Wednesday, 5 April 2017

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 36........

Another in the series from Eddy

My apprenticeship with OPC was going along as expected. I was getting experience in various factory departments and a couple of things happened to me that became very memorable. I had to spend a period of time in the electrical test department.

This involved in testing the solenoids to see if they would perform to specification. As a solenoid had to move through a distance and pull a switch we had to mount it up on a jig and fix weights to the plunger end via pulleys and connect the coil terminals to an electrical supply. Switching on the solenoid would pull the weight correctly and pass its test.

We were supposed to switch off the mains before disconnecting it from the coil, but you could do them quicker if you just held only one wire at a time, and as we were standing on rubber mats we would not get an electrical shock provided you did not touch the actual live wire.

Well, I got too clever with this skill and managed to connect myself up to about 350 volts AC and the shock that went through my body sent me back towards a fire escape hitting the handles the doors burst opened, and I ended up outside the doors onto the fire escape itself. I was very lucky not to have been killed. My colleague’s thought it was very funny and I did feel stupid having put myself in this situation. I recovered and carried on testing the solenoids.

Only, this time, I had very serious respect for the power of electricity. All this was a long time before health and safety standard regulations were brought in to safeguard idiots like me killing themselves.

The other incident happened whilst I was working in the coil winding shop. All the winding machines were driven by a common electric motor and the speed was controlled by a foot treadle, by pushing it further down the faster the machine would work and more coils could be produced.

I had a go on a machine and was basically experimenting with it to see what it was capable of doing. I ran it up to a fast speed and the wire broke and something went into by eye. It was very painful and I went to see the works medical sister and she said I must go and visit the local hospital for them to see it. I had a piece of copper wire embedded in the centre of my eye and she was not going to remove it on her own. I saw a doctor who put some painkilling drops in the eye and removed the wire. I was then told that I ought to go to the London Moorefield’s eye hospital for a specialist to see it as it had damaged the pupil. So I reported back to work and with my eye covered up I took myself off to London.

I finally got there and the specialist said he would like me to stay in the hospital for a few days for observation. I was in a ward with two other people and later on that evening I had an injection of penicillin into the eye to guard against infection.

That was very painful. By this time mum and dad had been told that their son was in a London hospital and came to visit me. I was in the hospital for four days and on Saturday Tim brought his new girlfriend to see me.

Her name was Maureen she was a lovely person and had a wonderful personality I think I fell in love with her myself. Tim was well smitten with Bunny as she was more commonly called. She lived in New Eltham. I was very pleased Tim had made the effort to come all that way to see me.

My eye was Ok and no lasting damage was done to it. I eventually came home and work carried on as usual. Later on Gillian, myself with Bunny and Tim went on a trip to London and went on a river boat from Greenwich to Westminster. This was just before I got the big elbow from Gillian.

I eventually got into the offices of OPC and spent some time with the Work Study Department. This was run by a two guys Doug Large and Gerry Greer who were in their late thirties. Their job was to set a piece work rate for the various assembly tasks in the factory and the operator would use this rate to do the job and earn extra money assembling them quicker than the rate given. If a rate was given as 50 per hour and she did 100 per hour she was, in fact, doubling her money.

So if she could fool the time and motion into believing she was doing the job as efficiently as she could but in fact by going slower she could get a better rate. So with a clipboard and two stopwatches attached to it, I went off to time a lady who was doing a job that needed a new rate set on it. She saw me coming and I was completely fooled by her and she got a very good rate so good that it had to be done again by Gerry. I was with this department for six months.

Janet and Jean at camber 1960
I then moved onto the Planning Department for another six months and was designing gadgets and jigs to assist in the making of products. I eventually got into the Drawing Office and this was for me. A clean environment, later starting time in the morning, wearing a smart suit and getting closer to a classier type of girl.

You have read the story of my marriage to Janet Paice, this is how we meet.

Tim and I would have our dinner in the canteen and on occasions two girls from the offices would come in for something to eat.

Their names were Janet Paice and Christine,? Both were attractive and Tim suggested I should ask one of them for a date. I wasn’t too sure about that, as I was not having a lot of success with girls.

I would date a girl take her to a dance, then I would chat up the drummer discuss drums and take the girl home, I could not work out why they did not want to go out with me again. I think I was missing the point.

Music and drums were becoming an obsession, and I must have become a bit of a bore to anyone who was not interested in music or drums. I would go out of my way to speak to, and if I had the chance, to actually asked the drummer for a sit in on his kit. Very often I did and gained a lot of experience from doing this. But
I had no consideration or understanding of the poor girl who I had brought to the dance or what she thought of my antics. It’s no wonder she gave me up as a lost cause.

However, I did pluck up the courage one day,  as Janet and I passed in the corridor. I asked her if she liked jazz, and she said she did, I then asked her if she would like to come with me to my jazz club in Woolwich to see a jazz band. As another work colleague Jean and her boyfriend Alan were going as well, she agreed to go with me. I said I would pick her up at her house. She lived  in a flat in Plumstead. I went over on my bike and leaving it in a store room on the ground floor we went off on our date.

Janet and I had a good time listening and dancing to a top jazz band it may have been Acker Bilk’s band I can’t remember. I took her home and was invited in for a cup of tea. I met her family. A little kiss and cuddle outside the store room and I then cycled home, I was very happy to have found a new girlfriend. She agreed to go steady with me and we started to go out in a foursome with Bunny and Tim. We became very firm friends and went on many trips and excursions together.

One time Jean and Alan took Janet and me to Camber Sands in Sussex in his Austin convertible sports car. This was on a beautiful sunny summers day and driving along with the top down with the wind blowing in you face it was a fantastic experience driving along the A20 past Maidstone, past Ashford across the marches at Appledore and Romney.

We got to Camber and took a few photos had a picnic and drove home again an unforgettable journey for one who had only been used to trips to Seasalter on the back of dad’s motorbike and sidecar, this was the only way to travel I loved it. Sunday evenings were at the Jazz club and everything in the garden was rosy and my cup of good fortune was full to the top.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; courtesy of  Eddy Newport

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