July 1962 having just completed a secretarial course at the Stafford College of Further Education I arrived at the Youth Employment Office, Foregate Street looking for work.
There was a vacancy for a Filing Clerk at Evode, Common Road (not quite what we’d been told to expect at ‘tech) but a job was a job and I needed one.
Where was Evode, being from out of town I only knew the area up to the Common to see a circus. Well I walked and walked and finally arrived.
I was interviewed by Mr. Stan Thomas company accountant, Mr. Knowles Personnel Manager being on holiday. The job was in the filing room, 8.30 a.m. To 5.30 p.m. With 5.0 p.m. Finish on a Friday. Good job, the last bus for Derrington on a Friday was 5.45 p.m. From Newport Road. The wage was 3 pounds 10 shillings a week and day release at Stafford College of Further Education was available. I accepted and would start next morning.
I walked back to town feeling pleased there was something to look forward to; catching the 7.20 a.m. bus to Stafford and the 7.45 a.m. bus to Evode each morning.
At 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday I was taken to meet Betty Weaver, a very friendly lady, who took all new juniors under her wing like a mother hen. Her husband Vincent worked elsewhere at Evode, and they were both members of the local operatic company. We all became patrons over the years was it to please Mrs. Weaver, or were we afraid to say ‘no’.
The job was interesting in many ways. We were to keep files up to date, there were hundreds of invoices coming in from accounts each day and others being returned from other departments. The latter being entered in a ‘sin book’. These entries were checked every day and the borrower reminded to return the invoice A.S.A.P. I met a very special lady in the filing room I called her a lady as I never knew her age she took care of the files for Dr Simon. No one ever failed to help Janet, as she was so cheerful.
Part of the duties of filing room juniors was to undertake factory journeys and lab journeys when incoming mail was taken hourly from building to building. My task was factory journeys, and I took a basket from department to department meeting many interesting people and seeing interesting things along the way. Being curious I asked about things as I went.
One department that reminded me of a beehive was the transport department, a long narrow office. The transport manager seemed to be constantly on the telephone, and lorry drivers were in and out with loading slips, not a place to linger.
The various machines and conveyor belts of the adhesives factory production line fascinated me, as the red and yellow boxes went in one end and came out of the other filled with a tube of ‘Evo-Stik’, the bread and butter you could say of the adhesives range. This little tube of adhesive was used in almost every home in the country, and F. W. Woolworth brought thousands, maybe millions of tubes. One person had the job of filing all the invoices from the various Woolworth branches, and ladies in sales records entered the details on the cards.
My curiosity got the better of me one day, part of the job was to open in-coming parcels, and a large light weight parcel was opened it contained some strange fluffy stuff packing perhaps and nothing else. The fluffy stuff was fibre insulation, and after a visit to Joan Ryan for some skin creams and bandages I carried on working.
After three months in the filing room, I was promoted to work under Mrs. Riddel on the post desk. This lady was very efficient and fair, and I missed her when she went to Cyprus with her husband who was in the R.A.F. At 16 M.U.
Here I was introduced to the photocopying machine, a Kodak machine with white and black paper that had to be stacked on top of each other through pinch rollers, in a water and chemical bath. What fun that was, especially on a freezing morning and no water in the pipes. This was even more worrying when the company directors or their secretaries wanted a quick copy. To me the copies were produced on this machine looked wet and grainy. What a thrill when the Rank Xerox machine was invented. From using a machine that stood on a table, there appeared this black powder eating monster. Many parts had to be cleaned carefully, including a glass drum and a ‘magic eye’. We used rayon wool and not cotton wool for this job. The toner powder needed replenishing daily, and it got very hot. A gentleman from Rank Xerox came and showed us how to use the monster and all went well apart from an odd paper jam when the machine got over-heated. Looking back I was one of the first people to use such a machine in 1964. Many years later Robert was to work at Cabot Corporation and dealt with this same black powder.
Another mechanical device was the Roneo duplicating machine, where ink is put in a drum and this squeezes through a felt pad. Plastic stencils are written on or typed on and these are fitted into slots on the drum, wrapped around and the handle turned to allow the ink to penetrate through the cut out sections of the stencil. Sounds simple, but oh no, if the typing was not deep enough the ink did not come through, too deep and the stencil fell apart. When all went well, it was just a matter of pressing the button, setting the dial and the correct number of copies would be made. This was not accounting for things like static electricity when paper sheets would leave the drum or stick to previous sheets making a pile of paper an inch thick behind the drum. Things did get better, and the Rank Xerox machine eliminated some of the work of the duplicating machine.
Every morning all staff on the post desk would have to take the days mail, sorted into various baskets to the offices of the managing director, Dr. H. Simon, Mr. J. Forman and Mr. B. Liss. You were summoned into Dr. Simon’s office with a series of light signals, I don’t think any of us got used to this routine every morning and night when the outgoing mail was inspected. With age and experience I learned that these gentlemen, who seemed so powerful and a world apart from the overall wearing men I’d met previously at Evode were very kind genuine people who would always give you a lift to when they saw you waiting for the Evode bus anywhere along the route.
Every evening mail was put into pigeonholes for the 200 plus representatives and area managers for the 4 divisions of the Company, Adhesives Mastics, Building Chemicals and Surface Coatings. At that time English Waxes was closed and the Twinstik production line in its place. The floor in that area was very slippery as you can imagine.
Every morning all the pigeonholes had to have addressed envelopes ready and waiting. Parcels had to be made each day too. After someone had franked all the envelopes of out going mail, it was my job and another persons to drag the mailbags down the back stairs. We were situated above a grand wood lined reception area with revolving doors, and the switchboard where we could see the operators doing whatever they did as well as sometimes knitting or were those long leads the telephone wires. We had to go through the main sales office before reaching the stairs going through the two double doors on the way. Sometimes the bags pushed you down the stairs other times it was easy. Occasionally a kind office boy would give you a hand. The sacks were put by the outside door, between the export and the contracts offices. These departments were both looked after by Don Ferguson, wearing various ‘hats’.
After 15 months, my friend Katherine Smith, whom I helped open the early morning mail with, along with Mr. Hollis from Transport and others, decided to join the army. Mrs. Carr a very efficient lady, who always made sure you knew what you had to do, interviewed me for a job in the Adhesive Sales Office. I had been going to day release at the Stafford College of Further Education, so at last I’d get to use a typewriter and practice the shorthand that had seemed so alien to me initially.
In this sales office environment I learnt about office duties answering the telephone and making messages understandable. I helped out in the card indexing section occasionally, and can remember what a tiring job it was, as you had to stand to reach some of the card trays. I typed letters etc., and sample orders for various adhesives and Twinstik rolls. These orders would go over to Mrs. L Cox in the factory who would make the various tins and tubes into parcels and sent to the dispatch department. My journeys around the factory meant that I knew where things went on.
Mrs. Cope who worked with me in the sales office left the area and went to live in Leek, so a new secretary to Mrs. Carr arrived. This lady was only about 5 ft. tall in her heels, but made up for it by sitting on her swivel chair and getting me to do her running. The tea trolley with Mrs. Barlow and Mrs. Carter had gone by this time, so I was also tea and coffee maker. A job I also did at the Area Health Authority some years later, either everyone liked my beverages, or did not want to make it themselves, I tend to think it was the latter. While working in the sales office I worked with a lady called Gillian Wilkinson, who became Gillian Johnson, she has died recently, but was one of those people who was liked by all who knew her, and has left many happy memories with those who knew her.
The new office block was built on the right side of the main building and these wood lined offices housed some of the managers for various departments. At this time Mrs. Beryl Heath came over to the office block, to become a liaison person for the licensees situated throughout the world. Mrs. Heath was a very well educated lady, and in hindsight reminded me of a photograph of Mrs. Thatched in the lab coat. Not that I knew anything of Mrs. Heath’s political views or anyone else's for that matter. Mr. Clive Beard and Mr. Brian Middleton from the Technical Services department used to come to see Mrs. Heath regularly and would talk to the sales people too. Before too long Mrs. Heath and her secretary moved over to the new offices.
Mr. George Corfield took her office space, he was involved in the taking and shipping of the orders. I then began to work part time for Mr. Corfield and also Mr. Middleton from the technical service department. Space was getting limited in the sales office and as the technical service office was in the factory area so it was decided that I could be of more use just working for Mr. Middleton. I moved over to the factory area, which was up the slope by first aid and then into an office and laboratory area with no outside doors or windows. I was surprised a few times to find a covering of snow on the ramp. Somewhere along the line Mr. Middleton went back into research and Mr. Colin Harvey arrived. What a change of personalities. Mr. Beard and Mr. Middleton were quiet gentlemen who worked with quiet efficiently, and all was well. Colin Harvey was outgoing people, who used to wear bow ties and even arrived on small-wheeled cycle or skies weather permitting. He certainly brightened things up, taking my friend Stephanie and I as far as The Greyhound at Yarlet Bank in his VW beetle, on his way home to lunch. We would have lemonade and walk back. Having 1½ hours for lunch in those days we had time to have a drink and return to work in plenty of time.
By 1966 the space in technical service became limited, the hot melt machines being there by now. In June 1967 we moved into the new Customer Service Department by the Vik factory. This move came on the same day as Mr. Geoff Richards left the lab to work for Evonor, the Norwegian Licensee. My Friend Stephanie had an office at one end of the building, working for Mr. C .W. Cooper in Vik Supplies and I was in the other. Mrs. Enid Wilkes, who in the 1940’s had been secretary to Dr. Simon at Glover Street, joined me later. Mrs. Wilkes worked for Mr. Jim Langford in the Licensee laboratory next door.
There were a few changes in the next 5 years, Hot Melt adhesive became popular for use in the manufacture of cabinet doors, where wood or plastic veneers were bonded to chipboard. These materials were fed into a machine with rollers and then left to cool. The adhesive was in a pot that was heated until it bubbled and there are a few people wearing their scars to this day as the adhesive splashed from the edge-veneering machine. I remember the smell was sometimes strong, and various laboratory people were experimenting most days.
Mr. Beard was promoted to the Evode Plant in Mississauga in Canada. I now know where this is, having been to Canada over the last few years. This must have been an upheaval for the Beard family, all six of them.
Mr. Maurice Chard then took Mr. Beards place and things continued as before with Mr. Harvey being the Flooring Products Manager. I’d never seen so many carpet and vinyl floor tiles. I was given a piece of blue carpet for the Concorde our little dog really dined in style after that.
It was an exciting time for the wallpaper trade as vinyl was being used to give a harder wearing product. We had our new offices wallpapered in one of the new materials from Storey Brothers, of course there was an Evode product on the reverse side.
Over the years I was lucky getting free trial goods, when working in the next office to Vik Supplies, Mr. C.W. Cooper supplied me with shoes trial size to test their wear ideal for all the walking about on factory trips etc. I have a glass fruit bowl in the cupboard at present, that had the chromium band bonded to the edge using a hot melt adhesive. I can remember John Gooch in Customer Service flocking hair onto Action Man heads, but I did not need any samples of them.
It was during this time I met my husband Robert, as he came backwards and forwards conducting trials using fiberglass strands. He seemed to get covered in the stuff. The project was only for a short time, and he carried on working in the main research laboratory.
After Evo-Stik 873 and others were going well in the flooring industry, Mr. Harvey left to work at Berger Paints. John Birtles then moved over in his place and things continued very much as they had always done.
One day I saw a job advertised on the notice board for a secretary to the Production Manager Mr. C. Cooper. I got the job and moved over to the offices above the Vik Factory quite a change after having big windows to see through. I was responsible for collecting production records from the various departments, so it was like doing factory journeys once again. These figures were then converted from gallons to litres or something like that. I only found this out when I sent the figures out when the Production Manager was on holiday. The job was interesting but contact with the outside world was less. One job I used to worry about was typing Ministry Forms for Mr. H. H. Taylor when his secretary was away. These had to be right first time as every form was numbered. I managed but went slowly to get the job done right.
As well as working for Evode I was also employed by Vik Supplies and did typing for Mr. Geoff Matthews. He had a way of dictating while driving down the M6 or writing reports on scrap paper and presenting you with roll of joined up sheets for typing. Both methods were a challenge at times. While in the production department I saw the workings of Mrs. Pitchers department the batch log office where recipes for all the products were kept and new ones typed. I learned to use the Banda machine where types masters all purple on the reverse are put on a drum and printed using a spirit fluid. Not as messy as the Roneo duplicating machine but the purple stuff was hard to remove from your skin.
After Mr. C. Cooper left I spent a while working in the Vik Supplies sales office with Mr. H. Longstaff typing orders and working out the VAT on toe puff materials. This was not as interesting to me as being where the action was so I started to look around for another job.
Over the 13 years I was at Evode I met some very interesting people and as a junior was shown a lot of generosity by management. The atmosphere was like a big family and you felt you knew everyone. Unfortunately this friendly atmosphere started to change as the old faces retired and new brooms came in.
On the whole I enjoyed most of the time and learnt about how to make things stick, and put my secretarial training to good use. I used my Post Office approved packing skills every Christmas having spent an evening at the Post Office sorting office in Newport Road Stafford while working on the Post Desk.
I hope that this is of interest and will show how times have changed between 1962 and 1975 for me at least. Many of the friends I made in those days still keep in touch every Christmas by mail or by telephone.
Having typed this using a computer I wish it had been available when I was starting on my secretarial journey I would have saved a few typing erasers and strips of correcting paper.