Posts filed as 'Social life'
Tony Ingham has written to us about his grandfather, Jack (David John) Bethel. Wonderful memories of growing up in Leicester and BU.
Jack Bethel, as he would have been known by his colleagues had well over 40 years service with the BU and retired in 1955, aged 65, on pension from the BU which he was so proud of. He was born in Wales and came to the Midlands with his parents and siblings to live in the Nottingham area. His grandfather had been killed in the largest mining disaster ever in the Country in 1878, in Abercarn, leaving the family without parents as the mother had died before. His father was a carpenter and could find work other than in the pits and worked on canals, rising to Inspector of Canals in the Nottingham area. I know from what had been said that Jack had even been down the mines in the Nottingham area when he was short of work but did not stay. He was medically unfit to be called up.
Tony Ingham, May 2019
Date posted: May 27, 2019No Comments
We have had a lovely contact from Richard ‘Dick’ Allen – who has only just found the BU History site, after many years wondering what had become of the company and people he used to work with.
“I joined the BU in 1978, working as a Sales and Purchase Administrator in the old Materials Division building on Hildyard Road ( still there I believe, as a clothing company? ). Stayed throughout the various changes from BU to Emhart to Texon etc – finally ended as Technical Sales Manger for the IVI Tack & Nail Factory and travelling to Europe and the Americas to promote the range.
Just before I left we were sending a 20 tonne container of Carpet Gripper tacks every week to Los Angeles for one of the largest manufacturers of carpet gripper strips in the world!
I remember working with several BU technicians on the side lasting machines and heel attaching ones as well. Mick Lambell was our Buyer in IVI – I wonder if his Italian is still fluent!
Received my 25 year award ( cannot remember if there was still an official Quarter Century Club by then ) in 2003.”
Picture of presentation below. Dick is centre front row. Also includes Mick Garrett, Mick Lambell, Simon Ward and Stan Barnes.
The second photo is of the Materials Division football team. Some other players in this picture are Paul Price, Jeff Kirby, John Rowley & Alan Brown.
Fond memories of all the people I met and worked with, in the best company I ever worked at.
Kind regards – Dick Allen
Incidentally, we made a short video of the IVI back in 2014. Click on the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXKGZVxyxUg
Date posted: May 17, 2019No Comments
Ian Breward – BU Memories0
Ian Breward has shared some of his family memories of BU
“I live in Spain and South Africa now, and I last visited the UK some six years ago.
My father told me in about 1937 that he and his mate were out of work and had heard that the BU had vacancies; they went to McDonald road where the queue was down the street and as they got nearer to the table where the interviews were being conducted they could see time and time again men were being turned away, their skills were not wanted (metal workers). My dad arrived at the deck and said he was a wood machinist and him and his mate were taken on, the only two that day. That was the start of 36 years working for the BU.
My dads name was Walter Breward. My mum and my uncle also worked for BU, including the war years; dad ended up in the drawing office stores.
One day my dad was working on a roof and fell off breaking his arm. After that he worked in the drawing office stores. He told me he did not like piece work. He was a member of the 25-year club. As a family we went to the BU concerts on a weekend sitting on a bench at Hildyard Road and watching the acts. The street in the photo below is where I lived up to 6 years of age, on the left-hand side, 112 Wand Street. At the bottom is Ross Walk and BU. We later moved to 20 Rowan Street off Fosse Road North.
While at Wand Street, I must have been five or six, I had a three-wheel bike and I decided to cross over the road on the corner of Wand Street and Ross Walk. I started across and the BU buzzer went and all the workers came rushing out of the factory and one crashed in to me. I ran home in tears; the bike rider came to my house and showed my dad what had happened. My dad fixed his bike – a long time later my dad realised that the cyclist had been on the wrong side of the road! I often used to play in the gap between the concertina doors that closed the gates.
I started at BU at 8.30am on the 5th January 1959 with 146 other boys. I was 15 years old. I was an apprentice from 1959 to 1965.
We were photographed and given a number and a white boiler suit and taken to AT (Apprentice Training) and given a place on a bench. The next three weeks we were shown how to use small tools. At 18 I was transferred back to AT to teach the new apprentices.
I went from AT to B dept. I asked the foreman why they called it the salt mines down there. He said If you last there you will be able to work anywhere, and he was right. I spent one year there. It’s bad. The dept was below ground, no light from windows and there was a mist in the room all the time. some of the concrete floor had gone and soil was left.
I first worked on the bench next to a blind guy who sold cigs one at a time. I did tapping all day. I only did not make my wage one week and was told that if I did not make it again I was out, but I always made it after that. Next, I was put on the automatic tapping machines; each operation was for three months. After that I was put on the tumbling machines; I would fill them up first thing in the morning and again after lunch with sulphur and other chemicals – there were no masks!
This is where I worked when I was in HA (Heavy assembly). I built the number 7 clicker press, five at a time, on piece work. One day I was working there and a group of older guys walked in and all the other guys in the dept started looking busy. I thought it was the directors. But it was the old foreman, he had left five years earlier and they were still terrified of him. The foreman I worked under sat on a desk 18 inches above the floor (he read his bible each day) so he could see right down the room. I was told not to ask him for a requisition for a broken drill or reamer etc. I broke a one-eighth drill and said I was going to get a requisition; the guys said, are you mad go and buy one from a shop in Churchgate, we do. No, I said, so I worked my way down to his desk and all the guys were watching. I ask him for one and he signed one for me. They told me no one had ever done that before.
The job was hard work, I never made the time so I would put in extra time for finishing off things that had not been done properly. In the end they said they would re-time me. One day a guy in a suit and my foreman came to where I was working on a lathe and asked me to stop work. The guy in the suit said what we are going to do to help you is pay you 75% of what you make. I said how is that going to help me. Try it and you will see they said. I said you take off your coat and I will take off my boiler suit and you can have a go and whatever time you do it in a will except 50% for the job because I know I am faster than you. He was the time and study guy. As I was talking my father arrived.The supervisor said to him tell Ian to except what we are doing. My father said at home I am responsible for him at work you are and left. I asked why he came down he said he was told to go and see me.
I was in the cutting dept at the age of 21. I was on a highly specialised job. A guy down the room was unskilled and he did the same three jobs every day as he could not have done any other. We had just been paid and he came down to me and said look at what I get, £ 22 a week. He knew I was not on that, I was on £ 9 a week on piece work. Well, that hit a bad chord with me so I asked the foreman for a meeting with the apprentice training guy in personal. He came back to say they were busy, so I asked him for a pass out; he asked why and I told him. He said but you will all ways have bread on your table as a skilled guy. I said, but it will take me three years to earn what he earns in one. Not good. I went out and went over to the Brush factory in Loughborough and then Rolls Royce, but no jobs. I was on my way back down Melton Road and I passed the AEI. So I went in they said they would take me on at £ 15 a week. I said, is it piece work, they said, no you get that each week.
I put my notice in on the Monday and each day after that they would take me into the foreman’s office and tried to persuade me to stay; they even offered me a job on the Vulcanising section at £ 30 a week, but it was for seven days. I left.
I was at BU for six years and six weeks. I started with 146 other boys on the morning and when I finished my apprenticeship and was presented with the indentures there was only five of us left. So hard; 44 hours a week.
I still have the tool box and all the letters to start and all the info they gave you.”
– Ian Breward, Feb 2019
Date posted: March 5, 2019No Comments
Date posted: January 26, 2017No Comments
C Department, circa 19601
Faces from 50 plus years back. Bob Palmer has given us these two photos that record the players involved in a Men v Apprentices cricket match at the Mowacre Hill Sports Ground.
Top row, left to right. Joe Brise, Dave Tipton, Alan Sutton, Bob Palmer, Dave Dumpleton, Joe Streather, Rog Simmons and Jack Smart.
Bottom row: Don Ellis, Dave Shepherd, Dave Callis, Mick Whittaker, Mick Bruce and Jack Payne.
Top row, L to R. Nobby Hall, Dick Pike, Derek Clark, Bill Carr and Jack Smart.
Bottom row. Joe Brice, Jack Norton, George Gamble, Raich Carter, John Buswell, Freddie Sears, Bill Simpson, Sailor Bill Thornton, Bunny Astill and Alan Carter.
Date posted: February 25, 20141 Comment
Cliff Allen has written to us about… “What for me was the best company I have ever worked for. I have realised working for other companies since the sad demise of the BU that as far as conditions and benefits for employees were concerned the BU was way ahead of its time.
“The picture is the retirement of Alan Plant who was a sheet metal worker in Charnwood department. He served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War so unbeknown to him the staff at Charnwood built a ship out of cardboard, which unfortunately is not in the picture, and arranged for two sea scouts from the sea scout base on Ross Walk to come and pipe him aboard. To say he was surprised is an understatement, but he thought it was a fantastic thing to do.
“I started as a trainee welder at Charnwood which was the sheet metal department of the BU, in September 1968. It got the name Charnwood from the factory on Abbey Lane where it was situated. The factory had been called Charnwood Engineering and, as was told to me, was owned by a European count, I can’t remember which country, who had to return home to look after his sick mother, and the BU took the factory over. It was on the site that is now the Renault garage. Before that the department had been situated in the Star Works which was the old tram station next door to the Pineapple public house off St Margerets. In Charnwood there were various departments, welding, fettling, sheet metal, break press and punching, drilling, tool room, assembly, paint shop and maintenance, producing a range of shoe making machines. As far as I can remember there were about 140 staff, and the manager was Mr Bernard Rix. We had our own canteen and two ladies used to prepare the best hot sausage and hot cheese and potato cobs for morning break and meals at lunch. The BU was such a big firm in the late 1960s and early 70s that the blood donor unit decided it was worthwhile to come down from Sheffield and set up in the concert room of the social club. I can remember my foreman Charlie Mitchell telling us that a coach would be transporting us to the club to give blood, I was a young lad at the time and had never thought about giving blood and said I wouldn’t bother. Charlie said it was for a good cause, you’re going, and many years as a blood donor began.
“As the years went by, I can’t remember the dates, the roof on the building needed an expensive repair so we relocated to the empty ground floor of the main building on Ross Walk, and the Abbey Lane building was sold. After a few years we moved again into what had been the old knife shop where we remained. That’s where the picture of Alan Plant is taken. I would guess its the late 80s early 90s, and about 50 staff were employed in Charnwood at that time. In the book (BU People) one of the stories mentions the various clubs that employees could enjoy, one that I didn’t get a mention is the shooting club which was popular with many of the welders.
“I felt proud to tell people I worked at the BU. There was a feeling of belonging to a great company, the like of which I don’t think we will see again. It’s a scandal it ended the way it did, after providing employment for so many Leicester workers over so many years, making what were regarded by many as the best products on the market.”
Date posted: February 11, 2014No Comments
Roger Cox has passed us these fantastic photos of BU rugby teams. We’re not certain of the dates they were taken; Roger thinks around 1947. If anyone has any further information, or perhaps recognises someone in the pictures, please let us know.
The players certainly look very happy.
Date posted: February 10, 20141 Comment
Settle back and read Sheila’s wonderful memories of working at BUSMC 1963-1967
“Before leaving school, RusheyMeadGirlsSchool in 1963, after being interviewed by the Careers Advice Service where I made my preference to become an audio typist clear, a lot of my peers and myself were invited to an interview at the BU. We all attended (more like a class trip, really) and had a kind of interview by the Personnel Department. We were told that there were a number of jobs on offer and we then sat – what I now know as – an aptitude test, which I found totally boring. After this test, we were then told what jobs would be offered to us. We weren’t really streetwise (I was 15yrs and 1 month old) and were just glad that we could have a job to go to, as you did in those days.
“I, along with a lot of others, turned up to the Personnel Department on our first day of work and were read the riot act on how to behave by the Personnel lady (I don’t know what her title was, but I think she saw me as someone she could bully as I was very shy and not at all assertive). I was told I was going to be a filing clerk in the Production Control Department and was taken there to be introduced to the lady I was to work with. I walked through the Apprentice Training department to wolf whistles (being a girls school pupil I was definitely not streetwise and was a little bit intimidated at this first onslaught of attention – I later got to quite like it!!!).
“The office was situated on the top floor of the building that was accessed by the bridge over Ross Walk. The floor below housed the cloakrooms and we were told that under no circumstances could you take your coat into the office and a coat on the back of a chair was a definite no-no. On first entering the office I was shocked to see how sparse it was, even for those days. Bare floorboards, grim paintwork and the office was really big. The boss (Mr Gimson) sat at the end of the office in a glass office, his secretary sat on the first row of desks after that together with some clerks. The deputy boss (Mr Hamilton) sat on the next row and it was he who came to give out orders from the boss. My line manager was a chap called George Akers. I can’t remember the names of the others in my immediate section – age has taken its toll! I think there was a lady called Gwen who worked one of the machines that printed the work envelopes and cards etc. I also remember the afternoon tea lady who was called Lucy. Mr Hamilton’s wife also worked in the office. (I came to live in Birstall when I got married and they also lived in Birstall; I saw them often, but would never talk to them because they made my life a bit of a nightmare really when I was working at the BU.
“My first day was a bit overwhelming, getting to know all the others in the immediate area I was working and really getting over not being in school. However, that feeling soon came to an end because if anyone came to talk to me, or anyone really, we were all told not to stand around talking. After about a week, I was approached by the deputy boss and told – not asked – to lower the hem of my skirt (which I had rolled up to show my knees – as was the mini-skirt fashion in those days). I was amazed! We weren’t allowed to have plants (considered un-office-like) and we had to be in the office on time or you were told off by the deputy boss. There was no flexi-time in those days and woe betide you if you were late more than once in a week. There was a lady called Irene who had what I now know as Parkinsons but she was a good old sort, always cracking jokes and then laughing at them.
“I was taken at lunchtime to the canteen at the front of the main BU building where there were canteens for the shop floor workers, a canteen for the lowly office workers, a canteen for ‘staff’ and a canteen for the Directors (or God – as you weren’t supposed to look at them if they came into the room). I didn’t really like the canteen, it was a bit big for my liking, so I used to go to the shop on the corner of Ross Walk and McDonald Road to get a cob and crisps, or go home (I used to live on St Matthews). I remember the Personnel lady cornering me once in the canteen and telling me off for having my hair loose. My workmates said that I had left school, so not to take notice of her, but as I was very scared and very young, I did as I was told and tied it back. I remember having to walk the gauntlet of wolf whistles again later on in my job, as I had to often go to the costing office with documents. I remember the non-stop lift and remember being completely scared of it. I used to wear really high heels in those days (I was only 5’ tall) and I was always scared I would trip. One of the apprentices once held me on the lift until it went over the top and down again, just so he could prove I wouldn’t die!!! I remember being given a tour around the new computer block and seeing the massive computer that had been installed in a specially built building. Later I was to work at Metalastik (Dunlop) who had provided rubber mountings for this building, and also married my husband in 1968 who had worked on the building of it as an apprentice).
“My best friend in the office was a girl called Jean who married Grahame Gregg who worked in the Metallurgical department. I was bridesmaid to Jean and Graham but lost contact with them once I married myself. Graham died recently and I made contact with Jean again on her sad loss.
“After about 18 months or so I was asked if I wanted to have a ‘promotion’ to a typist. I think my wage was £1. 18s. 6d a week then and I was given a rise to £1.19s 0d. My mum let me keep my first week’s wages so I could get some work clothes, but after that she had half as board. My job as a typist was to type the date on the envelope that held the computer work cards and labels and also any special instructions, the biggest being “as soon as possible”. I could see that I would never get to do the job I wanted in that office so I eventually put myself through a typing course and in 1967 took a job as an audio typist with DCE on Thurmaston Lane, and it was that firm that actually taught me that job and put me through a shorthand and typing course. I went on to have better and better jobs until my last job as a secretary to the Managing Director of Mellor Bromley Air Coinditioning before I had children.
“I eventually stopped work to have my children and to help my husband start his business, but 20 years ago I started work in the NHS as a PA until my retirement two years ago. However, I still look fondly on my time at the BU and although the first job I had was lowly, it was a foundation for all I did afterwards, the work ethic and respect for my bosses.
“I am aged 15/16 in the photos, just the time I was at the BU. Note the tight jeans! My friend and I used to catch a bus to Victoria Road East to a shop who used to sell ice blue jeans (blokes ones) and we used to stitch ourselves into them! My hands are placed on my legs as they are to hide my suspender fittings, the jeans were that tight!! Things you do when you are young eh? I used to go roller skating in them as well, and to this day I don’t know how I managed to tie my skates up, cos I could hardly bend down in them!
I can remember once, when I was working there at 16, there was a lot of scurrying around. We were all told to make sure that no cardigans (or jackets for the men) were on our chair-backs (we weren’t allowed to take coats to the office anyway but sometimes when it was cold, some people did – although working conditions then seemed normal to us, nowadays they would be termed as Dickensian). All paperwork was tidied up or removed completely, the printing machines were dusted, boxes of parts cards tidied, stuff taken off the windowsills and even some windows deemed to be dirty were cleaned and all because GOD (or, as I was told, Sir Charles Clore – it may have been someone just as important but I have always remembered being told it was him), was coming through the office – not TO the office, but through. Well, along he came, over the Ross Walk Bridge into the office, didn’t even look around whilst talking to the chap who was escorting him (I peeked a look at him as I was doing some filing, looking towards the door, even though we were instructed not to look at him) and disappeared through the back office door to the warehouse, and from there who knows where he went!! Two days had been spent tidying up the office for that!
“I remember one lad who worked in our office had what we all thought was a very exciting lifestyle. He used to go to London at weekends and told us many times of the parties he went to where he met people such as Frankie Howerd, Shirley Bassey and other stars! He would also tell us of some of the things he did, like smoking ‘reefers’ which, he said, was like getting drunk but much quicker , and popping ‘Purple Hearts’and that we ought to try it! Thankfully, I didn’t feel the need to do that! I did, however, once have a ‘drag’ of a friend’s cigarette when I was experimenting with smoking at 16 -which, now that I am an adult, I know was cannabis. I only had one ‘drag’ but couldn’t walk home from our meeting place which was about 300 yards away! I have never smoked, or taken any recreational stuff since then. What an experience! The lads who had provided the stuff were violently sick and I don’t think they ever touched the stuff again either.
“When I married I became a temp and was sent a couple of times to the BU as such. I worked then with a chap who used to work in Production Control but I can’t remember his name. However, in the in-between years, things had obviously loosened up at the BU and it wasn’t so much like a prison.”
Some other names Sheila recalls… Joan Anderton, who was in charge of apprentices. Glenys, Mr Gimson’s secretary. Pat Langton who drove a fork-lift truck. Nora Thornton, a typist, and Margaret Hamilton, Mr Hamilton’s wife. Also, Pan – (Pancholi) and his wife also worked there. Pan did his apprenticeship and stayed there for years.
Date posted: January 22, 20141 Comment
This great photo from Paul Price is of the Commercial Offices football team taking part in the Payne Cup at the BU grounds Mowmacre Hill in 1978 – Top haircuts lads! “I think we got to the semi-final that year.” Here are the names Paul can remember….
Back row, left to right; Pete Raven (Accounts), Andy Cockayne (Machinery Sales), Paul Price (Shipping and Traffic Office), Andy Lovall (Union Works Office), Not sure, Bob Hollis, Not Sure, Stan Pratt (Union Works Office).
Front Row, left to right; Nick (?) Bell; Not Sure, Not Sure, Not Sure, John Lewin (?) and Paul Davis (?).
Paul joined BU in 1976 as a Shipping Clerk, 2nd floor front offices. He left in 1988 as Shipping and Transport Manager for a varied career in the freight and transport world. Those 12 years were fantastic and a great grounding for my life. Happy days and sad that one of this country’s greatest companys’ is no loger around.
24/09/2015: Gary Coltman, BU Apprentice from 1973-1978, 3 years at Leicester Polytechnic before returning to work in the Shoe Materials Division from 1981 to 1985.
My Dad was Nev Coltman who worked at the BU for 50 years, retiring in 1992.
The football team entered by Paul Price has several names missing, on the front row
Jeff Sedgewick, Dave Bell, Bob Hollis, Robert Folwell.
Date posted: November 11, 20135 Comments
Knife Shop 21
Following on from the ‘Knife Shop 1’ post, Eric Johnson has kindly shared some tremendous pictures of himself and workmates from his department.
The picture above is taken at a 25 year dinner at Samco in Bristol. L-R, Mr Kinder, Bert Harrison, Eric Johnson and Sis Hawksworth.
In this picture Eric is standing at a Die Sinking machine. Below is another Quarter Century club dinner ocassion. Eric again, with pals Sis and Bert.
Finally, there is a lovely photo looking along Ross Walk from the 1970s.
Date posted: August 23, 20131 Comment