It was 1966 and I was working in the engine reconditioning department of Hough and Whitmore. I’d had a few jobs since leaving school and had foolishly turned my back on the chance of an apprenticeship in the motor trade. The money at Hough and Whitmore wasn’t very good and I was planning to get married.
Then my Dad, a fitter on the spares bench at Fieldings, told me there was a job going in the factory on Internal Transport. The money was quite a bit better than I was getting at Hough and Whitmore, so Dad arranged for me to have an interview.
On the day, I presented myself to Steve Chesman at the gate office. He was one of Fielding’s “characters” and, at some point in his life, had had an unfortunate accident and lost an arm.
I was interviewed by Sid Smart who was in charge of Internal Transport in the factory at that time. Sid was a really nice man, an ex-Gloucester Rugby player with huge shoulders and ears that could have only been acquired from time spent in a lot of scrums! He told me that the job entailed moving stuff around the factory using three-wheeled electric Brush trucks (scooters) and fork-lift trucks.
I can’t remember if I had a driving test or not but I was offered the job and I accepted. To be honest, I think that it was mine anyway before the interview because that was the way it was at Fieldings, very family orientated. There were a lot of fathers and sons working there, some fathers and daughters too.
Obviously those who were doing apprenticeships or who were skilled didn’t just get a job because they had a parent working there, they still had to have the educational qualifications plus the ability and aptitude for the job they were doing. For us lesser mortals however, there was a certain degree of nepotism working in our favour!
The Internal Transport Department
I started on 13 September 1966, presented myself at the factory, and was introduced to my mate, Archie Gould, who was the other scooter driver. Archie was quite a small man, liked a pint, and duly showed me the ropes.
The scooters and fork truck were kept on charge in a small building just down from the main Works’ entrance which also served as a workshop for the mechanic who looked after the company vans.
We were based in the gate office because that was where “the book” was kept! This was, in fact, a folder in which were request sheets for our services. Whatever needed transporting was written in this log by the various progress chasers, foremen, and fitters, and we, at some point, would duly oblige! We were given a lot of freedom and as long as the work was kept up with we were left to our own devices.
Tea urns, Wally Windridge, and cards in the Pipe Stores
One regular job that we had was a twice-daily trip up the stairs to the canteen to carry down the tea urns, trays of mugs, and food for the morning and afternoon tea break. These would be put onto the scooter and duly transported to the various Fitting Shops and the Fabrication Shop. Once there, they would be put onto stands ready for the tea ladies to serve as soon as the bell rang.
“I’ll always remember those mugs, yellow plastic, stained from years of canteen tea – probably wouldn’t allow them these days.”
We would always have our tea break with Wally Windridge, another character who stays in my memory. Wally used to run the Finished Work Store which was a large caged space by the canteen stairs where all the stock and special-machined finished work was stored. I believe that this was once an old stable block as there were still some of the old cobbles and small culverts that would have been used as drainage for waste.
Wally had been in the Royal Gloucester Hussars, had been at Dunkirk, done years in the TA, and had a wealth of stories. We used to go into the Pipe Stores to have our tea and play cards. We got caught more than once trying to finish a game after the bell had gone to start work again!
Pattern Stores and parcels
As well as moving stuff around the factory, we also used to go round to Merchants Road where there was a Pattern Store and down to the Sports’ Ground at Sudmeadow Road, Hempstead, where there was yet another Pattern Store. Occasionally, we’d go out to Sudmeadow Road to dump rubbish in what was Fielding and Platt’s own landfill site.
There was also the occasional trip out in the van to various places around Gloucester. More often than not up to the station with a “Red Star” parcel or crate (an express parcel service). This was to the old Midland Station where Asda now stands.
As time went on this van driving would extend further afield but more of that later…