Leaving school in September 1956 with craft qualifications I qualified for an apprenticeship. My parents did not want me to go into as they had done the textile trade so I entered engineering.
Low Moor Alloy Steelworks
My first job as an Apprentice Engineer was a short bus ride from home down Huddersfield Road to the Low Moor Alloy Steelworks . I was to serve as an apprentice till the age of twenty one when I would qualify as an Engineer. I was placed in the Maintenance Dept under the manager Mr Brewin. My first six months were in the Drawing Office where I would learn how to produce a technical drawing. From these technical drawings made on the drawing board were transformed into blue print diagrams for the engineers to use to be able to translate the information to make the various products in the workshop.
The steelworks produced alloy steel mainly for use in aircraft. The factory was part of Osborn Steel company of Sheffield .Health and Safety regulations were unknown at the time. I remember a shed called called Ryburn. Upon entering all you could see was a thick black cloud comprised of metal dust. Under the cloud was several men who each had a steel ingot about one foot square by five foot long clamped in a vice. The men operated a grinding wheel to remove the hard outer casing. Sparks flew everywhere to creating the metal dust cloud. The men wore no overalls, gloves or masks. I was told the workforce were displaced foreigners from after the War.
The shiny ingots they produced would then go to the rolling mills. The ingots would be heated to near melting point and fed by men using tongs to hold the ingot end which would be put through several holes in the rolling machine. Each hole getting progressively smaller so the length of the ingot from five foot and a foot square to a finished one inch diameter and thirty foot long continuous length. The men had to have tremendous dexterity with feet and leg movement. As the diminishing ingot was fed through the roller by one man, remember it was molten steel and sweaty hot, the man at the other side had to catch it. Failing to catch it would result in an accident. The was evidence of many an accident at the site with many former “rollers” limping.
GPO General Post Office
In July 1960 I saw an advert in the T&A situations vacant section for apprentices’ at the GPO Telephone section. I applied and sat the entrance exam one Saturday morning at Telephone House, Broadway, Bradford . I was successful so I left the steelworks and joined the GPO. As the GPO was then a Government department I become a Civil Servant and had to abide by the Official Secrets Act.
I was initially assigned to the telephone installation section. After about a week because of my electrical and mechanical knowledge gained from the steelworks I was placed in the quaintly called Electric Light and Power department ( EL&P ). My title was Youth in Training ( Y in T ). This was the first rank, very forces style, followed by T2B, T2A and T1 (Technician One) and Inspector (Insp). These were the ranks you could gain if you were a craftsman. If you passed exams the career was Technical Officer ( TO ), Assistant Engineer ( AE ) to Executive Engineer ( EE ). I wore a brown smock.
I was teamed with Leslie Hunt a TO who lived in Guiseley. He had a dark green Morris Post Office Telephones van. Leslie’s job was to maintain the lifts’( escalators ) in the Bradford postal and telephone area. I was to learn all about lifts which would be invaluable to me as you will read.
I was given a day off each week to attend Bradford Technical College for electrical engineering tuition. Also sent to the GPO residential national training centre for various courses at Stone in Staffordshire. I also had two, one duration six weeks the other four weeks, courses at a training school in London. Accommodation was at a Mrs Johnson in Cornwallis Road.
During my stay at Mrs Johnson’s a profound incident happened. I am about 18 away from home for the first time on my own in the big city. One evening the family of Mrs Johnson were in the lounge talking. Joining in the conversation about a family friend I made the comment that the person in question I thought was queer. Well all hell broke loose and I was accused of making an unsavoury and untrue remark. No amount of pleading naivety on my part regarding the queer remark was accepted. I was to learn what a homosexual was. A very taboo subject in those days. I was growing up.
I passed the exams at Bradford Technical College eventually obtaining a Higher National Certificate (HNC ) in electrical engineering the equivalent today to a university degree.
Wibsey Park Shed Gang.
The summers of the late 50s/early 60s. In the evenings I used to join the gang at our meeting place in the shed in Wibsey Park. There was Bob Bryar, Trevor Morley, Alan Noler, Neil Kirkaldy ( Kaldy ), Melvyn Pacey, Eric Hartley (Funf ), Frank Derrick, Jimmy Whitfield. We were joined by lovely girls Dot Smith, Alice White, Dianne Emmott, Joan Hunter, Mavis Brown, Sandra Lake, Pat Wells, Kath Morehouse, Judith Nolan, Jill Lightowler. The shed was always packed and always lively in such an innocent way. Oh what bliss.
Sadly Frank died in 2006 but I am still in touch with Bob who married Alice and live in Keighley. Melvyn – Leeds. Neil – on his own Greek island, (sadly Neil died from cancer in 2016). Trevor happily married in Japan. Alan with his craft business in Bradford, Eric who married Joan. Joan sadly passing in 2006. Eric passing in September 2021. Dearest Eric never got over the loss of his beloved Joan. Jimmy passing in November 2021. Dot now retired from the family business in Brighouse. Pat Wells – Florida. I would love to hear the whereabouts of Mavis, Dianne, Kath, Judith, Sue and the beautiful Sandra Lake.
In the summer of 1962 Kaldy, Melvyn, Bob, Eric, George and myself went to Butlins in Filey, North Yorkshire for a holiday for a week. We had our photo taken in the Pig and Whistle Bar.
In 2007 apart from George we all met up again in the centre of Bradford and recreated the photo. Alan Noler stood in for George. 1962 – George (Alan), Melvyn, Me, Bob, Eric, Kaldy – 2007 Students Club–See photos below
One of our teenage haunts was the Students Club in Bradford. The club was in the building basement now demolished that was opposite the mighty Gaumont Cinema. The club in its dingy damp basement was adorned with paintings on the wall done by students of the nearby Bradford Art College, one luminary being David Hockney. Just think there are some undiscovered paintings of David Hockney under some rubble in Bradford city centre. The artists appearing at the Students Club in the late fifties and early sixties included super vocalist Mick Sager and his backing group the Crestas. Garth Cawood and the Dingoes would also be regulars. (see video below)
There were ALL NIGHT RAVES at the club with the only thing on offer being soft drinks. I remember one weekend Kaldy and I went on a ferry trip organised by the club to the Isle of Man. There were lots of jazz bands on board including Kenny Balls and Acker Bilks. Our attire was sackcloth. Well that is what you wore back then !!
The compere at the Students Club Mike Lamb used to introduce the acts by name then with a short speech and with the final words “ it maybe cold and rainy outside but its warm and bright in the Students Club so STICK….KKK AROUND….DDD” stretching on the mic those last two words over several mesmeric seconds. That saying fascinated me so profoundly that I resurrected it some fifty years later for the Dusty Miller tenure and an apt name for this ebook.
I was a teenager at the start of the swinging sixties. Rock and roll with Bill Haley and his Comets was all the rage. The biggest star was Elvis Presley. Both these were from America but the UK also had its stars. Bradford Gaumont with its 3,318 seater auditorium used to attract all the big music stars. Along with Kaldy and Bob I saw all the major American and British stars of the age. The Gaumont closed in 2002. However, it is now undergoing major refurbishment for opening in 2023 as a live music venue.
Bob Bryer and myself were at one of the shows featured at the time were big American stars Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. When Gene appeared clad all in black leather attire he most of his set turned his back on the audience. I wrote a letter about this to the T&A newspaper. It was printed the following week. In the letter I mentioned the best act on the show was the support artiste Vince Eager. Well a few days later I was contacted by an aunt of Vince who lived in Eccleshill she invited me and Bob to her house. She arranged for us to meet Vince which we did. In the meantime Bob got a date with the aunts daughter Anne Miller and courted her for a while.
Then along came Beatlemania. The first time I saw the Beatles was when they closed the first half of the Helen Shapiro show the next when they topped the bill on their next two visits to the Gaumont. My mother came the second time.
I took after my mother with her love of the musical theatre and over the years have attended the theatre to see and hear all the major musicals.