I originally came from Caldicot which is in between Chepstow and Gwent. I worked in a grocer/bakers shop and then I went into the army. When I came out I went back to work at the shop, but after my ventures in the army I felt shop work wasn't for me coal pits were closing down and trains were converting from steam to electric so I joined my brother who was a journeyman painter. He went round the RAF and army camps painting and decorating, he set me on when and I came to 16MU Stafford painting and camouflaging. We stayed at the Lamb Inn by the new Sainsburys store where the old Stafford town gas works used to be. The pub would give you your food then let the fire go out so that you'd go into the bar and spend money!
I met Irene Cartwright in the pub, she was friends with the daughter of the owner and would come to see her, one evening I went into the pantry to make myself a piccalilli sandwich and I called over to her "would you like a bite of my sandwich?!" And that's how we started We saw one another regularly as we couldn't really miss one another in the pub when she was visiting the daughter. I proposed to her while we were sitting on the wall of St Mary's church by the Bird in Hand. We married at St Marys church in 1950, we had our reception at Irenes house, but didn't go on honeymoon as Irene was looking after her mother. We didn't have a collection from work, they didn't do that then.
My contract at 16MU finished, Irene was working at the labs at Glover Street and mentioned to her father, Bert Cartwright, the security/boiler man at Evode Glover Street that I was looking for a job. So her dad had a word with Mr Peake to see if there were any vacancies going, next thing I had to go and see Mr Peak and was set on in the Paints Department. It was hard work, dusty, dirty and smelly but Evode was the best payer in Stafford at that time.
I spent some time at Glover Street on what we called the 'back-deck' where we made frost protectors which went into making airfields, the protectors had been invented by Dr Simon during the war and where still being used.
I used to make Melitol, it was made in a long trough with mixing arms for the powder, concrete and sealite, the product was in full time production.
Glover Street had a little room where we could have our tea, it was made for us in a large churn and we'd go and sit at long benches by an old table tennis table, I have no idea where the table came from! Lunchtimes, there was no canteen so we'd take our own sandwiches in. There was an old frying pan in the room and a gas ring ands some of the Poles would fry up meat and eat it with bread and a cup of tea. Some of the men took fish from the River Sow, Dennis Bentley would come into work and set his rods up on the river then start work and would go out now and again to check if he'd caught anything!
The flooding wasn't so bad when I was at Glover Street, it didn't come into the factory. If you went up Glover Street towards the Foregate, across the road was Kay's the hairdressers, Aslings pet food supplies (now further up Stone Road and owned by ex-Evodian, John Meacham) there was a chemist and then the pub, the Plume of Feathers, which had a picture of the Evode Pageant people on the wall. Further up the road was the Kings Head which wasn't a bad pub. Turning right out of Glover Street, past the Elephant and Castle was a pub we nicknamed 'The tub of blood'! There was a young chap there who'd play the piano and we'd all have a drink and a sing-song after work then a pint pot was passed round for a collection for the pianist. We never had any fights in those days. Dr Simon or John Forman never joined us.
Lunchtimes we'd go to the Lamb where I used to stay when painting at the 16MU, some of them would come back half tiddly, we'd go there at Christmas. Some came back drunk and Mr Peak had to give them a warning, but they did it again and didn't get back until after 3pm so they were sacked. Silly really.
At Christmas we went to the Swan Hotel for a dinner and dance, we even went to the Borough Hall where there was a dance held just for people from Evode. We got a bonus at Christmas, and Dr Simon would come round. He always did his rounds and would say "Good morning, what are you doing?" He didn't have a lot to do with us as he was more or less office bound. I don't remember ever seeing Mrs Simon at the factory, (I only saw her at the Christmas do's), but the daughters came round, and Dr Simon used to bring Andrew into the factory, there were two triple roll mills run by old belts and young Andrew would come and watch what I was doing, he was quite interested but I had to be careful he didn't touch anything!
There was Taylor's the bakers where we could get cream cakes, and there was a little grocery shop in Glover Street where they had crates of Tizer and lemonade. I don't remember the tin palace in Glover Street, but I remember the Sandonia, Picture House, and the Odeon.
The pageants, I remember they dressed up as Indians, Dennis Bentley was always in on it, he worked on the back deck at Glover Street making the frost protectives.
John Richardson and Irene worked in the labs at Glover Street and the materials were located in outside compounds in 45 gallon drums. Evo-Cure for example, it could be painted on old concrete to key new concrete onto it. One day they went to get a sample, John opened the big bung while Irene opened the smaller air bung, but she opened too far and the material came out all over John's trousers, it was like treacle. He came into the factory in such a mess, so Irene wiped most of it off and he then had to take his trousers off and had his legs wiped with white spirits. When he was dry I had to find him some old overalls, don't forget that John was over 6' high and the overalls were half way up his legs, he had to go home like that!! I said to John "Don't worry about your trousers I'll wash them is white spirit then Teepol (liquid soap which came in big barrels, which the doctor used at home) then I'll put them through the mill just like a mangle" They came through shredded to bits, just like paper!
Another paint job we had on the triple roll mill; we had a chap called Stan Alberda, a very conscientious chap who never moved from his job. We had to make a batch, an experimental Epoxy type 23 two part which was made with a very strong solvent, heavy naphtha or xylene. We premixed it for Stan then set the mill going with the instructions that, as it was perfect, let it through and don't touch anything at all. So as it was going through and passed its dispersion test, there was a door close to Stans machine and I told him to stand by it and get some fresh air while I went up to the lab to have my stuff checked.
When I came down poor Stan was wandering round half drunk, he'd wound the mill to tight so I had to stop the machine and had to get Mr Peake. Mr Peake said I had to take Stan to hospital, which was just up the road. Stan was very short and quite chubby, I managed to walk with him holding him upright as we stumbled along, rolling from side to side. As soon as we turned left out of Glover Street the police came along, of course the police car stopped they got out and thought we were both drunk! After they saw where we were going they got us to the hospital.
The nurses came out and we explained what had happened, I told them he'd been overcome by the fumes, he hadn't drunk anything. They said they'd keep him in and give him a stomach pump. They poured stuff down the tube, when they went off I was left pouring liquid down the tube but of course there was nothing to pump out, it was just the fumes. They kept him in overnight as a precaution.
When I got back to the factory it was about 8pm. Vin Weaver the engineer in charge had to find some transport so I could go to Seighford and tell Stan's wife what had happened. I found out where she lived and when she came to the door I was there for a good five minutes trying to tell her what had happened, and where poor Stan was. But Mrs Halberda couldn't speak a word of English so I had to race around trying to find someone to translate. There was no post-mortem the next day when I got to work!
I was there when the company moved from Glover Street to Common Road, I was involved with the move, I shouldn't have really as I didn't have a licence to drive the big wagons, but we did it anyway. The majority of the stuff had been taken up and over the next three days we bought the remaining bits and pieces up. We'd walked past the new factory whilst it was being built, just to see how it was going on, but when me moved in we thought it was a palace. When we'd moved it was all action getting things we'd bought up sorted out and into place and getting production going. Glover Street was still in production while we moved.
English Waxes had been going for a long time at Glover Street I never got involved with that or with the polish, I just did paints. We did water based distemper, Chlorinated rubber paint, paint remover coloured bitumen, which could be painted over with other paints, this was made for Mangers Brothers, different solvent mixes and red lead. Red lead would get everywhere, when the powder was poured from the bags into the mixers great clouds of it would fly everywhere and you just couldn't see the mixer The only extraction then for the powder called Aerosil which was lighter than talcum powder, the mixer went round and round as you put Aerosil in, but as soon as you put the extractor on 'whoosh' it was gone, the light powder was sucked out through the extractor, so you couldn't turn the extractor on!!
The hours didn't change when we moved to Common Road, we worked from 7.30 until 6pm and on Saturday mornings too, that was the weekly hours in production.
I used to do a lot of painting and decorating for Barrie Liss at his house on Newport Road. He had a babysitter for his young children but she was courting so I would look after the children while she sneaked out to be with her boyfriend, I'm amazed he never commented on how little work I did those days!! I also used to do painting for the Bostocks, Lotus weren't so involved with Evode by then I used to go to Tixall and paint at Godfrey Bostocks farm after we'd finished work and the weather was good.
I took early retirement in November 1985 and early in 1986 started part time with Social Services. At first I was casually employed delivering meals on wheels and later full time as a carer/ambulance driver at Northfileds Day Centre. The wrok was demanding but I enjoyed it and when I retired in 1995 the staff and clients gave me a wonderful send off, doing a 'This is Your Life’ I can't tell you what I do now, something always to be done including enjoying the company of out 4 year old great-grand daughter, Rosie, we're always on the go, something always to be done, then in the late afternoon we put the kettle on and have a cup of tea and watch the quizzes on TV. It's true what they say, you wonder how you had the time to go to work!!