Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Growing up in Eltham in the 1950s ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 16 ..... 1959, Margate and a job

 Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

1955 and back at the Poly, one summer’s day a trip to Margate’s Dreamland was organised.

All those going met at the school and coaches were laid on for the journey. With our packed lunches and dressed to kill we were off. We were left to our own devices. When we got there and went on all the rides we could.

We met up with some girls and followed them around and eventually shared some rides with them. I picked up with a girl and found out she lived in New Eltham. We agreed to meet up once we got home. We had a good day out and went home with a sense of excitement that I was about to go on my first date.

We had arranged to meet at Avery Hill Park at an appointed time. (I am sorry to say I can not remember her name). She did turn up and we wandered around the park talking. She was very nice and I did get to kiss her goodnight and she went home. We went out once more but it faded out soon after. That was my first girlfriend.

My first job, after leaving school and prior to me starting an apprenticeship.

Dad had scoured the local papers and found a job advertised and told me to go and apply for an interview. I did, and off I went to the White Line Laundry on Blackheath Hill to be interviewed for the job as a motor fitters mate.

The job involved working with a skilled fitter who job was to maintain a fleet of Vauxhall Bedford delivery vans that delivered laundry around the South London area. I got the job and duly started.

The fitter, I think his name was Charlie.

Charlie was to me an old boy who had been through the war as a prisoner-of-war and had a lung problem. He had a habit of coughing and spitting and what he spat out made me feel bad. I had to follow him around and do whatever he asked me to do. He had a short temper and would often swear at me. The conditions we worked were dreadful.

A small shed that serves as a workshop and where all the spanners and other tools were kept.  I had to supply my own overall which we were allowed to be washed by the laundry. The only place we had to work on the vans was where they were parked at night. This also served as a coke and coals storage area. This was fuel for the furnace to heat up the water used in the laundry. As one can imagine we got very dirty indeed.

I was there for only nine weeks and during that time I was involved with changing the vans oil, fan belts, greasing nipples, adjusting tappets, mending punctures, fixing a gear box and regrinding cylinder valves.

Charlie would be asked to look at a fault reported by a van driver and said to me, pointing to somewhere inside the engine compartment. “Go and get me a spanner to fit that nut”. I looked at the nut and went to the workshop and duly fetched the wrong spanner. He exploded with rage “You stupid b*****d, I want a spanner to fit THAT nut, now go and get me the right size “

I did, only, this time, I fetched an armful of spanners. Another time we were working on a van struggling to get the gearbox out. The van was propped up at the front and Charlie, lying on his back undoing the nuts that held the clutch bell housing in place. As we got to the last nut to undo he said I was to take the weight and lower it gently on to him. Unfortunately, it slipped out of my hands and it fell on his chest. He gave out a groan, and what he called me is not for repeating.  I think he was security pleased when I gave my notice.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

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