During the same time that giant steps for Mankind were being made on the moon, I was taking my first steps through the gates of Evode on 21st July 1969. I was told not to report until 9.15a.m. to give people chance their get their hats and coats off, but this was a thin disguise to stop me discovering that on this, my first day some staff were late for the 9.a.m. start.
I started to work for Josephine Cattermole (later to become Jo Miller), in the Analytical Lab which was on the first floor of the Lab Block. We had one lab at the top of the stairs, and shared a second with the Tech Service Lab. There were 5 of us in the Lab; Jo Cattermole, Colin Moore, Glenys Davies, Linda Murry and yours truly.
Wearing the white overalls, or lab coats as they were known was very embarrassing to begin with, I felt so conspicuous and felt that everyone was looking at me. Armed with a notebook, pen and spatula that were to become the tools of my trade, in common with everyone else in the lab I would always put something in my top pocket which would fall out if one was to bend down for any reason.
Our main objectives in life were to analyse the following;
Most people arrived for work in those days by bus, motorcycle, push bike and the lucky ones had cars. Works buses with 'Evode Works' on the destination board would arrive at 4.30p.m. to take factory operatives into town, and at 5.00p.m. to take staff. Car parks were later enlarged and more and more people came by car.
After my first few weeks of work, all the new recruits and other suitable candidates were rounded up and vetted by Bernard Preece who in conjunction with the local College of Further Education decided which courses of further education we should attend on a day release basis. My employment with Evode almost came to an abrupt end shortly after starting college when a friend and I skived off one afternoon, missing a chemistry lesson to visit the local picture house to watch 'The prime of Miss Jean Brodie'. My absence was duly reported back to Evode, Luckily I was given a reprimand, and not the sack as I expected on hearing that I had been found out!!
Shortly after joining the Company came the so called 'Winter of discontent', there were interruptions to power supplies to both domestic and industrial. Electrical was rationed to industry, and we had power days and no power days. Saturday was a power day, so we had to work when the power was on and take a day off instead in the week when there was no power on.
On the domestic scene, power could go off at any time, so alternative sources of light were sought. The lab were not slow to put their minds into gear to solve the problem. Soon slabs of wax and string were finding their way into the lab and the air was scented with the smell of melting wax. Mastic cartridges were used as moulds, and coloured dyes were also used in the production of candles. It goes without saying that candles were far too dangerous to use on site, so they had to be taken home 'for experimental purposes'!!
Having been told of the dangers of highly flammable solvents, which were common in most areas of the Lab Block, it was surprising to see what took place in our shared lab with Tech Service. One of the Tech Service boys would be degreasing some substrates on one side of a work bench with highly flammable solvents, whilst on the other side of the same bench, Colin would be boiling test tubes of various things over a roaring Bunsen burner. He never did disappear in the predicted cloud of smoke!!
One scary moment in the mid 1970's is still fresh in my mind, I was in the lab with a colleague, and as usual I was being cheeky, this resulted in me being pinned up in the corner and roughed up a little, during this activity we became aware that we were being watched. The Doctor was standing in the doorway taking a keen interest in the proceedings. We were both red faced expecting the worse, but, thankfully the Doctor was in a good mood that day, and his main concern was his mistaken belief that a young lady was being mistreated, as long hair was the fashion then, he had mistaken me for a girl. On learning that I was not, he decided that things were O.K., and off he went with nothing more said!
One of my last memories of the Doctor was the Christmas dance at the Top of the World, a night spot in Stafford's town centre. The Doctor had decided to turn comedian, and armed with a sheaf of papers he stood up on the stage and proceeded to read jokes out with no emotion or timing, everyone laughed for whatever reason, and as usual we had a great evening out.
On return form holiday in 1978, I was told the sad news that the Doctor had passed on, no more were we to see his tours of the works, or him arriving for work in his Rolls Royce with 'HS 6666' number plates, with Stan the chauffeur at the wheel. His death seemed to mark an end of an era. Up to that point, turning in for work was not an effort or a chore, the atmosphere was always good humoured and people got on really well. A gradual change drifted in, the numbers of employees declined from somewhere around a thousand to about half that when I left in 1996. Barry Jackson the Technical Director was replaced in 1973 with Neil MacDonald, a very unpopular move. More changes were to follow after 15 years in the Analytical Lab I was on the move to the Quality Assurance Lab with Ken Hanlon.
Quality Assurance was a bit of a shock. Very different type of work, and tight deadlines to meet in order to keep production of automotive products rolling, and key raw materials to be tested. The lab was well away from the main Lab Block, next to the Stationary Stores and on the other side of the boiler House, which ran on coal at that time, the lab would be covered with smuts if the windows were opened. After only a couple of years, change was in the air for me again. I was to take on the Q.C. testing of the footwear and tapes production of the Coatings Factory, I remained in the Q.A. Lab, but had my own corner. Shortly after that I became the Works Technologist for the Coatings Factory.
Evode's purchase of Chamberlain Phipps, a large footwear components supplier brought more changes. The footwear range and machinery went to Chamberlain Phipps, and in return we took on the manufacture of Idenden Tapes from a small Chamberlain Phipps company in Westbury. The net result of these changes was to greatly reduce the manufacturing operation in the Coating Building. Our area later merged with Building Chemicals where, amongst other things Flashband was made.
In October 1996 I was told that there was no longer enough activity in my area to keep me on, so it was 'thank you and goodnight'!! After 27 years service, most of it happy, but as with most modern manufactures, the bottom line was the new Holy Grail; redundancies, belt tightening and cut backs in R & D.
The most notable occasion of my time with Evode was in 1987, most people cite a Royal in their divorce, I cite The Princess Royal as the cause for my marriage. During her visit to the warehouse I began talking to Carol Lake, a curvaceous lass from Quality Control with a nice smile, dirty laugh and dimples. In 1988 on her return from Egypt, I began dating her and after 6 months we were married and are living happily ever after. Another notable occasion was achieving 25 years service, and joining the 25 Year Club.