by Dan Bysouth
Looking back it was a fun but sometimes difficult apprenticeship. As well as the daily 8 to 5 there was of course college to attend.
Tuesday was the day, also Tuesday night for night school. I must say I did not like school at all, full stop. It was a generally a good class of students but as always a few were just a pain in the backside. I had no patience for these idiots and regularly was told off by my works manager for non-attendance of night school. I was married at this time and would rather be at home than being stuck in a classroom with a couple of disruptive fools.
Going back a few months when the news of my planned wedding filtered round the firm, the general opinion was it would only last 3 months as according to them, my brains had dropped to my nether regions! They came to this conclusion because I was only 17 and my intended was 25. Now every firm collects for occasions, ours was no different and a lovely lady by the name of Flori did all such things. Flori was the voice of Mann Egerton as she manned the switchboard and the loud speaker system.
Many years later we met up regularly when shopping. Flori was in her 70s by then. Always a fun, mischievous lady, she would call out very loudly, "Hello Danny boy". I would advance towards her and smack her firmly on the bottom replying "Hello sexy!" She was a great friend.
A few days before the wedding, Flori traversed the company with a big envelope and a sheet of paper to collect for a wedding gift. They collected £14 and I bought a coffee table from Woolies. Every person who gave to the collection signed the sheet of paper. 37 years later that piece of paper is framed and hanging on my bedroom wall. I often look at it with fond memories of those happy times.
As the term of my apprenticeship approached, rumours of redundancies were circulating. Everywhere was cutting staff and we knew it had to happen here too. A week before my apprenticeship finished I was called to the works managers office where he and his secretary stood over my apprentice papers. They both signed them, watched as I did too then congratulated me on 4 years of good service.
Unfortunately they were not going to renew my contract, so the following Friday would be my last day at Mann Egerton’s on Majors Corner. I was devastated, and must admit I did shed a tear or two. On the Tuesday of the following week we had been told that the redundancies would be announced that morning. Our Charge Hand – Derek - had collected a sealed envelope and being his usual obnoxious self, gathered us all together on the CBR floor.
I knew I was going, but was still included in all the drama as we all supported each other. Derek opened the envelope and started to read the text, got to the names and .. his was the first name on it! He stormed off. The floor was slimmed down to a skeleton staff; Keith and Toots were OK, but a few of the others went. None had problems getting jobs as they were long service, highly skilled men. I was pleased about that.
So no longer in work, I went on Monday to the Job Centre and started 3 months job hunting, doing housework and enjoying the sun. We had money coming in as Liz was working in Woolies still. I had dole money and although I never paid any tax in 4 years because I didn't earn enough, I received a £40 cheque each of the 3 months I was off. I did check this out and it was right. I had very low wages all the time I was there, the last week the union, TGWU, secured a good wage rise for 4th year apprentices £97 a week. Bit late for me.
Three months down the line, I was in the job centre and saw a card telling of a job for a parts delivery driver for a BL garage in the town centre. I took the card to the assistant and asked if this was Mann Egerton’s? "Yes, but it's written application only" she told me. I went straight to the garage, upstairs to the public stores counter and asked one of the store men, Brian, if John the manager was about. John took me into his office and I asked him for the job. He thought I had a job already; "No mate", I told him. It was 9.30 am and he told me to have a little walk and return after tea break at 10.30am. I did not know till later that he went to ask Keith about my honesty and trustworthiness. Keith gave him a glowing report and at 10.30 I got the job. Honey was back at Mann Egerton’s once again!
The stores were a family within a family and full of some great characters with whom I had some good times. I will relate some of these as well as the interest of BL PARTS.
Next time: find the goat and I lose a tooth!