Ron Matthews

Originally I came from Sudbury in East Anglia, I was born in April 1923. I volunteered in 1942 and was eventually stationed in Stafford, but before that I was stationed in Egypt during 1944 at Helwan (called ‘Hell One’ by some!!) After 12 months in Egypt I went to Palestine, then I was stationed in Jerusalem, there was the old part and the new part, I was in the old part. I was also stationed in Tel Aviv, I was there in 1945 when the King David Hotel was blown up by terrorists.

In 1943 I was stationed at Stafford at No. 3 site. I met Gwen in the town whilst walking in town when I was off duty, a lot of girls met RAF lads whilst walking in the town. Gwen was working at Lotus at the time and later went to work at RAF Stafford at No 6 site. I was then demobbed at Kirkham in near Preston in Lancashire in October 196. They had double summertime then and it went dark about 5.30 pm.

Gwen and I got married in 1947 at Christchurch, which was opposite Glover Street, then in 1948 we went to live with my parents in Sudbury, but in 1958 we came back to Stafford. I thought I would have a change. Sudbury was very agricultural, there were a lot of silk farms there but the money wasn’t good, at the time I was working for the council as a GBA (General Bugger About!).

I went to the Labour Exchange and they sent me to Evode on 17 April 1957, 3 days before my birthday. After a couple of days I went to Glover Street for a day or so helping someone fill out tins I wasn’t there long then I went back to Common Road. There was just the offices at the front, 2 huts, and one part was the adhesives where Alf Burton worked as Foreman with Cyril Roberts. Further down was the stores with resins and powders. In the churn room was Eddie Newman where he worked with a few girls. There was a house where Jack Hesp lived with his wife and kids. Myra was in the polish office, Terry Begley and Harold Cox worked in the polish factory. Elsie Godwin worked in the adhesives along side Lil Cox who then moved to samples, Elsie used to work in the polish with Reg Moseley. They used to move people around in those days. Elsie’s husband would bring her to work on his motor cycle, and then she’s get a lift home with Les Davies. Reiner made polish, but later he worked on the incinerator where he had a little hut with all his photos, Jonny the Pole (Sandolewicz) worked there too. There were other Poles, Ted and Big Dan Wojtulewicz, Mike Jegalowski and Frank Szupac, and the Italian brothers Dominic and Alfie Dellacompagni.

The other part of the adhesives was the stores where Billy Bawn, George Haywood, and Tommy Powell worked, and Bob Dunne he packed the Export.

Further up was Evacor, and when they got rid of the polish to Kiwi then came the varnish, but they had started building the varnish. Jack Thompson used to make the tea in the canteen, this was a hut where we all went in the morning, it was all free. I can still picture Eddie Newman pushing the barrels up the ramp!. The nurse had a little place in the factory.

The engineers was the next place where Tom Bates, Vin Weaver (Foreman) and Lionel Curry worked, Lionels wife, June came to work there, she lived down Co-operative street with Lionel.

Agie Gough worked with George Hall and Joe Birch making Mellitol and Portite. Peter Gregory also worked with them, he lived in Co-operative Street and Tommy Ecclestone who also worked at Evode, was his father in law. There was Len Williams, Reg Moseley’s son in law, and Evan ‘Taffy’ Winters who worked in the paints. Keith Bailey came, and there was Sam Shelley who lived on the Common Road, he was the first aid man, he used to shake as he put a plaster on you!! Graham Turner’s dad lived on Common Road too, he worked at Evode, then Graham came too. There was Alan Smith, Roy Ecclestone, Ron and John Johnson, Don Ferguson, Dennis Follows, he ran the social, Mary Follows who was a Forewoman. The Fellows have just won a lot of money on the football, thousands!! They were in the paper.

I can remember they used to test the fire alarms at 11 am. They’d give it out over the Tannoy, then they would play some music. Elias Peake worked in the adhesives, pacing up and down. He kept the strictness, didn’t need unions then, we all knew what we had to do. John Forman would come round the factory, and the Doctor too, he came round more times than anyone. His son Andrew came in, but only came round the factory once or twice. Then Mr Liss came. Men would work from 7 in the morning until 6, women would work 8 till 5.30 then the cleaners would come in. Every month we had a ration of polish which was nice, but that stopped when the polish was sold to Kiwi.

We made 528, 873,863 and Richafix, I worked in the factory on the Baker Perkins machine, Kath Crutchley came, then Charlie Grant and Les Davies, his wife Brenda and their son Keith who worked in samples. Brenda’s brother, Clive Davey, also worked there, he came from Glover Street.

I filled out containers and put clips on them, Jack Butler used to work in the factory too, but went on to security with a uniform and a hat. Cliff Stanley was the fireman and his wife, Joan, worked in the offices. There was Pat Collins who lived on the Stone Road, and Pauline Constantine who was a supervisor.

I worked on the machine in the adhesive with Arthur Lake clipping the tins (Arthur’s wife worked at Evode too) there was also a young girl Beryl, whose husband worked at the waterworks, Val Stanyer and another girl, we all worked on this machine. I remember visitors used to come round the factory. I went to Tunstall in the Potteries to Richard’s Tiles with Tim Taylor and Brian Thomas, we went in the car to fill stuff out, I think it was reprocessing work.

On Thursdays they would bring the wages round, in the afternoon about 3.30 pm. Mr Dale was in the wages office and Reg Moseley would collect the wage packets and bring them round. They had sports and social dances at the Borough Hall, Gwen and I went once. There was a sports and social club in Mount Street and we went there once.

There was a canteen staffed by Margo who was German, when they opened the new canteen we had to start paying for our tea and dinner, but it was nice. I can remember Chrissie Hamner, Jenny, Sheila and Dorothy Middleton who did the tins and packed them. Alf Burton worked upstairs. Ray Allsop was in charge of the stores up in the hanger. Metal Box would come in with containers and we’d put them into stores with flat trucks, and they got bigger they employed more people. The Midland Red buses used to come up to Evode in the mornings and at lunchtime, they would turn round in the factory entrance.

Dorothy Barton worked in samples. Ruth Buckley who lived on the first house on Common Road worked in the cleaners. John Sprawle, who was very nice, but you couldn’t understand him as he was very Irish, so was his wife, he worked with Ray Allsop. Jim Parson came to Evode and he worked with Reiner, Arthur Lake worked in the warehouse with his brother and Larry, Bob Longden who did all sorts and ended up on export packing. There was the Doctors gardener Frank Harris who started off in the factory and Stan Simms was the Doctors Chauffeur. Once when I came out of the factory at lunchtime and Dr Simon offered me a lift, if I hadn’t got my overalls on I would have gone, but I said “No thank you Doctor, I don’t have far to go” He was very nice, a real gent. I used to sweep up and then go and help Len Williams do all the cartons as they came in. I used to sweep up outside the Vik where Malcolm Simpson worked.

I happened to see the Doctor at Stafford railway station once and he came to speak to me. He travelled first class, Stan had driven him to the station. The Doctor asked where Gwen and I were going, we were going back to Sudbury. We were riding on the bosses train! We saw him get off at London.

I can also remember Arthur ‘Taggy’ Greatholder the driver, Bill Weaver, Harry Burton the electrician, Dave Quick the fitter, he did 25 years, Lionel Fletcher the union man, Ron Price, Steve Downes, another union man, Dennis Bruce who has not long died, Sam Ravenscroft, Ian Evans, - he used to wear a boiler suit and never did it up, he wore no shirt or vest, just the hairs on his chest! Ray Massey who worked in paints with Taffy, Stan Spalek, Dave Mellor and Tommy Johnson.

I liked working at Evode, the bosses were good. Dr Simon and Barrie Liss were real gentlemen. One thing about Elias Peake, if you did something wrong he wouldn’t tell you there and then he would tell you the next day. I remember him calling Les “A silly boy” I don’t recall being told off!

Gwen and I lived in a flat in Silkmore Lane, but in 1972 we moved to 99 Woodlands Road, I preferred the North end of town. I did 28 years at Evode, I left in 1985. They had a collection for me in the factory, Ivan Evans left at the same time, - he didn’t do 25 years, we retired, well I finished early at 62, I may as well finish early I had 3 years to go. My presentation was in the factory, Don Bradley was there and Noel Bevans did the presentation, they gave me a cheque. I also had a Panasonic radio from Evode when I retired which I enjoy listening to as we do not have a television,. I felt sad when I left but everyone has to go eventually. When I retired Gwen and I were invited for dinner at the Forman's canteen upstairs which was very nice, they said we could walk round the factory which was nice for Gwen I went to Tillington Hall for their 25 year club, then it was at Eaton Lodge and also at Newcastle under Lyme. This year it is at the Universal at Stafford.

I play cards, mainly patience to keep my mind active, and I can do card tricks, it’s all mathematical. I used to enjoy a flutter on the horses with George Haywood when I was at Evode. These days Gwen takes the bet down for me as I can’t get down there.

26 April 2001