I spent the first part of my working life, employed by the N.C.B. working underground at Norton colliery in Stoke on Trent, I did my training and after first working as a haulage hand I moved onto the coal face as a collier Working down the mine was a dirty and often dangerous job, the coal face that I worked the coal seam was about 4 feet thick, so if you can imagine working under your kitchen table all day it will give some idea of the height ,there was non of the modern machines that they have today, all the work was done by hand.
When I was Shot-Firing I would fire on average 40 shots each shift. Men working together as a team they were always ready to help each other, that does not seem to happen today, as I have already said it was a dirty and dangerous job, but I am glad I did it, it was an experience I will never forget.
15 Years I spent at Norton and the last six years of that period I was a Shot-Firer/Deputy. My wife Connie never liked me working at the mine, I had been doing a bit of part time work at our local pub and the landlord encouraged me to approach Ind Coope brewery for a interview.
Well the brewery started sending us pubs to view and we decided to take on The Rifle Volunteer on Common Road Stafford and we became licensees in March 1965, we had two daughters aged 10 and 8 yrs old and just after we moved into the pub we found out we expecting a baby, what a shock that was.
It was at the Rifleman ( everyone called it by that name) I first made contact with employees from Evode, I had no idea at this time what Evode produced. We soon found out from our lunch time trade, all our customers seemed to wear green overalls and smell of white spirits.
On one occasion after some heavy rain water was seeping into the cellar smelling just like our customers, so I phoned the environment officer, he said he would send someone to deal with the problem.
This man arrived he was wearing a white coat, I took him down the cellar, I said to him do you think it is the stuff they make up the road at Evode,no reply, then I asked him if he had any idea what Evode products smelt like, and he gave me a strange look, well I did not know who he was. I found out later the man was Abe Moss from the Evode labs.
A Moss Head of the Evode Group's Mastics Quality Control Laboratory at the Group's factory on the outskirts of Stafford, carrying out a prenetration test on Malastic Gap & Joint sealing compound.
I was at the Rifleman for 7 years and during this time I formed the Sunday morning football league, it all started with four pub teams playing friendly games against each other, then after following advice from the Staffordshire F.A. the league was on it’s way with eight teams taking part in the first season, increasing to two leagues of ten teams in each league in the second year. And the Sunday league is still going strong to this day.
Every Monday I would spend hours on the phone to the editor of the Stafford Newsletter, giving scores up to date reports and league tables, but he would never use my suggestions for a headline, well one week-end all our teams were playing in a Staffs F. A. Competition, and the Dog & Rabbit, from Stafford were drawn against Hanley Police, and the Police won 4 Nil, so I suggested what I thought was a good headline, and the editor said that’s quite good we will use it, the headline was DOG ARRESTED BY HANLEY POLICE.
I would have to do the same again on a Wednesday, for the Ladies Darts.
I also formed the Stafford Ladies Darts League this also turned out to be a roaring success , and is also still going strong.
I left the pub trade in 1971 and after two interviews with Ray Allsop and Brian Smith, I was given a job in the weighing out room, working with John tuttey Talbot. Brian Lowndes. Alan Smith. And Dave Bentley. All of us under the ever watchful eye of Rupert Tallent The Foreman.
I had only worked in this department for a short while, when I was asked if I would like to apply for the vacant position of Sports & Social Secretary, my name was being put forward by a Roy Ecclestone. At this time I new very little of Roy or the Social Club.
After some consideration I applied for the position, and my name was accepted , I found out later that no one else had applied. Connie was against me taking this job, she thought it would be like being back in the pub with me always behind the bar, but I said to her this is a great challenge, if I fail I can always go back into the factory.
On the first day I was given a very vague idea of what I was supposed to do by the late Mr, Knowles. I remember wandering around Evode nobody knew me and I did not know any of them, I was not sure of where I could go or where I could not go.
Believe me at the end of that first day I was beginning to wish I had taken my wife’s advice.
I gradually began to find my way around, you must realise prior to my taking this job, the only places I had been was the weighing out room and the canteen, now I was entering very unfamiliar territory. Labs. Offices. Other factory departments. Evacor. I was all over the place.
After my first visit to the Social club premises in the town, I was most disappointed it was a dark damp dismal place, no wonder the clubs weekly takings were so poor.
My priority was to try and improve the standard of the Social club, and to get more members to visit the club on a more regular basis, I revived the cribbage team. Started a men’s darts team, and the best of all a ladies darts team, when the ladies played at home the club was packed, the club started to take money and we were able to pay the bar steward.
The number of members attending the Social Club continued to improve during the first twelve months, but it was the club premises that were letting us down.
Someone must have heard my continuous moaning about the state of the Sports & Social Club, because I had a big surprise when Dr. Jackson sent for me and told me that a piece of land next to the football pitch had been earmarked as a possible site for a new Sports & Social Club I was flabbergasted . It was about this time that I met Graham Cork, Mr Eric Jones had asked Graham to take on the position of Club treasurer, over the next few years Graham was to become a very dear friend.
Roy Ecclestone Graham Cork John Jones
So now with Graham , Roy Ecclestone and myself we could see a light at the end of the tunnel, together we started looking at various types of club buildings, we found one that we thought would be suitable, a wooden building, made by a firm near Telford.
My first task was to apply to the Staffordshire planning office, for outline planning permission, and when that was granted, to apply for the full building permission, the only thing I had ever applied for previous to this was a driving licence.
Things fell into place very quickly the Cederwood clubhouse seemed suitable, we had Watney Manns Brewery waiting to loan us the money £15.000 and depending on our sales the loan could be a interest free loan.
We had a few problems during the building of the club, at one stage it was put on hold because of a drain discovered while digging out for the footings, the work was going to increase the cost of the build, after a while the problem was solved and work commenced again.
The Club would consist of a lounge, a bar concert room that could be divided into two rooms in the week days thus providing a reasonable bar area, and also a games area ,and opened up at the weekends for entertainment, it would also include changing rooms with showers and toilets, also a small kitchen and a bar store area.
The Clubhouse was constructed in such a way so that should the need arise the building could be expanded, outside there was ample room for a car park a football pitch, and room rof a children’s play area.
THE SPORTS & SOCIAL CLUB WAS OPENED BY DR. SIMONS ON 30TH JULY 1974
Dr H Simon Mrs M Bennett John Jones
Once we were in the new Social Club the activity programme increased very quickly indeed, apart from the normal bar games i.e. DARTS, ladies and GENTS. DOMINOES. CRIBBAGE.AMERICAN POOL. We had QUIZ NIGHTS. CAR TREASURE HUNTS. CHEESE & WINE EVENINGS. & ALSO REGULAR BAR B QS. We also had A CHESS CLUB. TABLE TENNIS. BADMINGTON. LADIES YOGA.& CAR MAINTAINANCE. These took place in the works canteen.
The bar b qs and the car treasure hunts were always well supported, on one occasion Brian Smith and myself were planning the route for a treasure hunt usually about 25 miles round trip ending at the clubhouse for refreshments and prizes, we were just out of Stone a clue here and a clue there, when we saw this this peculiar plant outside this small cottage, the lady was in the garden, what is that plant called we asked her, oh that is an ornamental thistle she said. we thanked her , we included that in the questions.
When the competitors stared to arrive back at the club on the day of the treasure hunt, the first few had the thistle question wrong, and then everyone came back with the right answer, we found out that the lady at the cottage got that fed up with people asking about the plant, SHE SAT HER LITTLE BOY ON THE WALL WITH A SIGN SAYING ORNAMENTAL THISTLE, we went to see her the following day we took her some flowers and asked her to forgive us, she saw the funny side and we all had a laugh about it.
THE INTER DEPARTMENTAL KNOCK OUTS. These were always very competitive but they also great for the club because everyone taking part worked at Evode, we also had a five a side departmental league three members played darts one played American pool. And one played cribbage, and once again every Friday evening the club was full of Evode employees.
When I took over as secretary the club struggled to take £100 a week, we were now taking over £1000 each week, I must admit that company allowing us to open at lunch times made a big difference to the takings.
We also had a angling section the club rented a pool near Bradley, the angling club also held competitions on the RIVER TRENT, AVON , WEAVER, and THE RIVER SOAR.
Two five a side football teams represented Evode every week playing in a league in Stoke on Trent.
The name of Evode was always in the sports headlines in the local newspapers, with some twelve teams representing the company in the various local leagues, Evode club was becoming a popular venue for visiting teams, on many occasion we were told by the opposition we love coming to play at your club.
The golf society was also a very well supported section, regular visits to the Belfry, Hawkstone Park, Trentham Park, Ingrestre, and Stone Golf Club. We also had golf holidays at Tewksbury, Bournemouth. And the Isle of Man. The golf society also represented Evode in a Glue Pot Competition at the St PIERRE GOLF CLUB IN CHEPSTOW.
Other outside events included trips to the races, with Ladies day at Royal Ascot being the favourite, in second place Haydock Park. And a close third Uttoxeter.
The horse drawn barge from Norbury Junction, with a meal and entertainment on board, what a lovely evening.
Do you remember CONNIES KITCHEN, did you ever have one of her pies, she would spend all afternoon at home making pies to sell at the club on the following day, she never had any left for me. Customers come first she would say.
GIVE A TIDDLER AND SAVE A TODDLER. We filled a jar with donated ½ coins and then members paid 10p a go to guess the amount in the jar, we raised over £200 the money was sent to the SUN NEWSPAPER, in a campaign to save children from liver disease, and leukaemia, Howard Farmer (MASTICS) was almost correct with a guess of £28.77 the amount in the jar was £28.771/2 not bad eh.
The pantomimes ( oh what fun ) for us taking part that is , I think we enjoyed it more than the people who paid to come and see it, I do not know how Tony Parsons ( Evacor Director ) put with us especially me, if any panto is looking for a Widow Twankey look no further than Roy Ecclestone, he was very good , quite professional.
Trips abroad were also on the agenda, our first venture was to the Belgium Beer Festival to a place called Wieze. Our hotel was in Brussels, and apart from the beer we visited the ATOMIUM built in 1968 it is a structure of nine spheres, each with a diameter of 69ft and a total weight of 2200 tons, also a visit to see the little boy who is forever having a wee, and not to be missed a visit to the main square in Brussels lovely at night time.
Other places we visited included, IBIZA. BARCELONA. MARRBELLA.PARIS.GERMANY.AUSTRIA.SWITERLAND.and HOLLAND the bulb fields were fantastic, after returning home from a trip to the Munich Beer Festival I found out that we had made the headlines in the Stafford Newsletter, one of our party did not return to the pick up point after the festival, we had arranged for everyone to meet the coach for the return to our hotel outside Munich Station at 1.00am.
We waited for our missing passenger ( GRAHAM ANDREA. MASTICS ) 2.00am still no sign him so we made our way back to the hotel, all passengers had been told to remember the name and location of the hotel in case anything like this should happen, when we arrived at the hotel I had a lady in our party who could speak German, we were up most of the night making phone calls to try and locate our missing traveller, with no luck.
It was 5.00am when got to bed, we had to leave the hotel after breakfast for our journey home, well at breakfast we had a phone call from the German police they told us that Graham could not remember where he was staying so they put him on a train for Calais, his passport was still at the hotel. He made his back home without his passport, how he got through custom control I don’t know.
On the Monday morning back at Evode, Dr. Simon sent for me he wanted to know what had gone wrong during our trip to Germany, I told him the full story, how we had done everything possible to find Graham, but I did have 38 other passengers to consider. The Dr, seemed to be quite happy with my explanation, before I left him he said where did you stay in Germany, I told him a lovely place called Tegernsee, a big smile came over Dr. Simons face, he told me he had spent many happy times there with is wife, did you visit the bandstand on the hillside he asked, he told me that on one occasion he was there with is wife sitting on the grass listening to the band playing, and is wife told him off because he was smoking and had burnt a hole in his trousers, I felt very privileged that he had told me that little story.
On September 10th 1974 a party form the social club visited Littleton Colliery in Cannock, as we got into the cage to go underground I thought to myself what are you doing you have already done 15yrs of this. They let us down very gently, not like the days at Norton Colliery, they shut the gate ring the bell for the signal and bang you are gone, the Littleton shaft was 1000ft deep, we were taken to see the coalface which I think was quite a shock for most of the party, they were actually shot-firering while we were there the loud bangs made one or two jump.
I think we all enjoyed the children’s Christmas parties held in the canteen, the only problem was when one child said please can I go to the toilet they all wanted to go, the older children would visit the theatre in Wolverhampton.
The social club was doing quite well, support from members increasing all the time, a sponsored walk raised money to landscape the children’s play area and provide swings climbing frames, and picnic tables. The Sunday football under the guidance of Graham Turner were doing very well, and all the team players worked at Evode.
Other events that were a pleasure to be a part of were, Sports & Gala Days, Miss Evode Competitions, The Summer Dances, Visits to Theatres and Night Clubs, Social evenings with other clubs , Cheese and WINE Evenings, Coach Trips, Fancy Dress Parties. The Live Entertainment every week-end, it was so rewarding to see so many people enjoying themselves.
On Wednesday 27th February 1980 together with my wife, we were invited to attend a luncheon with H.R.H.PRINCE PHILIP THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH, at the Lensbury club, Teddington. A very proud moment to be representing Evode. in the presence of royalty.
The social club seems to get better and better as the years go by, and just when you think nothing can go wrong, we started to hear rumours that the club was in the way of a new warehouse that was going to be built.
Nothing we could say was going to alter the fact that the club was going to be demolished.
After a lot of negotiating with J.R Clarke Cash & Carry, they had premises opposite the club, and Taylor Woodrow, in St Albans Road, Mr. Liss played a big part in these negotiations, whereby we came to have a piece of land at rear of the Cash & Carry, and three site huts, and toilet units from Taylor Woodrow, we would not have been able to have these without the help of Peter Harrison ( I mentioned him earlier).
We got the land rent free and all the building units free, and after a lot of very hard work we turn ed then in to rather pleasant clubhouse, they provided us with short term solution, while the summer months were great the winter ones were a nightmare, we had to close the club for long periods in the winter because of frozen pipes.
We had come full circle we started with a damp and dismal place, moved into a beautiful clubhouse, and now we were back to square one.
We could not carry on any longer, I was made redundant, and the club closed in 1984.
I myself had also gone full circle I started as a licensee at the pub in Common Road, left Evode and became licensee of the New Plant Public House, in Chase Terrace, near Lichfield.
I shall always remember my days at Evode, all the people I met and all the happy times we had together, there is nothing more rewarding than to organise a event, see the members and friends turn up, and watch then enjoy themselves. That’s what I call job satisfaction.
I WISH I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.
JOHN GRAHAM JONESCheers