Stewart (Sutty) Sutton.
Sutty’s Ditchburn Story and More. By Stewart “Sutty” Sutton
After starting work at Ditchburn’s, I realised that this was the normal factory shop-floor banter of the day and as I sat and remembered it all, I found that it was this cross talk and banter that I seemed to remember foremost in my mind. I was even chuckling quietly to myself as I wrote down these memories, so I've decided to share these memories in that same manner. I can only hope you have a little chuckle as well. When I started to think about how to put this rather bawdy language down on paper without causing offense this put me in a bit of a quandary, I wondered how it would look to a reader, I found that as I'm thinking about my time at Ditchburn’s and what to write about, much of the strong memories, that my young 15/16/17 year old post pubic brain remembers, happens to include the sexual banter between the sexes and the amusing situations they led to, so I decided to see if I could write it like it was, omitting the expletives of course, leaving them to your imagination! Having just moved to Lancashire just before I started work, that in general I found the Lancastrian working folk, extremely friendly, funny and forthright. They were straight as a die, calling a spade a spade, take it, or leave it! Then, when you added to this, a fair old sprinkling of "good old Anglo Saxon", it made the already amusing situations, even funnier!
This article was sent to us by Stewart Sutton, after he had read the article by Arthur Phillips in this section of the website, this prompted “Sutty” (as he was affectionately known) to write his own story of his time at the Ditchburn factory in Lytham, its a great and humorous tale of working at the Lytham factory, and the wonderful characters and people that he worked with, and many times whilst reading this it had me laughing out loud, working at Ditchburn also helped Sutty steer his career into show business which allowed him to travel on Cruise ships and entertain people all over the the world. Enjoy this wonderful insight into the Ditchburn Factory at Lytham and Sutty’s venture into show business.
MY TIME SPENT AT DITCHBURN VENDING MACHINES, DOCK ROAD, LYTHAM My name is Stewart “Sutty” Sutton, I was mentioned in an article on this website written by Arthur Phillips, about his time working in Ditchburn’s Vending Machines Dock Rd, Lytham, Lancashire, from 1963 until he left ten years later in 1973. These are my memories of working at Ditchburn’s, from when I left school in 1959 until 1963, when, for about three years I worked as an electrician wiring houses on building sites. I then went back to Ditchburn’s again in 1967 for a short time, before finally leaving in 1968. This account of my time at Ditchburn’s are memories told through the eyes of a 15 to 19 year old, and should be taken as such. When I first arrived in Ditchburn’s, I was a quiet 15 year old, just out of school, quite small in stature, due to suffering from bronchial asthma for most of my life, most certainly I was immature and unworldly, to say the least, By that I mean, that I was quite shocked by the attitudes of the adult male and female factory workers towards each other when speaking and joking about things, especially sexual matters. There was also the prolific use, of old “Anglo Saxon" words, used by the men amongst themselves as an adjective for ALL scenarios, including tools, people and places they've been etc. In fact, practically in every sentence that came out of their mouths, tee-hee !
Photo Ref: DB360 Courtesy of Stewart Sutton, Me in the electrical Department in 1963, just before I left to go house bashing!
Because of this, I've decided include a few milder swear words where necessary, to try to give the reader a true picture of what factory life was like in post war late 1950s early 60s Britain. I hope you find them as amusing as I did, as I slowly extracted them from my 75-year-old brain. I found that with each new memory, a new face appeared and with it of course, another very amusing new memory. When I started in 1959, it was only 14 years since these working men and women came back from the greatest war in mankind’s history so please also bear in mind, that the post WW2 world in 1959/60/61 and 62 was vastly different to today. It was a man’s world and they were still using the same language they’d used as they fought on front lines of WW2! They were what I call, when I look back, pre-everything days, Pre-contraceptive pill, pre-Beatles, pre-miniskirt, in fact, lacking in all of the things that made the "Swinging Sixties" swing! In fact, all the things that we take for granted today! I hope you enjoy my memories of my early Ditchburn years, as much as I did, slowly extracting from my dim distant past.
So off we jolly well go… I was what they called a "forces child" because my father was in the R.A.F. He joined, circa 1939 and left in 1961, 22 years later. This meant that my schooling was, to say the least, fractured, meaning that every two years he was posted to a different R.A.F. base, so literally, every two years I attended a different school. His final posting was to R.A.F. Warton, a small village just outside of Lytham in Lancashire. The estate was called Harbour Lane and right across the road was a B.A.C airfield and testing area for the Lightning P1B, a cutting edge supersonic fighter aircraft of the time that could fly at twice the speed of sound, +/- 1600mph, which was Mach 2, using a new super charged method of thrust called "afterburn", which consisted of pumping jet fuel directly into the red-hot emissions from the jet engines after take-off, giving huge extra thrust, acting more like a rocket than a jet engine! My father was a servicing engineer working on these for the R.A.F. in the large B.A.C. factory in Preston Lancs. I did my last 15 or so months of schooling a Kirkham Carr-Hill, which was a brand new secondary modern school on the outskirts of Kirkham, situated on the Frecleton road. Because of my fractured schooling, and also the fact that I was a very sickly child suffering from bronchial asthma for most of my school days, I also missed a great deal of lessons, therefore had no qualifications when I left school, after the summer holidays in 1959. (that’s my excuse and I'm sticking to it) Therefore, factory work seemed the only option. In that year, I think there was also a recession on at the time in the U.K. and none of the factories were hiring, so after the seven weeks summer holidays, my father actually got the Carr-Hill school to let me return and continue for the last term. When I left again, a term later, I found myself in Dock Rd Lytham, with my mum and dad, going from factory to factory, which were mostly like small family run businesses. We simply asked each one if they were taking on any apprentices, or trainees.
MY FIRST INTERVIEWS I remember the first factory that offered me a job was a welding firm, but as we were going around, we noticed a sort of blue haze in the air and a strong smell of oil and diesel, my chest started to react to the fumes, and I tried to clear my throat, I eventually started to cough, Instantly, my mother said, "Come along Joseph, he can't work here, he'll be ill in no time"! Further down, there was an ice cream factory, which I think was called Eldorado Ice Cream, but I can't be sure? This was lovely and clean, but they'd just hired a young guy a week or two earlier so nothing there for me. There was also a fairly large factory called “Mullard”, they made electronic valves, which were used in every form of radios, televisions, amplifiers and every other type of electronic appliance (including the Ditchburn Jukeboxes) No luck there, because although it was nice and clean, nearly all of their staff were young female school leavers. I might add, that a few years later, the transistor replaced the valve and in a very short time their business started to decline when cheap imports of Japanese imported solid state electronic goods, flooded into Britain. Eventually, at the bottom of the road we saw a larger factory with "Ditchburn Music Maker" on a big sign. As we entered the nice clean reception area, I noticed pictures on the walls of "Wurlitzer Juke Boxes" which were from the U.S.A. and were the latest craze in the cafes and coffee bars, playing all the latest pop records. My mum and dad thought how clean it was and our hopes were very high. The pretty young receptionist, said in conversation, that she thought there may something available for me, and told us about how well the Juke Boxes were selling and how great it was that staff got very cheap pop records. After the service engineers periodically updated the machines, they brought back the older hits, which were then, of course, worthless to anyone, so staff could buy them at a huge discount. I started getting quite excited by this prospect of cheap records, however, when she enquired about the job, she was told the Music Maker side didn't need any one at this time, but, Ditchburn Vending Machines did.
She informed us that Ditchburn’s had just obtained a licence from an American company, to manufacture and distribute these cutting edge hot and cold drink machines in the UK and that someone was coming to see us. in a few minutes, A man in a white boiler suit came in and introduced himself as Harry Barber, the foreman in charge of the small team making automatic vending machines, selling coffee, tea and chocolate in offices, factories etc. During his sales pitch, he said that the old char, or tea ladies’ jobs, would soon be obsolete due to these machines. The automatic tea coffee and chocolate machines called a "Hotspa" and the cold drink machine called the "Coldspa", selling cola, lemonade, and orangeade, would both soon replace the tea ladies in most factories and offices in no time at all. Harry Barber told us, that a young lad called Barry, who had only been there for a short time, decided to join the R.A.F. and his call up had come through quicker than expected, so the job was mine if I wanted it. My dad asked what I would be trained as, and was told that I would have extensive electrical experience in circuitry and wiring diagrams and would also be qualified in refrigeration engineering. We shook hands and I started soon afterwards.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF FACTORY LIFE I was employed initially on the production line, which assembled the coffee tea and hot chocolate vending machines. The single man on the production line that I worked with assembling all the components into the cabinets, was called Neville. I can't remember his other name. I think we turned out 3 or 4 machines a day, which when completed, were rolled around to the inspection bay, where a little tubby electrician called Eddie Clegg, (Cleggy), as we called him, made sure they worked correctly, and did the final tune up making them ready for sales and final delivery to customers. My one memory of Cleggy, was one that taught me a very serious lesson about working with moving machinery in a factory, and what appropriate clothes to wear during work hours. Eddie had come over to the production line and told us that we hadn't drilled a certain hole in a bracket. He told us not to worry, he'd do it and proceeded to put the bit into the drill and started drilling. All of a sudden, the electric drill snatched as it bit into the metal, and flew from his hands! Still going full speed, the momentum made the drill start to spin on the deck top! In the blink of an eye the quite large bit in the drill, grabbed Eddies tie, which was red in colour. As the tie wound around the drill bit, it was pulled upwards, towards Eddie's stomach and chest and still spinning very fast, heading upwards towards Eddies throat, Bits of red were flying everywhere, which we all thought was Eddie's flesh, Eddie just grabbed the drill in time and yanked it away from himself, When we found out it was only his tie, we all gave out a few nervous chuckles, as did Eddie himself, He looked down at the shredded tie, looked up, and said the a rue smile, "Anyone got a pair of scissors, I never did like this bloody tie anyhow". That sort of broke the ice and we all had a bit of a nervous laugh about something that could've been far more serious, Cleggy held the tattered ends and with a swift snip, cut off it off, leaving a 2-inch stub. He then turned to us and said, in a very nonchalant manner, "Oh well, back to bloody work lads and lasses, and cheerfully went back to his inspection work! That early lesson taught me never to wear dangly bits that could get caught in moving parts of any type of machinery or work equipment, Health and safety didn't mean much in those days!
At that time, the team was a small one. There were three women cutting the wires, soldering them and making up and the wiring harnesses, with all the appropriate switches and plugs etc. for the machines. One of the ladies was called Maud Sharp, she was the loud, funny little one of the group, short and stout, with a great sense of humour, using every opportunity to make double meanings of everything you happened to say. The other two were called Cathy and Dorothy. I can't recall any of their surnames. Dorothy, (or Dotty as we called her), always got embarrassed by everything Maud seemed to say, and was always saying ,"Oh Maud, you are a one, saying such things!" This, of course made us all laugh. along with them, In the end, whenever Maud said anything, we were all saying "Oh Maud, you are a one, saying such things". Of course, this made Dotty even more embarrassed, much to everyone’s enjoyment, We all thought Dotty reminded us of "Mavis" the character from Coronation Street, which should give you an idea of what she was like.
Maud Sharp, sort of took me under her wing, and mothered me, as I was small and under-developed for my age, due to my bronchial asthma. She too, was very small in height, and as I found out later, she had no children, so I think I became her substitute child in those early months at Ditchburn. To emphasise just how small we were, she and her husband invited me to go on a day trip with them to Chester Zoo by car. When they turned up to pick me up, they were in a B.M.W. Sounds good when I write it, but not when I tell you that it was a “B.M.W. ISETTA BUBBLE CAR”! My first thought was, how the hell will we all fit in there. However, Maud’s husband was also a very small man, who was about the same size as me, and to my great surprise, the 3 of us fitted quite comfortably into the single front seat, needless to say, a great day was had by all. The delivery driver at Ditchburn was also a very amusing character, his name was Reg Udall, who I often helped secure the completed machines with ropes into the back of the pickup trucks used for delivery. Once again, he was always cracking jokes, an telling me about some his experiences he encountered as he travelled the country as a long-distance delivery driver. He was certainly another fun person to be at work with, making the life of a long- distance lorry driver, sound very exciting indeed. From my memories, the majority of my workmates were a happy crowd and fun to be around.
Another funny, witty guy, was the supervisor called Tommy, This was not the Tommy that Arthur Phillips talked of in his story, Tommy Greaves, he took over from my Tommy some time later. My Tommy in the early days, seemed to be the supervisor over everyone on production, but he also was the main engineer who serviced the large red milk machines, which were the first type of automatic vending machines which I remember seeing and using at the time. There were always a couple of them standing around in those early days waiting to be fixed. They were round with a +/- 3 feet diameter. Inside there was a wheel-like mechanism divided into segments. where milk bottles were stacked 3 or 4 deep in each segment, which were spring loaded. In the front of the machine, there was one, or maybe two windows, about 6 inches wide and about the height of a standard milk bottle, so you could see if the machine was either full or empty before you put in your money in. The empty glass window on the right side had a knob on it, and was movable. When you put your money in, the wheel-like mechanism inside moved the milk bottle behind the glass window on the left, around one segment to where the movable door gave you access the milk bottle. Maybe someone else out there, has a better description of them? A simple technology by today’s standards, but quite cutting edge for its time. They were probably on the way out, because when they came in for repair, I remember Tommy, actually had to make any parts that had broken, or worn out, on his lathe. Actually, something way back of my mind is telling me that Tommy, might have actually made them, and that maybe, he sold out to Ditchburn. Then Ditchburn’s, probably realised that there may be a future in automatic drink vending machines and bought the US licence to manufacture the Hotspa and Coldspa machines. in the UK. I can't be sure, and will probably never know, because most of that generation will have passed away by now. I remember, that as you entered the main large factory area, in the main building, the vending machine stores and the production area were on the right-hand side of the main factory area. Tommy had his work bench alongside our production line benches, up against the wall of the store’s office, from where we withdrew components when they were needed for constructing the vending machines. The other Tommy, Tommy Greaves, in Arthur Phillips blog has his picture, working at, what could be, the same bench a few years later.
Photo Ref: DB374 Courtesy of Richard Wink
The managerial offices were on the left-hand side and had an open corridor running past each of the office entrances for access. Running down the right hand side of the corridor there were rows of empty vending machine cabinets, standing side by side . These empty cabinets formed a sort of barrier between the offices and the production area. they stood awaiting the insertion and assembly of all the components, that made up the completed working vending machines. Eventually, the production line was moved into a two-storey warehouse across the yard at the back of the present factory building. As you exited the back door into the yard, there was a machine shop on the left, filled with lathes, large drills and metal saws which would also make any parts, if needed, for any of the Juke Boxes, or indeed, any of the machines that Ditchburn’s manufactured. The man that ran the machine shop was tall young man, with a big round face and glasses, also called Tom. There was a ramp just past the machine shop leading up into the warehouse door. Straight through the door, there were stairs to the upper level, which eventually became the new electrical department, The lower level became the new production assembly area. Behind the warehouse at the back of the building, it overlooked the muddy creek leading to the sea. The move to the warehouse across the yard happened about 18 months after I started work. As I was the newest and youngest in the factory, I was nominated the "tea boy", collecting all of the guys cups at tea time, which was a daily ritual that took place I think, at around 10am each morning and 3:30pm each afternoon. I remember thinking, when I first started doing the tea, what an awful selection of really grubby looking cups there were. As I said, Tommy was a tradesman, who was a cut above most of the other unskilled guys, who most probably, had all worked in the past, on building sites, where they were in much more harsh conditions than this nice clean new factory, so some of their cups were not exactly in pristine condition, to say the least! They were mostly of the old white enamel type, very old, chipped and badly stained from their building site days. I had all of these cups on a tray and when I went to collect Tommy's cup, he winked and said, in his broad, forthright Lancashire accent, "Hells bells an buckets of blood, look at the state of them bloody cups. One sip of tea outa one of them would give ya galloping polio" ! I remember cracking up laughing at the term, "galloping polio", for obvious reasons, and I laughed even more when he added, "Jesus, Christ, look at them stains, you wouldn't even have to put tea leaves in the bloody cups, just add boiling water and a dash of milk and it would brew a cup of bloody tea all by itself"! More laughter from me, although you shouldn’t laugh really, because polio was a very serious disease to contract in those days. Polio, is a water borne disease which was quite a common during my early childhood. Mainly caused, due to bomb damage in WW2, which resulted in many badly damaged sewer pipes. The shop floor made jokes just about everything, nothing was off the table, race, religion, blacks, whites, homosexuals, nothing was sacred. What was said then in normal conversation would've made todays workforce easily offended, Liberal snowflakes would turn in their graves! But all in all, even with such openness, everyone seemed to get on and my memories of my early work experience were very happy ones, and I suppose that's all that matters.
EXPANSION OF THE WORKFORCE Production soon picked up and new faces arrived to increase the output, one of whom was a young 20 odd year old refrigeration engineer from Birmingham. I can't be sure, but I think his name was John something, It may come back me as I write! I do recall him, being a real "Jack the Lad" city slicker, with swept back hair and with loads of Brylcreem on it. He always had a lot to say for himself, so as usual, the older guys gave him a nickname. They nicknamed him, "The Bum from Brum"! Eventually, he married one of the office girls from the juke box side of Ditchburn, Who I think was called Christine? As he was the second youngest on the shop floor, we sort of became buddies. He taught me about fridges and how to charge them up and service them in those early days on the factory floor. After a few months he said he was going home to see his mum and dad, and asked me if I wanted to go for the weekend and see Birmingham. As I'd never been before I thought, "Why not"! There had recently been some news articles in the papers about the new redevelopment of the Birmingham town center, called "The Bull Ring" and of course, the new "Spaghetti Junction" they'd built as part of the brand new M6 |motorway. Mind you, there was only the Birmingham ring road part of the M6 built at that time, going from where the M1 finished, up to the "Spaghetti Junction. The rest of the M1, up to the lake district was a long way off completion. Still, it made a nice break.
After I'd been at Ditchburn for about six months or so, I had a lesson in one of life's many issues, one of which was honesty, and whether it really was “The best policy” For some reason I had to cycle to work earlier than usual, and that winters day was, cold and crisp, as they say, As I cycled down Dock Rd, I approached a brown object in the middle of the road, When I got closer, I could see that It was a small brown leather bag, about 20cms by 20cms, with a lock on it, and written on it was Nat West! I knew that this was a bank, but as I looked around, there was not a soul in sight, or indeed any sounds coming from any of the factories in the road. So I picked it up and put it in at saddle bag and continued to work. It was now that I had, what I called, the first test of my character in my life. There was obviously money in the bag and it wouldn't have taken much effort to open it. I have to say that it did cross at mind to just say nothing and take it home after work, force it open and enjoy the proceeds. That question gnawed at my mind until tea break, when, in conversation, I told everyone that in the paper there was a story of a guy who had found a locked cash bag with the bank's name on it. He didn't report it, and he seems to have got away with it! I put the question to them, “What would you have done”? We'll, out of the ten listeners, only one said they'd take it back to the bank!
Reasons given ranged from, “Listen lad, if you lose something, someone else finds it and they gain from it”. “Other people lose something and you find it, you gain”. It's called swings and round-a-bouts. That made the problem even worse. I suppose that as I'd never really wanted for anything in my life, due to the fact, that in the force’s men were housed, paid reasonably well and able to lead a normal life, therefore my values, on things such as this, had never been tested before, So… after much thought and procrastination, I proceeded to the Nat West Bank in Lytham, where a very surprised bank teller took the bag and told me to wait there until she came back, When she returned she told me that it had been reported missing by the factory owner, who'd lost it when the doors of his van had come open as he turned into his factory in Dock road, (it was The one with the polluted atmosphere where I went for a job), but they’d given up any hope of getting it back. They are very, very grateful, because it was the weeks wages of over £110.00 pounds that they thought they’d lost and want you to call in after work tonight and see them. I “floated on air”, back to work, in anticipation of what I might get from the factory owner and I then informed at workmates of what had happened. “Oh, so now we know why you asked that stupid bloody question at tea break”, came their replies. A few of them, that had said they would keep it, said that this would be a good test of who was right and who was wrong won't it, as for finding £110.00 you should get at least a fiver, or even a tenner! Nowadays, you might think, how could that be a total weeks wages for a small factory come to £110.00 ? Well, in those days an unskilled worker might get around +/-£10.00 per week and a skilled man +/- £13.00, so with a workforce of a small engineering firm of nine people with a few skilled guys and a few unskilled guys and the boss, it works out about right. I went to the factory after work and saw the boss who shook at hand and went through his speech about being honest and that it was refreshing to meet someone, “who did the right thing”, by handing in thee wages bag. He then finished off with a final thanks and handshake, pressing a half a crown coin into at palm as he did so…. My silent thoughts screamed, “HALF A BLOODY CROWN”! Well, even I could do the maths on this, eight half crowns to the pound X 110 = 880. This equals a reward of 0.88%! When at workmates heard the news, a chorus of profanities filled the air! The most popular one seemed to be, when translated into usable English was, that the boss was an “Effin, tight, fatherless man”! Tee-hee! Oh, by the way, my wages at the time at Ditchburn were £2.50 per week so you can see why I felt a bit hard done by, I must admit that I had to agree with the guys and I vowed that if ever I found anything similar, ever again, that I would keep quiet about it, unfortunately, that situation has never happened to me again!
THE INFAMOUS OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY There may have been a “class” barrier between management and workers throughout the year, but by God, did that barrier come crashing down at the Christmas office party! At the parties I went to, they usually started by us all lining up, to meet and shake hands with Mr Ditchburn and all his management staff. I've included a photograph. This would then be followed up by a speech by Mr Ditchburn, giving us his round up of how well Ditchburn’s had done and his aims for the future. Then the bar opened and the drinking began, They always started of slowly, in a sort of sedate manner, but given an hour, the power of alcohol took over it was every man for himself, especially under the mistletoe Tee-hee. I'll tell you now, there were always a few rather embarrassed faces on the first workday after the night before! I remember Cathy came over as we were standing in a group and proclaimed, “Got him”. It seemed, the shop floor girls had a little bet on, as to how many of the managers they could kiss! “That's Mr Walker off my list”. She proudly said with a huge grin on her face. We looked over by the bar at Mr Walker, and sure enough, there he was, pouring himself another large scotch, also with a huge grin on his face. Cathy always wore bright, cherry red lipstick and the proof that Cathy had nailed him was there for all to see, because his lips and cheek had huge, bright ,cherry red lipstick smears on them. He didn't seem to care, as he downed half of the large scotch that he had just poured, He was certainly living up to his nickname of “Johnny Walker. Soon everyone was dancing and had party hats on and those things that you blow into and they shoot out about a foot and spring back again, making that wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee noise like a siren! One time, I went over the yard to the warehouse get something from my workbench and as I went up the ramp I heard some giggles coming from the office in the electrical department. I quietly sneaked into my test area and got what I wanted and got out again before I embarrassed anyone! Just before I went down the stairs to the ramp outside, I blew as hard as I could on my blower from the party making the loudest wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee siren noise I could muster, then made a dash for it, leaving behind me lots of shuffling about, squeals and giggles! Tee-hee! As always, by the day after, they all had returned back to their prim and proper facades they displayed during normal office hours, that is, until the Christmas party came around again next year. I also remember that we had “Cabaret Nights”, where we had “The King Brothers”, one of the British star recording groups of the time, who had a number of hit parade songs, one of which was, “Standing on the Corner Watching all the Girls go By” There was another time a really popular Saturday morning radio show called, “Workers Playtime”, broadcast live from our shop floor, starring a very young Des O’Conner, The Vernon Girls and a couple of other lesser known acts that I can't remember. This was very unusual, for a local factory to do such things and I think I might know why? On the Ditchburn web site, I read, there was a man named Jack Hylton, who was something big on the music side of Ditchburn’s. I learned that this man was the same Jack Hylton who became a big-time impresario in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s who probably had a lot to do with bringing the bands and shows we had earlier on, and was probably very involved in Ditchburn’s going into recording and record production after I left the company! (Editors Note: we have now found out that Jack Hylton didn’t have any connection with Ditchburn after they bought the rights to manufacture the jukeboxes from Hawtin’s, in fact Hawtin’s had removed the Jack Hylton name from the Jukeboxes by the end of 1947 and we understand from Arthur Philips that Jack Hylton actually took Ditchburn to court around 1955 (needs verification) for using the Music Maker name which Hylton had registered and was still the owner of, the most likely reason of the involvement of the big stars was through the record companies that they were signed to and, these record labels would have wanted Ditchburn to put their performers records on the Jukeboxes that Ditchburn operated across the UK )
Because of reading the Ditchburn website, another small piece of my Ditchburn puzzle fell into place. It must've been early 1963, just before I left for the first time. Ditchburn’s had some sort of get together and two of the Ditchburn’s staff sang a song each! I don't recall the name of the other guy, but he was trained tenor, who worked in the office, but who also did amateur dramatics and musicals. He sang songs from the shows. The other performer was little old “ME”. I sang a great Clarence Frogman Henry jazz- rock song, called, “I Don't Know Why I Love You But I Do” When I'd finished, one of the sales representatives, who I only knew as Jim, came up to me and asked about my singing and if I wanted to make an effort to sing in the clubs etc. I, said of course, yes, I was. He then asked if I would like to go to Manchester on the coming Saturday to watch a group called “Le Nocturne” recording a song in a studio. I said, “You Bet”, and off we went that weekend, and did we go. Phew! It was a good thing I wore my kaki underwear, because he had one of those huge Ford Zephyr 6 cars with the huge square bonnet and I must admit, I'd never travelled so fast in all at life! On the way, Jim told me, that he thought that they might go big time very soon, because of the lead singer called Eve Eden., plus the super harmonies etc. Well they did, but not quite as he imagined. They never quite made it in that form, but within 18 months or so, they reformed, Eve Eden became Eve Graham and the “New Seekers” were formed. They had great harmonies and their sound was fantastic and they had “overnight stardom” and a worldwide hit with, “I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing”. Well, that certainly is the wonderful world of “Show Business”! As Ditchburn expanded even more, new faces appeared. an electrician called Jack Matheson who they nicknamed (Tweeny) because he was smaller than all the other men. He didn't seem to mind the men calling him it, but when I tried it on, he said, very light heatedly, "Now listen lad, they can get away with it, but let's have a little bit of respect from you youngsters. I agreed, and gave him an apology and we carried on playing our game of chess, which he was teaching me at the time. Jack also passed on quite a lot of electrical knowledge to me which helped me a great deal, not only in Ditchburn, but all the way through my lifetime. Another new guy was I think called either Eric, or, Keith? I'll settle on Eric. I can't remember his sir name, but he was always sucking on his pipe as he worked. He joined Jack, myself and the women in the electrical department, doing the harnesses and selector switches etc. for the Hotspa and Coldspa machines. Another new face was a very handsome young Italian, called Italo Maruchi, who was brought in as electrical foreman, He was very tall for an Italian and looked very much like the young Clint Eastwood when he played Rowdy Yates from the popular "Rawhide" TV series, but spoke a very charming broken Italian / English. As you can imagine, the older ladies used to cast a wistful eye at him as he passed by. They certainly weren't allowed to forget it either. Both Jack and Keith noticed this and used to kid them on. Jack would say, that it was so funny to see how all you girls seem to need so much more help doing your work these days, since the dashing Italian became the foreman, Keith would add, that we've seen how you get a little bit flushed when he stands close and leans over you to show you which hole it was that you had to put your little wire into! Of course, quick as a flash Maud Sharp come back with, "You’re only jealous, because we never ask you which hole it was that you had to put your little wire into"! Lots of laughter, then Dotty saying "Oh Maud you are awful"! Then of course we all followed up with each of us saying, "Oh Maud you are awful"! Lots more laughter, then Italo saying, “No, no, no, No laugh, work only, we need harness, urgent”. Maud Sharp certainly lived up to her name, which kept us all smiling for many years! Another of the many amusing incidents with Maud, was a day when everyone was working quietly, soldering away, when all of a sudden, Maud’s little voice said, "Ooooh, I think I need a new end", After the obvious comments from Jack and Eric, plus the laughter. I leaned over and asked her to show me. She showed me that the small copper bit on the end of her soldering iron had become all pitted and uneven. I told her that this was quite normal and it was because of the reaction between the solder, the flux inside the solder that eats away the copper bit. All that was needed was filing flat again. As she had no file, I offered to do it, but with a coy little smile, she said, “No bother, I think I'll call Italo", giving Jack, Eric and I, a little wink. Jack said, “Oooooh yeah, so now we're not good enough for you eh, Maud” ? “Just you wait, to when Italo's not here, then you'll be in trouble, right boys", nodding at Eric and I. Maud told us to shush and be quiet. Then in a coooooie seductive little voice she said, "Oh Itaaaalo, Itaaalo, I've got a little problem, and I think only you can sort it out for me"? With a little chuckle, Jack muttered quietly, “I don't think he's allowed to do things like that Maud, it's not in his contract, and he'd probably get the sack if he did", Followed by Eric saying, "I don't think she'd mind if he got the sack. She'd probably get into the sack with him", More titters from everyone , followed by Dot saying, Oh Maud, aren't those men awful", Followed by a few more titters, followed by Italo coming over and saying, "No no no no laughing, only working, working! Italo said, “Now Maud, what is ze problem"? Maud showed Italo the problem and he assured her it was quite normal, and all she needed was a file to make it smooth again and that he'd go and get all the ladies a file each, from the storeroom. Italo arrived back with some little boxes, which he gave to the ladies. Maud, as usual, was the first to open hers, saying "Ooooooh my, what's this then? Inside was the file in a paper sheath and on it was printed SMALL BASTARD! Maud said, "I've got a small bastard, have you ladies got small bastards, I suppose you men have all got big bastards"? Jack said,"Oh Maud, stop your chirruping, for god’s sake. A bastard is just a type of file. It's the pattern of the cutting edges on the file. You're only filing the small end of your soldering iron, so you don't need a big bastard, get it filed and get on with your work"! Of course, Maud always had the last word in most things, and as she's filing, she's saying herself in a quiet voice, but just loud enough so that we could all hear, "I think I'd like a big bastard, don't you think girls, why should only the men have big bastards"? Followed of course by, "Oh Maud, you are awful", and so on and so on! Now you may think, that we weren't working, but production started to increase dramatically around this time and more new faces appeared. Two were handicapped. I think that the government had asked firms to employ as many handicapped people as possible, so we got one guy who was slightly mentally impaired, called Les, and one paraplegic guy who was paralysed from the waist down and used two shoulder crutches. I can't recall the name of the paraplegic guy, probably because he was only there for a short time. He was taught how to solder and put on the electrical wiring section making the harnesses etc. However, because the benches were quite tall you had to sit on slightly higher seats and we had to give him a hand to get up onto the seat. Now, you don't realise how many times a person has to get on and off a seat during the normal working day. Toilets, tea breaks etc. Then a few days after he came, he was stretching over to get some components and he fell off his seat! A few of us guys rushed over to help him back up on to his chair, which we found quite difficult to do from the floor level. Of course, we had no training in how to lift someone with no power in their legs. Anyway, when it happened again a week or two later and he hurt himself in the process, the management sadly decided it wasn't practical for him to continue working there. The other young man called Les, who was slightly mentally impaired, You could have a simple conversation with him, but you couldn't discuss anything with him. He would sometimes go off into his own little world, sometimes talking a language that only he understood. Luckily, he was only employed to sweep up, so once he got the idea, he certainly did it with much enthusiasm and gusto, which led to an amusing little interlude with Tommy, the supervisor, The large factory floor was made of cement, so there was always layer of dust on the surface, Les was given a bucket of damp sawdust, which he had to scatter it over an area of the floor before he swept it. The theory being, that the dust would cling to the damp sawdust and not rise up into the air and get up our noses etc. Tommy came around the corner just as Les started sweeping vigorously on a piece of floor that he'd spread the sawdust on, with the dust rising in circles in front of him. He was going so fast that he simply walked through the rising dust rings, which the proceeded to go over his head and land on the floor again behind him, “Bloody Nora, Look at that. We're all gonna end up with sinusitis, Hey Les! Les lad, can you just hold up a minute and slow down with your sweeping” ? A serious look came over Les's face. "Slow down, oh I can't do that. I've been told to do a good job If I don't sweep it well, they said I might lose my job, and I don't want that” Tommy said, "Listen Les, you won't lose your bloody job, you can be sure of that, because I'm the supervisor here, so I'm not going to sack you. I just want you to slow down a bit and sweep slower. There was still a look on Les's face, that he hadn't quite grasped the theory of it all, so Tommy tried a new tack. Look Les, he said, have you noticed, that when you sweep, the dust seems to rise up in little circles in front of your brush. As he said this, Tommy made backward circles in the air with his two index fingers, rising from the floor, up and up and up, until the circles went past his face and over his head. Les nodded a yes. Tommy then gave a double thunbs up and said, "So you've got it then lad"? Les looked him in the eyes, gave a single thumbs up and in a deep serious voice said "Fifteen"! "Fifteen,"? said Tommy. "What the bloody hell are you talking about lad", again, Les said, in an even deeper, stronger voice, "FIFTEEN GOOSEN"! Tommy’s voice went up an octave, "FIFTEEN GOOSEN, What the hell is FIFTEEN BLOODY GOOSEN"?. Tommy looked round at us and we all shrugged our shoulders. Then one guy gave Tommy a thumbs up and said, "FIFTEEN", Then the rest of us gave the thumbs up and said "FIFTEEN GOOSEN"! Tommy turned away with a smirk on his face, saying, "Don't you lot bloody start, Get on with your work"! As he's walking back to his bench, he's muttering, "Fifteen bloody goosen, this factory is turning into a madhouse"! For a while after this incident, "Ooooooooh, you are awful Maud" went out of fashion, being replaced by, either “FIFTEEN” or "FIFTEEN GOOSEN", whenever anyone asked a question! As I said, Les was a good-natured, harmless little guy, who in general, fitted in with things, but we found out there were people who took advantage of him and his disability. One day he came in quite late to work and we asked why. He told us that his moped, that he came to work on, had stopped suddenly when he was half way to work, but luckily there was a nearby garage, so he took it in for them to look at and they were going to tell him what was wrong, when he called in tonight after work. When he came in the next day on his moped, we all asked what was wrong. Quite openly he said that it was because of the sugar that he'd put in the petrol tank, it had clogged it up so it stopped it working, Everyone said, "What! You put sugar in the petrol tank"? WHY? Les told us that he was in a cafe with some guys he knew. He'd had told them that he was tired after working all day at Ditchburn’s. One guy told him, that what he needed was a couple of extra spoons of sugar in his tea, because sugar gives instant energy, and you'll feel a lot better after a few minutes if you do this. As they were leaving the cafe, they saw Les's moped, telling Les that it didn't look very strong either, and maybe if he put a couple of spoons in the petrol tank as well, saying it would go like a bomb! Of course next morning Les remembered this and did just that! Some people really are scumbags! So life went on at Ditchburn’s. Les, with his daily sweeping sessions, under Tommy's watchful eyes. We knew Tommy was watching him, because every so often we'd hear Tommy say quite loudly, "Leeeees…. With Les replying. "Sorry Tom. I forgot", putting his thumb up saying, "FIFTEEN"! Then even Tommy started to reply, with a thumbs up and a," FIFTEEN GOOSEN"! After which, when he heard us chuckling, Tommy's eyes would roll upwards and he'd say, "Well, if you can't bloody beat um, join um"! Another guy that came, who was some sort of technician, always had very dark glasses on and wore a dark blue boiler suit. I can't remember his name, because I don't think he stayed long, (maybe someone out there knows his name) but his bench was all by itself, away from the rest of us. I pointed this out to one of the guys and he told me, it would be better to keep away from him, because he was very emotionally upset and disturbed. It was because of what happened to him in Burma following his harsh treatment by the Japanese soldiers during WW2 when he was forced to work on the infamous River Kwai railway. He said, so whatever you do, don't mention the war, especially anything to do with Burma! He then added, that even though it had been 14 years since the war, this guy still woke up screaming and in cold sweats etc. He also had malaria issues. Being the youngest, I obeyed and kept out of his way. Regarding this guy, and the shortness of his stay. I do remember there was some sort of an incident which the shop floor grapevine said, involved another of the new workers that arrived, I don't remember his real name either, but the shop floor guys nicknamed him "Captain Kettle", which seemed to be because, he had just come ended a career in the merchant navy, which he'd joined as a cadet. He was quite a small man, in his forties, with a full, but, short black beard, which was very neatly trimmed. Another thing, he had slightly oriental features, which may have been part of the reason both he and the ex WW2 Burma campaign soldier disappeared after a few weeks of working there. Maybe there was some sort incident, between the two of them. In any war when atrocities occur, as in Burma, the deep-seated hatred built up, doesn't just disappear when countries sign a peace treaty on a piece of paper, as we had seen by our emotionally traumatised ex-soldier, even after 14 years! Sad, but true. Also, around this time, another amusing event took place, which could have been connected with above, which although rather basic in nature, certainly imprinted itself in my young mind as being very funny. It was during a tea break and we were all just having our tea. Someone had brought in a large, brown, Lyons Swiss roll, which was on a plate, half cut into a few slices, and people were invited to take a slice if they wanted one, All of a sudden old Ben appeared. Ben was probably the oldest employee in Ditchburn’s, being a re-employed retired person, around 70 years old. He did general odd jobs for the Music Maker side of things, Ben was wide-eyed and breathless, he said, "Hey, I've been cleaning the loo and I've just seen the biggest, longest poo, I've ever seen in MY LIFE! The girls said, in unison, "Oh BEN!, Ben continued, "It's ENORMOUS! He then caught sight of the brown swiss roll on the plate and said, "Why, it's almost as big as that", pointing to the swiss roll, Peels of laughter from everyone, even the girls, "BEN, we don't want to hear about things like that,", said the girls, pretending to be cross, but laughing away amongst each other. Ben said, "It's all right for you, I've gotta get rid it, I tried poking it with a stick, but it's stuck fast, he must've eaten a bag of bloody cement for his breakfast", More laughter! The girls said,"BEN, will you just tell the boys, not us", By now, everyone had put down their partly eaten swiss roll and for some reason, taken a large swig of tea! Tee hee! Most of the boys had rushed off to the loo to see this monster. As we were gazing down in wonderment and disbelief at it, Ben came in "What did I tell ya, that guy must have a double-barrelled arse-hole" Everyone collapsed with laughter at this expression, which all of us agreed, completely described and summed up the situation. The expression most certainly stuck in my mind and I still find it amusing, enough to have a little chuckle to myself when I picture us guys in the loo at Ditchburn’s, nearly 60 years ago. After the initial banter about it had died down, life continued on for a few days, when all of a sudden, Ben hurried in and said quietly to a small group of us guys, "He's back"! "The phantom strikes again", We all said, "Who's back, who's the Phantom"? "Him, the one that left the big poo, I've called him the "Phantom", 'cause nobody knows who he is, Anyway, I've made up my mind, I'm gonna nail the bugger. I'm not gonna put up with this any more. I've got a nice little spot that I can keep watch on the loos at tea breaks and lunch hour, I'll get him" Ben told us not to worry, he'd get him, and that he did, about a week later! An excited Ben came in saying, "I got him, I nailed him, and you'll never guess who it is"? “It's Captain Kettle"! Each of us gave an opinion, "NOOOOOOO, surely not. "Someone said, "He's too small". Another said, "His bums never that big", We all killed ourselves laughing. However, Ben told us that he'd had words with him and had given him a piece of his mind. Telling him, to make sure he didn't do it again, otherwise he'd make sure that he sorted it out himself, Now whether it was the embarrassment of it all, or he had some sort of encounter with the ex-Burma army soldier, we will never know, because they both seemed to disappear at the same time, and with no more visits from the "Phantom", life returned to normality once again on the Ditchburn’s shop floor.
Life went on and Ditchburn’s vending machines was becoming a great success and it didn't take long before production increased dramatically and new faces began to arrive as we expanded. The production team was joined by a rather posh spoken older guy, called Ron, who was in his mid-50s and another guy from Halifax who was about the same age, I think was called Ray, who was the complete opposite of Ron in the way he spoke. He had the broadest Lancashire accent I have ever heard in my life! I recall that in my early Lancashire days, I found the really broad accent, with its numerous strong dialects, using completely different words for things, quite hard to understand when in conversation, often sounding quite aggressive, when it's not. That, coupled with the prolific use of old Anglo Saxon thrown in for good measure, almost got me in trouble once. Like, when Ray from Halifax wanted some help and was saying something like "Oh I, ee knows nowt t-bout owt"! I quickly said, Err… sorry, I didn't quite understand. He turned and stared at me and said, "Whadda ya mean lad" ? "You being 'effin' funny lad" ? ( I'm sure I don’t have to explain the word "effin") "Don't ya speak 'effin' English lad" ? I said, "Well, it's just the nowt t-bout owt, that I don't quite understand". Ohhhh… so ya don't quite understand "Nowt t-bout owt" ay? You’re a bit posh ay, what's that effin accent you've got? I told him, that my accent was because my dad, being in the R.A.F. used to be posted every 2 years to a different part of the country, therefore I seemed to have developed a middle of the road accent that could be understood by everyone. He then said, (putting on the poshest accent he could muster) "So, let's see now, you would probably say, "He knows nothing about anything". "Is that a bit clearer for you lad" ? By this time, I just wanted out of the conversation, so I said “ok Ray, thanks for explaining”. A couple of the guys also said, "Oh, leave him alone Ray", he means nothing wrong. Ray just looked at the guys and said, “Ay, I suppose so". I quickly made a swift exit to the loo for 5 minutes to let things cool off a little. I was a bit more careful in the future as to what I said, especially to Ray, I was starting to learn, that it was a bit of a jungle out there in the big wide world of the shop floor! Tee-hee! In general though, we all got on pretty well with each other in those late 50s,early 60s days. Things were a lot more class conscious then, before the phenomenal rise of the Beatles, with their broad scouse accents, that more or less started the "Swinging Sixties", which most certainly changed British attitudes, indeed the worlds attitudes, to accents and dialects, making them far more acceptable to everyone. There was a few new office staff as well. The main office staff were the General manager, Mr Walker, nicknamed “Johnny Walker”, due to the fact, of the amount of whiskey the shop floor guys saw him consume at the annual office party, The production manager, was Harold Foy, who had a very posh, but very nasal accent. The sales manager was Mr Town, who had had received a very bad facial accident which left one eye slightly higher than the other. There was a little bald headed guy, who had something to do with the production side of things, who I think was called Wilf Barton, and he had a secretary called Audrey. I think the last office was for Harry Barber, the general foreman. These offices were all situated behind the two rows of empty vending machine cabinets which separated us from those pretty little office girls that we could hear clicking up and down in their stiletto heels, going between offices, so tantalizingly just out of our reach and out of our sight, Actually, having these empty cabinets there, forming a barrier, actually boosted production, because a couple of the guys, who had an eye for the ladies, realised that if they did a bit of a spurt and completed 2 or 3 machines quicker than usual ,they could open up a gap in the dreaded barrier that had previously stopped them feasting their eyes on the little lovelies that clickety clacked past at regular intervals. Their excuse was, that it helped to ease the boredom of their working day! Tee-hee POSH PETER I remember a young, very eloquent and extremely well-spoken ex university guy arrived and caused quite a stir amongst the shop floor guys. His first name was Peter. He was about twenty-one years old and his accent was about as far back as you could go. Imagine the men’s faces, when Mr Foy, the production manager, came to them and said Peter was going to spend a week in each department to learn the ropes in all the aspects of vending machine production and that he hoped they would bear with him and teach him as much as they possibly could! After Mr Foy and Peter had left, the majority of comments by the guys were definitely unprintable. Tee-hee! Apart from teaching this “alien” from another world, I think that it was his posh accent that intrigued them the most. The most printable statement being, “He speaks so far back, that it's coming out of his backside”! Well, Peter started the next day and I must say they gave Peter some stick, relentlessly calling him by a variety of names which mostly had gay connotations, Peter took it all in his stride, with much good humour all round. He got though his ordeal with no bad feelings and in fact, a couple of weeks later he sold a Mini-spa, which was a quite a real feather in his cap. When I bumped into him afterwards, he actually said, that he could never have done it without his shop-floor training from the guys and offered his many thanks to all concerned. It seems that “Posh Peter” took all the Ditchburn’s shop floor training form his workmates on board and used it to his advantage as he eventually became the chairman of J. Sainsbury plc. one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK. and is now formally known as Sir Peter John Davis. As with most then factories, there is a hierarchy, which was a sort of class system between the management and the workers and you notice this as soon as you start work in the morning .The workers, being at the bottom of the heap, start at 8 o'clock in the morning, whereas the office staff start at nine, or say they do? We often noticed them coming in at anything between 5 or 10 past nine, then they rubbed it in, by standing by the coffee machine for another 10 minutes, before they went into their offices, We, on the other hand were treated very differently. We had to clock in with a punch card, before 8 o'clock in the morning as we came through the door, the clock card gave the exact time, to the second, when you entered the Ditchburn building, If that wasn't bad enough, if you were 1 SECOND late, you were docked a quarter of an hours pay, This was certainly a big bone of contention with the guys when they saw the office staff, not only arriving late, but standing at the coffee machines at ten to fifteen minutes past nine, Them and us was very much alive in those days. “Still, you can't beat city hall”, as they used to say! Funnily enough, my sister Yvonne became one of those girls that clicked and clacked up and down, when she also got a job at Ditchburn’s as well, just a few months after me. She was a top-class secretary, working at the huge Cookson’s bread factory, which was situated a few hundred metres up the road from Dock Rd, on the corner where the huge grass area started. This grassed area, ran the complete length of Lytham sea front promenade. After my sister Yvonne arrived, I seemed to notice all the new secretaries, who became her friends, there was Val, Heather, Barbara and Julie. Julie was Neville’s favourite, She was what he called a real buxom lass. He knew her clickety clack footfall by heart. As she went wiggling past in her tight skirt, he'd always down tools for a few seconds and gaze at her rear end until she'd disappeared from view, then he'd say to me, "Oooooooo, sweet as a nut” "Did you see that Sutty, how she pointed at us with her jumper", Of course I laughed at that. "And what about the beautiful bum Sutty"? "Ooooooohh and did you notice that movement she has, when she's walking away from you, how she sort of, leaves it there, then snatches it back at the last minute"? "Ooooooohh, it looks like two little boys, fighting under a blanket" By this time, I was in fits of laughter. Being a young 16-year-old, I'd never heard adults talking like this about women. It certainly was an eye-opener for me, but have to admit, I enjoyed every minute of it. Tee-hee ! Val, Barbara and Heather became my sisters’ close friends, who often did the night spots together in Blackpool when any recording celebs were doing gigs nearby. Trad jazz was the favourite music choice, Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen, Johnny Dankworth etc. Val still is a close friend of Yvonne to this day, still living in Kirkham. She and Yvonne still keep contact by mail and visits after all these years, even though my sister lives in Florida, and has done so since the mid-1970s. Yvonne worked for Mr Town and then Mr Walker for a few years. Heather was my little dream girl that I loved from afar. Although we were the same age, she was miles ahead of me in the mating game, as is the case with many male and female teenagers around 16 or 17 years old.
Photo Ref: DB361 Courtesy of Stewart Sutton. Me at an office party in 1962 aged 18. I'd just shaken hands with Mr Ditchburn, who is next to me, on the right.
THE BIG MOVE ACROSS THE YARD TO THE WAREHOUSE Just after this, we had the big move to the warehouse across the yard, that I described earlier and within the next few months there were quite a few staff changes! In our new warehouse both sales and production increased. It was now that I got involved, working with a young electrical technician, called Philip something? I had a blank. Then Latham came to mind. I really can't remember, but this definitely rings a bell. I shall describe both him and his girlfriend, who also worked there, in case it jogs somebodies memory. He was about twenty years old, very Nordic looking with very light blond hair. A guy called Tab Hunter had just had a hit with the song, "Young Love" and this guy was as equally handsome as he was. His girlfriend was also classically pretty, but her hair was jet black and it hung down to her waist, making them an extremely attractive striking couple! Indeed, when they walked through together sometimes, our girls would comment, saying things like, "Gee, I'll bet their bloody kids turn out to be real lookers"! Philips department was research and development, who were experimenting with dual price machines. This was needed, because when commodity prices rose at different levels, say, coffee became more expensive than chocolate, the coffee drink had to be fourpence, instead of the standard price of threepence. Therefore, a more complicated wiring diagram for the new coin mechanism had to be used, using two extra relays and two start up micro-switches, instead of one, as with a single price coin machine. One micro-switch for the threepenny bit and one for the single penny. A relay is simply an electrical switch, activated by electrical power. I got really interested in electrical circuitry with Phillip, and he taught me a great deal about the electrical side of the vending machines. this enabled me to test the electrical components in emergencies when Italo Maruchi was ever called away, or had to attend managerial staff meetings, which took place most mornings for about an hour with all the other managers. Someone had to stand in to keep up the steady stream of components needed downstairs on the production lines and I really enjoyed responsibility of doing test inspection. It was only by me doing this testing, which gave me the experience, that then led to me being temporarily in charge of testing all the electrical components when I was only nineteen, two years later. It was in the middle of this very changeable period after the move that Italo Maruchi suddenly left and was replaced by a real cockney guy called Tony Toose, who was completely different to Italo Maruchi! Italo was a rather dashing young man, whereas Tony Toose was a real east ender who chain smoked and swore like a trooper, even in front of the ladies and they didn't like it at all. but he was in charge, so we just got on with our work. When he found out that I could do the testing, he often used to call me to do it, while he had meetings, or a quick fag somewhere. I didn't mind because I was getting more and more experienced doing the testing, which I enjoyed. More new faces came in as production increased. There was a young welsh guy in a brown overall called Brin joined our department. One was a new fresh-faced school leaver, for the life of me, I couldn't remember his name until I contacted Arthur Philips who did the first blog regarding the Vending machine side of Ditchburn’s, Arthur informed me that his name was David Horrocks. I remember that he looked so young, which made me feel so old. I felt I should have remembered his name, because Maud seemed to transfer all her affections on to him, as soon as he got there. One perk that I missed, was the occasional free cigarette she always used to offer me as she lit up. Now that little perk went to him. I supposed, that it was because I had grown up a bit, being now 17 years old, and no longer the shop floor baby. I suppose I'd become more like one of the old boy’s network in the work place, therefore she needed a new baby to care for, I remember thinking to myself, "Oh well, that's life"! More new faces came to the electrical department. One was a very attractive 30 something, called Sheila, who most certainly awakened and stirred up those "funny familiar forgotten feelings" in Both Jack and Eric and indeed, all of the older guys, in both the electrical section and the production section downstairs, I remember one time she was talking to Jack and Eric, who were sitting, and staring, transfixed on her every word. As they were gazing longingly at her rear end, as she walked away, I made the comment," You two sure fancy her, don't you, Personally, I think she's a bit old, Don't you think"? Eric turned, and his eyes opened wide, he then did something you didn't see very often. He removed his pipe from his mouth and said, "Laddie, laddie, laddie, how old are you ?, sixteen or seventeen". My god, you've got a lot to learn in the next five to ten years. That woman is just about reaching her prime, so I suggest that you go a play on the swings in the school playground, then see your doctor and find out if you've gone through puberty yet” Again, lots of laughter. Also, around this time Jack Matheson was promoted to quality control and inspection down in the old factory where the completed machines were tested before they were dispatched out to customers, I started to do the testing of components, quite by chance. Having been there a while, I knew how the electrical side of the machines worked, because of what I'd learned from Jack Matheson and Phillip Latham, from research and development, and with the refrigeration side taught by John, "The Bum from Brum"! I will always be grateful for to these guys, for the electrical knowledge they gave me, which enabled me to become the component tester at such a young age. I also used it to great effect in many aspects of my future life after Ditchburn’s where I have hardly ever had to call in a tradesman on any household job, saving me and at wife a fortune over the years.
It was also around then, that another new, slightly older teenage face appeared! He was about my age and he was called Bob Shaw, which was nice for me, having a person of a similar age around. He was a real rocker who had greasy, combed back hair at the sides, which he combed into a DA at the back (DA, for the uninitiated, being a Ducks Arse) His hair at the front was combed up from both sides, towards the centre, making a huge quiff! With his black jeans and his black leather jacket it gave him a classic biker look. He was a bit of a throwback, because the Beatles had arrived and then the "Swinging Sixties" were upon us. After he'd been there a week or two, we were talking about the cheap records that the Music Maker side of Ditchburn’s sold off when they restocked the juke boxes with the latest hits. Bob thought it was great, because he could get them cheap and learn the chords from them and then play them on his guitar. He said he fancied doing what all the young guys fancied doing, which was to form a group like the Beatles and start playing the local venues. I told him I could sing a bit and knew about four songs all the way through. Bob said, great, do you fancy getting together in my front room and see how we do. I, of course, jumped at the chance of having some proper backing to sing to. Bob then asked what the songs were. When told him that the were "The Young Ones" by Cliff Richard, "I Think of You", by The Merseybeat’s, "Like I've never Been Gone", by "Billy Fury" and "Chain Gang" by Sam Cooke. Bob said, "A bit tame aren't they, still, they'll do for a start. Come around Saturday afternoon to my house and we'll give it a go”. After we'd run through my songs, which I thought sounded pretty good, Bob was sort of quiet, so I asked him what's up. He said," That lots OK, but can you do more up-tempo stuff, you know, where you scream down the mike and we can shake go mad and shake our heads and hair around with the beat"?
Well I tried it, but I just couldn't scream! That just about knocked it on the head and we didn't do it again. Bob knew he wanted "Hard Rock, Head Banging" stuff, so I was out. However, the memory of how good I sounded with backing, inspired me enough to continue singing. So, with any chance I got each week, I went to anywhere, where someone was playing a piano and asked the pianist if I could sing a couple of songs, to get experienced enough to fulfill my dream of singing in the working men’s clubs etc. You could say that the rebuttal by Bob Shaw changed my life forever, because with his rebuttal, I eventually made a living in the entertainment world, which many would be entertainers will tell you, is no mean feat, Thank you Bob Shaw. I hope that you see this blog Bob, so that I can say thank you once again, in person.
Below is a photo of Bob Shaw of Blackpool.
You know, in the early 60s, for most of the population like me, without a car, going to another town or city was a major event, especially with the lack of motorways. Traveling for most workers, unless you were a delivery driver was out of the question. Nearly all of my wages went on basic living costs. This was, for me, a few pints on a Friday night down the pub, then a few more pints on a Saturday followed by a dance at the local hop, which took place each weekend in Lowther Gardens in Lytham. The local groups who performed, lived in the area. The only two I can remember at this moment being, "Bruce and the Spiders “and "Rhythm Unlimited", If I remember anymore groups, I'll come back to it. This was also around the time Arthur Philips came. I don't remember his face, but I do remember the job swop that I did with him where I worked more with Tony Tooze, doing testing and he went over to the background music department, after which, like he said, in his blog, we probably didn't bump into each other again, due to this happening. Also, that I left Ditchburn’s for the first time a few months afterwards, because of a situation that developed which I thought to be extremely unfair, especially as I was acting head of the electrical test department, due to the fact that Tony Tooze, left suddenly and they asked me to hold the fort till they got another departmental head. I, of course said yes, but after a few months had passed and no one had appeared. I put in for a raise. They ummed and arrd and eventually gave me a £1-50 raise from about £7.00 per week to £8.50 per week! Considering that Tony Tooze was on about £15.00 per week. I became unhappy. One of my drinking mates was an electrical contractor, who said his firm needed someone, so off I went, with a pay rise, now up to £10.00 per week! I remember being very sorry that things ended that way, after at many happy years there, but life goes on! Talking of groups and travel. The Beatles arrived in 62/63 and the "Cavern" in Liverpool became the in place to be. Everyone at Ditchburn’s, showed tremendous interest in them and there was a lot of talk about them and the Cavern Club, due of course, to the Wurlitzer Juke Box side of things and record sales etc. Even Bob Shaw thought he might like to pay it a visit, but with no transport and the costs it never happened. As I've just said, I would've never got to go to the Cavern normally, but just after I'd left Ditchburn’s for the first time in 1963, and started work for an electrical contracting company wiring houses, called "W. A.Howe and Sons", of 112 Kenilworth Rd, St Anne’s on sea. I got to know this guy nick-named, "Mouse", who I met at a youth club and he came up with the answer. Why was he called Mouse? Well, he had a thin long face with a large set of sticky out teeth a bit like Ken Dodd and he also looked like a "Mouse"! Tee-hee He told me he had access to a rather battered old Luton ice cream van, and did I fancy going to see the Cavern Club! "You bet", I said, and we set off one Saturday lunch time bound for Liverpool. We got a bit lost trying to find the Cavern and eventually got there about four / four thirty in the afternoon. The area where the Cavern was, was very run down and there was no parking anywhere to be had. The Caverns entrance was also difficult to get to. It was down a small one-way street, which was only a little bigger than the ice cream van. We parked up on the side of the road and decided that we would only drive past it, and not get out, because of a large, tough looking group of 4 or 5 leather-clad, long-haired rockers standing outside the entrance to the club. We set off around a couple of bends, to line up with the one-way system, but as we turned into the small street and got about half way about nine or ten more rockers suddenly emerged from the club entrance! We, of course had to stop and were surrounded by the mob, who greeted us with an extensive selection of scouse flavoured Anglo Saxon, which let us know, in no uncertain terms, that we shouldn't have brought our ice cream van down that road. Mouse, wound down the window and apologised, and then tried a bit of flattery as well, saying, that we only wanted to see the most famous club in the world and if they would just stand against