had a full time nurse until they employed Moira Powell, Brian's wife when the company got bigger, she had a little room by the Engineers department up the ramp. Tom Bates was the Supervisor in Engineers with Harold Holdcroft, I always though. Harold looked like David Jason the actor, Ken Bates also worked there and his wife worked in the post desk.
I got married in 1970 to Eric, Geoff Matthews did a movie of my wedding as a present, that was the sort of boss he was, and when the start of the movie comes on Geoff has his head through a loo seat roaring like a lion! and after we were married we went to Portsmouth where I worked for a printing firm. When we got back to Stafford Geoff Matthews said there would always be a job for me, so I started my old job on the Monday after we got back.
We had power cuts in the 70’s and could only work on Thursday Friday and Saturdays, as I was expecting Chris I was really pleased to do a three day week.
I left in 1974 to have Chris, just before I left, when I was seven months pregnant I got a major award from the Suggestion Scheme for my idea for packing Twinstik a cheaper way, it was a lot of money, I got a cheque for £150 and Mr Vohralik said “Your baby will be born with a silver spoon in its mouth!” When I left they had a collection in the department for me, I was away for 10 months then went straight back into Twinstik When you left to have a baby your service was broken, unlike today.
When Dr Simon died in 1978 it was so sad. The service was at the Borough Hall, it was packed, the family must have been pleased to see the turn out of the employees, he had been poorly just before he died. It was never the same after the Doctor died, Barrie did carry on with the personal touch, he came round the factory and talked to us, but Andrew never did, and then he bought Winterbottom in.
Barrie used to bring his children round on a Saturday when they were young, just to show them around the factory. Barrie always had time for you I met him at the station once and he introduced me to his daughter and grandchild who are living in Israel.
There was a very poor family we used to call the ‘Rabbit’ family who lived in the houses on Common Road near the factory, they had bandages on their feet, they were so poor that Jack Butler who worked in the Gatehouse with Norman Sutton used to do them a Christmas parcel. We used to walk to the Amasal Club during lunchtimes for an orange juice and bag of chips and ‘Mrs Rabbit’ used to have a pram with 4 little kids in and she’d throw them a bag of chips. All the kids turned out well, but one of the lads got killed at Cox Long recently.
When I worked in the Mastics, Ian Melville was a hard task master, but he was fair, Josie Williams used to ask him for time off for a perm, and he said no so she rolled bits of cardboard into her hair then wrapped her head in a rag and went back into the office, Ian Melville said “point taken”!! Hazel Holland who worked in the Vik Supplies came into Mastics, she went on to become Mayoress of Stafford, there was ‘Joe 90’ he had ginger hair and worked in the Product Development Division lab by the Twinstik, there was also John Earle in the lab, he came in once with 2 black eyes and sunglasses on no -one knew why and no-one asked why, but he was a lovely man and a gentleman.
One day the girls in the Mastics Department dressed up for V.E. Day. We used to do Children in Need until Kay Alexandra died aged 36, she was always very quiet - until we went out later on round the town! The men used to come too, Frankie Evans used to mother us and made sure we got a taxi home. I used to love working with Millie Hargreaves, she was wonderful to work with. I’ll never forget John Ferneyhough bringing the young Firemen in for training as they used to do, there were about a dozen of them and one day he came to our machine where Millie and I were working and said “There you are Millie, which one do you want?” She pointed to one at the end and said “Well I’ll have that one, and work my way through the others!” She loved an excuse to dress up, she always had all the kit, Christmas, we were always singing our heads off, she dressed up in the ‘dance of the seven veils’ with barely anything on! We used to have an hours lunch so we used to go to the Amasal Club for a drink. Nowadays, we cannot go off site.
In 1986 we did ‘Showboat’ for the Pageant. We all made rosettes and Millie’s husband did the frame, in fact he built the showboat. Stan Wootton said to Millie “I’ve just seen Barrie Liss and he says he’s donating money for the pageant float” Well, Millie got dressed up and off she went not realising it was a joke, she came away from Barrie with money for costumes!! Millie used to do many strip-o-grams, well one day they got their own back on her. They put Millie in a cage and a young man called Paul did a strip-o-gram for her, we all took bets on what he was going to do, he did Rambo, and Jan Prime won and got a box of chocolates and the money we raised went to Children in Need. We raised a lot of money over the years for charity, one year Carol Meacham was Big Ears and Melvyn Dodd was Noddy and Carol pushed him up to the canteen in a cart. It was mainly the girls who got involved in the charity events, more so in the Mastics than anywhere else on site. But recently we don’t do so much these days, with Children in Need so many different people were going round I think people felt a bit hounded with so many people coming round wanting money.
Chrissie Hamner worked in the Mastics, one day she had a drum of adhesive on a stand to fill it out and the bung came out, the adhesive went all over her, they had to carry her up to the first aid room. Basil had to carry her false teeth in a tin, once she went to the loo and was sick, as she pulled the chain her teeth shot out and got flushed away, we could not look at her for crying! She came in the next day wearing her mothers teeth which were too big. A month later Peter Vaughan of Sandys the Builders found her false teeth in the main sewer and gave them back to her.
In 2000 I joined the Evode 25 Club, I bought a diamond cluster ring with my money, I wanted something I could wear more so than put on a shelf or side and look at it. At the dinner I was made up when I sat on Barries table, all the girls were smiling I was so nervous when I went on stage. Barrie said he could remember when we were both in bed together (we both gave blood on adjoining beds). We used to give blood in the 80’s, they took in a minibus to the Amasal Club, it was a skive really, but they must have had some blood out of us - 200 used to go!
I don’t feel like I’ve been there 30 years, Paul Baxter when he sees me always says “God, you still look the same to me!” You haven’t changed a bit.
18 October 2000