Thursday, 9 March 2017

Growing up in Eltham in the 1950s ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 17 ..... leaving school, apprenticeships and a job in Plumstead

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

On becoming fifteen years old, I had the opportunity to leave school and I went for an interview with a company in Sidcup called Kolster Brands Ltd.

This company was manufacturing television sets and was at the forefront of technology. They took on apprentices for various types of work ranging from tool makers to machine setters and other skills appertaining of their industry.

At that interview, it was suggested if I stayed on at school until I was sixteen and got the first part of a three-course of the national certificate I would be accepted into the tool room as an apprentice.

The firm would send apprentices to college once a week to get the higher certificates. So this is what I decided to do. So I stayed on for a further year, promising to my dad to get my head down and study, hard.

My uncle David had a share in a small company making industrial cutting tools for the tailoring industry. I rightly or wrongly thought it might me nice to end up working for him. This was my idea and not his. I did not realise it, but the understanding with the other partners of this company was not to employ members of one's family. I was not to know this at the time. The reference to this will become apparent later on.

Now 16 and having left school. The pending interview with Kolster Brands was coming up dad and I went to meet my future employees.

The interview went well until I was asked the question “When you have finished your apprenticeship, what do you intend to do then?”

Time, to a sixteen-year boy, is forever and what I intended to do five years from then seemed to me a very funny question. I was completely thrown. I had never given it a thought as to what I wanted to do.

All I knew is that I wanted to get an apprenticeship and get a skill. So I said the first thing that came into my head. “I would like to join my uncles' firm and work for him.”

Well, the silence was deafening, dad squirmed in his seat and I just sat there. “Well, that’s I would like to do,” I thought.

The interview came to an end and very shortly I got a letter saying I was nor successful in obtaining an apprenticeship with the company. I was devastated to say the least.

This was a problem for dad as to what to do with me now. He did not want me to become a motor mechanic. So we went to see the Youth Employment Officer at the Woolwich Employment Exchange.

The man looked very glum when he said that all the large firms had taken their quota of apprentices for that year, and I would not be eligible for the next year as I would be too old.

However, there was a firm in Plumstead that was starting a new apprentice scheme and were looking for recruits. I think that the government were trying to encourage employers to take on these schemes and were given financial support to pay and educate young people.

The company was Oliver Pell Control Ltd.

As this was probably the last chance to get an apprenticeship I went for it. An interview was arranged and off I went. Only, this time, I was prepared to answer any doggy questions that involved the future.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

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