home | 1900 | 1925 | 1930 | 1937 | 1941 | 1945 | 1946 | 1949 | 1952 | 1956 | 1960 | 1969 | 1978 | greenwich | info

(page 2 of 2)


An example of Alf's workplace cartoons

In my last six weeks in hospital before I was discharged on 28th March 1957, I was kept very busy, not only with my drawings but I was studying for an ICS Mechanical Inspectors Course with a view to seeking a job as soon as I was fit enough. I had no shortage of visitors now, and I also helped to organise in-house entertainment. There was plenty of local talent in the Swindon area; at least once a week the beds were pushed to one side and the ward transformed into a Concert Theatre and we were fortunate to enjoy some really first-class bands, singers, comedians, etc. One particular regular entertainer on the piano was Bert Fluck, a very lively and witty man; he was the father of Diana Dors, the actress.

I attended my first meeting of the British Legion on 19th June 1957, held in the newly-built Community Centre on the Walcot Estate, quite near to where we lived. The mere handful of members that attended those early meetings was soon increased to several hundred as the population of the Estate grew. The boundaries of Walcot were now joined by two new Estates, Park North and Park South. Our branch of the British Legion soon took advantage of this opportunity to serve more of the expanding population and the responsibility it involved: the branch was renamed “Walcot and Parks” branch. We immediately sought the necessary permission to build our own Headquarters and Club.

By now I had been elected to the Branch Committee and was appointed Publicity Officer. My main job was to write a monthly newsletter, and as its Editor I had to get it published, printed and distributed every month. Many members helped me with the distribution across the whole of the combined estates. We also had a recruiting drive across the area and pitched a recruitment tent at the first Walcot Estate Day on 24th August 1957. I was kept busy drawing posters (all individually hand-painted) for this and other Legion events.

In 1958, an old cattle shed and some surrounding land, known as Peploes Farm at Park North, was bought by the Branch and converted by the members into a new Club House and Branch HQ. All work was carried out by the volunteer members in their spare time. The building work, including the installation of a bar, kitchen, toilets, etc., was carried out to a high standard and the building was officially opened by an official from Legion Area Headquarters. I recall attending many functions in this new building and attended many meetings in the Committee rooms at the far end of the building.

I finally resigned from the branch when we moved away from Swindon in December 1960. For a while, I kept in touch with some of the members and in 1965 I was sent a newspaper cutting showing the opening by the National Chairman of a brand-new purpose-built British Legion Branch Headquarters & Club House for Walcot and Parks. Unfortunately I was never to see this building, as I lost touch with my friends at Swindon, but several years later in 1996, when I felt the need to congratulate the branch on its forthcoming Fortieth Anniversary I was surprised to find that the branch had disbanded earlier that year.

Meanwhile, on 26th August 1957, I had started work at Plessey, Cheyney Manor, just outside Swindon. My department dealt entirely in the manufacture of sheet metal components, mainly for Ministry (of Defence) contracts. We were working a basic 48 hour week and I started as a Viewer. In the 5 years that I worked in that department I progressed through all the Inspection grades to qualify as a skilled Sheet Metal Jig & Tool Inspector.

In the meantime, apart from my work with the British Legion, time spent with my family and decorating the house, I got very engrossed in gardening. With June’s help, I completely cleared the back garden of weeds and unwanted rubbish, dug it over and created a very successful vegetable garden, plus lawns in the front and back with a selection of flowers. We also bred rabbits. During 1958 I joined the Walcot Allotment Holders and Horticultural Society and even won awards in the vegetable classes at their first Annual Flower Show in 1958. Michael also won two awards for drawings.

We moved house once, from Hamilton Close to another council house at 17 Courtney Road, Walcot. Michael started school in 1958.

June had some friends who lived near Torquay in Devon and we spent some time with them on holiday during July and August 1959. The following year, around June 1960, we stayed with them again, this time at Exmouth. During both of these visits we travelled around the Devon countryside and seaside. We also made a trip to Guernsey, on the 22nd July 1959: we went by coach from Torquay to Weymouth, then caught a ferry to St Peter's Port in Guernsey. The sea journey was very long and uncomfortable, but we had about two hours in St Peter's Port in which to enjoy the scenery, wander around the shops and have a quick lunch before catching the ferry back to Weymouth. It was a long day but enjoyable. We took many photographs during these holidays in Devon and in Guernsey, which remind me of the good times.

Still at Swindon, around August 1959, we had an unofficial Flower Show in our Sheet Metal department at work, what started with a few Dahlia blooms appearing on individual benches, and ended up with a whole Section set aside for display purposes. I got involved in the organising and the Managers gave their approval for the show. Dozens of empty milk bottles were scrounged from the canteen: the rule was that only Dahlias would be shown and no proper flower vases would be used. One of the Managers agreed to act as Judge and the Show was such a success that they decided to make it official for the following year. So it was that our improvised Dahlia display turned out to be the forerunner of future Gala and Sports Days at Swindon.

Our first “official” Flower & Vegetable Show was held at the Plessey Sports Ground on Saturday 6th August 1960, as part of the Swindon Region Sports Day. There were twenty-six different classes in the flower section and many of the prizes were taken by members of the Sheet Metal Department (no surprise there!).

I didn't stand a chance with my own Dahlias but I did take a couple of prizes with vegetables. June also won prizes with embroidery and a machine-knitted garment, and Michael won a prize with his drawings.

Sometime about February 1960 I was inspired by some of the various characters amongst my work-mates to draw some cartoons depicting their activities. Most of my lunch breaks found me drawing on scraps of paper and afterwards pinning-up the finished cartoon on a board above my bench. After a few days I was drawing requests and found my work-mates queuing up after lunch everyday to see what the daily cartoon was all about. This continued until November 1960 when I left the department, but by then I had done over seventy different cartoons and collected them all in a scrap book.

Mike says: which I still have and from which are taken some of the drawings on this website; and yes, I'm still intending to scan more of them and add to the site, at some time…

Whilst we were living at Courtney Road, Walcot, around September 1960, June suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined to bed at home for several weeks, having refused to go into hospital. Thanks to her many friends locally, we managed to maintain a twenty-four hour vigil for her, with me doing the night shift and sleeping during the day while her friends would take over daily on a rota basis. I obviously had to take time-off from work during this period. In the meantime, Michael was being cared for by friends in the country.

After June’s illness, at the Doctor’s suggestion we sought to find other accommodation away from Swindon, preferably near to the coast. The local British Legion branch applied on our behalf to move us into rehabilitation quarters at Maidstone in Kent, but we had to decline this offer as it would only have been temporary and we would lose our council housing status.

I applied for several jobs in the Southampton area in an effort to get a council house exchange. We found a family living at Thornhill in Southampton who wanted to move to Swindon; the husband was already working in Swindon and travelling home at weekends. We went to Southampton by train to view their house and mutually agreed to the exchange, and we also obtained permission from our respective Housing Authorities. It only remained for me to get employment in the Southampton area. I eventually arranged for four different interviews on the same day, some time in November 1960. I took a day’s leave from work and travelled from Swindon to Southampton by train.

Two of the interviews were at Departmental Stores in the town, the first one at Plummers was not suitable; the second job, however, was at Edwin Jones where I was offered a post as a trainee Salesman in the Bedding Department. The third interview, near to the dock area, was at Dewhurst Butchers. I saw the District Manager who offered me a job in the distribution depot in the docks. He said he would hold the job for me if I decided not to take the job at Edwin Jones. I then crossed the river on the Chain Ferry to Woolston, to travel by bus to Hamble for my fourth interview, at the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Factory. I arrived at a time when the Chief Inspector, the man I was supposed to see, was at lunch. I was finally interviewed by a Supervisor who could only say there were no vacancies at present, but suggested I might re-apply at a later date when the Chief Inspector was there.

When I got home that evening I was able to tell June that I was successful at two of the interviews, yet still undecided at which one to accept. The following morning I handed in my notice at Plessey and was sent to see the Personnel Officer who was quite aware of my medical and domestic problems. After some discussion, he offered me an incentive to stay with the Company and suggested I could transfer to Plessey at Havant, near Portsmouth. I would be classed as a “Key Worker” and be entitled to a council house. That evening, June and I decided we would take the offer, and the following day I notified the Personnel Department, who made the necessary arrangements for me to go to Havant for an interview.

Plessey New Lane, Havant was a small, compact factory on a new industrial estate, making components for military equipment. The Chief Inspector seemed impressed by my Swindon reference and offered me a job as Senior Electro/Mechanical Inspector in the Professional Components Department. I also saw the Personnel Manager who assured me that a council house would be made available in due course and in the meantime I could stay in lodgings provided by the Company; my family would remain in Swindon until the house was ready.

About a week later, 11th November 1960, I was transferred from Plessey Cheyney Manor, Swindon, to my new job, at Plessey New Lane, Havant. I was lodging with the family of a Foreman from another Department, who lived in a bungalow in Church Road, Hayling Island and I travelled with him in his car to and from work every day. Hayling Island was a desolate place in the winter; it was November and some of the roads and most of the beach was flooded: Butlin's Amusement Park was completely under water. I went for some short walks around the Island but spent most of my spare time in the lodgings studying for an Art Correspondence Course. At weekends I travelled home to see my family at Swindon, although my only other contact with June and Michael was by letter as we had no telephone at home.

During the 6 or 8 weeks that I stayed at Hayling Island, June had chosen not to come down to visit the area, even though my landlady, Mrs Palmer, had offered accommodation to June and Michael. She said she preferred to wait until we all moved down to the new house.

The moving day arrived: 29th December 1960. I had taken some time-off from work to help with the move. We all travelled down in the removal van; June and Michael had never been to this part of the coast before and they were excited at the thought of living there and pleased to be away from Swindon.

Some points of history: In 1957 Patrick Moore broadcast the first edition of “The Sky At Night”, the GPO planned to introduce Postcodes and the Queen made her first Xmas broadcast on TV.
In 1958, the “Busby Babes” (Manchester United Football team) were killed in a plane tragedy in Munich; the first parking tickets were issued in London; work began on a £1.5million shopping centre in Birmingham (the Bullring Centre, later demolished in 2001/2); Christopher Cockerel invented the hovercraft; Charlie Smirke won his fourth Derby at Epsom; the Bubble Car appeared at the Motor Show and the Queen switched on the first self-dialled telephone trunk call.
In 1959, Henry Cooper won his first boxing title, British & Empire Heavyweight; there were 620,728 people unemployed in the UK; the average male manual worker in UK earned £13/2/11 (£13.15, €19.87) a week; British Rail proposed to close down 230 stations as part of a national review; and the new portable transistor radio, which cost £23 (€34.75), was shown off at Earls Court.

Go to the next page > leighpark01
Go back to the last page < swindon01
Go to the home page << home

home | 1900 | 1925 | 1930 | 1937 | 1941 | 1945 | 1946
1949 | 1952 | 1956 | 1960 | 1969 | 1978 | greenwich | info

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Text by Alf Allen 1999. Edited and spell-checked by Mike Allen 2003.
Most photos taken by Alf and most illustrations drawn by him; scanned from his albums, etc., now in my possession and digitally edited 2003-2005.
Yes, yes, the photos and layout need updating - the website was first designed in "dial-up days", before any sort of broadband, and everything had to be small so it uploaded and downloaded fast. Work to do, I know.

Website produced 2003-2013 by Mike Allen - a fatuous platitudes production.

Attempting accessibility: Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS! Explanation of Level A Conformance

Last changed 28-Aug-2013 22:54