It was a dull September morning 1959, I was to report to a man called Elias Peak, grey haired gentleman, small, but as I was to find out, a real character. He was firm but fair, knew his stuff and was a real 'man management person'. Knew his staff and everyone respected him, he was one good guy, - couldn't pull the wool over his eyes!
I stood at his door and the past flashed through my mind, the land that Evode had been built on used to be my playground. Trees, valleys, and old brick works site, plenty of kiln tunnels to run round - ideal for hide and seek.
I was born in the Common Road houses that run down to Evode. They originally belonged to the I.C.I. work force, the Salt Works as it was known, my father was the Manager when it closed down. Some of the workers became Evode workers.
The house was the first thing to be built, this was for the Works Manager, Mr Jack Hesp and his wife Barbara, three children and Garth the bulldog. I used to play with the children and Garth, he had to come everywhere with us. We were once playing in the office block, it was only half built, riding our bikes through the semi-wet cement after the builders had gone home, we heard Jack Hesp shouting Garth, he was with us covered in wet cement - but on hearing his masters voice shot out of one of the part constructed windows onto the scaffolding and jumped down from the top of the unfinished first storey. Bulldogs, as you know, only have only short legs, so they were not much help when he hit the ground, SPLAT!! He didn't move. We ran down, what a state he was in, one slightly flattened bulldog, fractured jaw, broken leg and ribs, but he was a fighter. After a couple of weeks in wards 7, 8 and 9 of the local vets he made a full recovery, but was banned from being one of the gang, I think that hurt him more than the injuries he'd suffered. We had to creep out without him knowing, but he was allowed to come and find us when it was time for dinner or tea, and we were banned from playing in the offices. So we turned out attention to the area that was known as the tip, a dumping ground for waste, there was a big pond there, the workmen built us a big raft made up of 200 litre drums and pallets lashed together, that was great!! We spent hours on that raft, but as the ground was reclaimed the pond disappeared, so it was back to hide and seek with what bit of brickwork buildings were left.
Saying his house was in the middle of a building site, Mr Hesp laid a nice lawn at the front and a vegetable garden at the back. He took a lot of pride in his garden. Anthony and Rodney, Mr Hesp's sons had been quarrelling, so they were for misbehaving told to weed the vegetable garden, so away we went, the sooner we did the weeding, the quicker we could go playing again. But none of us knew the difference between weeds and young carrots, spring onions and lettuce peeping through the soil, the lot went into the tub he had given us for the job, Anthony and Rodney were confined to barracks for two weeks, so it was jigsaws, painting and trying to be nice to Mr Hesp for a couple of weeks, but Mr and Mrs Hesp were very nice people.
Mr Peake looked up "Hello young man" he said, "come with me" I finished up with a little chap 5ft. high and 5ft. round, a right little tubby chap, very pleasant and straight as a die, I worked with Mr Fred Birch on the Halstead Extruders, the bulk sealing strip was brought to us in 200 litre open top drums like lumps of dough, so with Fred being small and of a roundish build, when he got to the bottom third of the 200 litre drum, he used to prop it up at the back on a piece of wood so he could reach to the bottom, one day it slipped off the wood, I heard the bump and turned to see Fred's little legs sticking out of the drum. He'd fell in and was well stuck, it took four of us to get him out, he was rolling round the floor like something out of a comic strip, I firmly believe he thinks I pushed him in, but he was more concerned that his bag of humbugs had burst in his pocket and were scattered all over the place, but he washed and dried them, - so all wasn't lost !!
You can't keep getting married quiet, and didn't I soon find out!! I was well and truly got, - imagine 20 young ladies armed with cream cakes, lard, butter and worst of all red floor tile polish. The cream cakes, lard and butter finished up all over me, in my hair, everywhere, mixed with copious amounts of talcum powder. I smelt like a pole cat - Where the red floor tile polish finished up well I darn't say!! Mr Peake came to my rescue, and let me go home early. I walked up the road carrying my coat covered in balloons and naughty notes, and, hoping I could get cleaned up before my mother saw me, getting the red polish off was a bit painful, but they were great work mates and the wedding presents were fantastic.
The main Adhesive building sank 18 inches when it was first built, the walls were virtually sand between the bricks, so if anything did go bang, the main structure would remain and the walls blow. The east side wall of the Coatings Building blew down completely on one bright and breezy day. There were a few red faces that day, the building inspector was on site OOP's!!!
I moved from the Extruder Section to the Mixing Department actually making the sealing strip for the extruders. You had to melt wax with polythene beads to go into the mixer, this was done outside behind a shed with the wax and polybeads in a 25 litre drum standing on house bricks, and a flame gun. It was a wet snowy cold December morning, I was wrapped up, you could only see my eyes, but it was freezing cold. The shed was close to the canteen hut, and old Jack, bless him, shouted "Come and have a cup of tea it will warm you up, the wax will be alright, prop the flame gun up underneath the drum." I did, but it fell off the brick I'd put it on. Luckily someone spotted it and the shed just got a good scorching, and I lay low for the next few days but nobody dropped me in it and being the back of the shed, not many bosses went round there, Phew! I'd still got a job, and the laboratory lads had still got a shed to work in.
I said Mr Peake was a real character. We used to hold the Xmas dance at Stafford's Borough Hall., everyone would attend. This displayed the family feeling that ran through the Company, all good people work together. Mr Peake stood at the bar - "The drinks are on me!" he said, those who heard him soon replenished their glasses. Then it came to paying, Mr Peake had disappeared! Only one answer, we all chipped in to pay up, but no-one minded. He was respected by every-one. So was Dr. Simon, Barrie Liss and John Forman. They cared about the work force, and respected them. The feeling was that of one big happy family.
A fine young man came into the Polish Despatch Department one morning "May I have a tin of black shoe polish please!!"
"You don't want a tin of this" said Terry the Despatch Chap, "buy some good polish"
"Oh," said the young man "I don't think my father would agree with that". Yes, the young man was Doctors Simon's son, Andrew, Terry had disappeared into a hole in the ground, but Andrew realised he was joking, and all was well that ended well!! It was a good product, I wish I had a penny for every lid I had put on the polish tins, - thousands and thousands of them!
The Bitumen Department was 99% Polish People, very hard working. Names like Bogdan, Smiley, Stachio, Ted Wojtulewicz still ring round the department these days. The standing joke was that the Company had put an advertisement in the local paper for 'Polish Workers' and finished up with 20 Polish people!!
"I would like you to go and work up in the Bitumen Department" Mr Peake told me one day. So off I went, it didn't worry me as some of the men had worked under my father at the I.C.I. Salt Works, they used to call me 'Young Jos', my fathers name was Joshua. After the first week Mr Peake asked me how it was going my reply was alright, but they speak a lot of Polish, and it's a bit difficult to understand. "Don't worry" he said. The following day he returned with a piece of paper in his hand. He had taken the time to write me some everyday words in Polish, and the translation into English. "The ones on the back first" he said "You will use them more than those on the front" Ted Wojtulewicz the boss burst out laughing, and they both went away. I soon learnt the words on the back were swear words, what a laugh that caused in the Bitumen Department, but I got on well with those people, a great set of lads.
I reckon I've gone the full circle, and seen both sides of the coin. I started on the Shop Floor, progressed to Charge hand, Leading Hand then Foremen, then Supervisor, then Senior Supervisor - Then Shift Supervisor and Shift Manager. Now I work as a Team Leader in the Coatings Department. I'm nearly back where I started, (better keep away from flame guns, or I might be!! Good job we don't use the anymore!)
Over the years I have worked in all the Departments, I am now in my 40th year with Evode and proud of it. There are still a few people who have notched up a few more years than I have, which reflects the bond between themselves, true Evodians. As the years roll by there will always be change, you cannot stand still in this day and age. But here are many people still there who remember Evode as it was 30 years ago, and I firmly believe that although we now belong to someone else the remaining Evodians still work for Dr. Simon and his family, and the feeling of well being that surged through the Company in those early days.