|Wrexham Lager Company|
"Wrexham lager, Wrexham lager
Feed me 'til I want no more". - I think you've got to be there to appreciate it.
1963 was an interesting year. In March, the Beatles released their first album, 'Please Please Me'. In August, the Great Train Robbery occurred. In November, the first episode of Dr Who was broadcast, and in the same month, President John F Kennedy was assassinated (I'll return to this later).
|Belt driven centre lathe|
The owner was what you might affectionately call 'eccentric'. He had one eye, and drove a Triumph sports car. Unfortunately, his one eye was his left one, and being driven by him was an experience to forget. Because he didn't have a right eye, he had to pull out further than other drivers to see any approaching traffic, and he did like to overtake. The car had a turbo boost button, which he pressed when overtaking. It was a nightmare.
The engineering works had an office, staff eating room, machine shop and a large area with a blacksmiths shop to erect large structures. My area was the machine shop, with a couple of different size lathes, drilling machines and sawing machines. Even at the time, the machines would not have been out of place in an Industrial Heritage Museum. Being belt driven, the belts stretch with use, and I seemed to spend more time shortening them, than I did using the machines. However, I did produce some nifty work, even if I say so myself.
Between my machine shop and the office, was the eating area. A small room with one large wooden table, and benches down either side. I'm starting to have horrendous flashbacks at the thought of this, so give me a moment to compose myself. [Imagine period of quiet contemplation]. Thank you, I feel better. Before entering the room, I would make a lot of noise and give the door a few kicks. Why? So that the mice would scurry away. Droppings would then be brushed from the table, and we would make a drink and sit down to lunch. Mine was often beetroot sandwiches. Have you had beetroot sandwiches, made at 6.30 in the morning and eaten six hours later? No? Well don't bother. I don't believe that I've eaten beetroot to this day.
|Blacksmith at work|
He was also old fashioned in the sense that he reluctantly shared his skills with others, for fear that someone would take his job. He was kind to me though as a young man, and though he wouldn't directly teach me anything, he allowed me to watch, so I learnt by observation.
|Denbighshire Technical College, Wrexham|
|Portmadog, North Wales|
If I remember correctly, we would travel down very early on a Monday morning, and return on a Friday evening. This was all so new to me, and I think quite exciting.
I did learn a lot (which I forgot years later) about industrial heating systems. One thing that fascinated me was the use of a 40 - 50 foot length of clear hose pipe, filled with blue coloured water and used to find a level mark over a long distance - water always finding its own level of course. My job was to ensure that there were no air bubbles in the pipe, so ensuring that the system would work. You're fascinated by this aren't you? Riveting is the word. But to me, poor sod that I was, it was one of the most responsible jobs I'd ever done. I've been similarly deluded on many occasions since. Our intrepid band of three completed the contract on time, and to budget, which pleased Arthur Cudworth no end. I do not remember us getting a bonus.
The other two members of the team slept in a caravan that we brought with us from Wrexham, and I slept on a camp bed in a 6 foot by 4 foot garden shed. I was on my own, and very comfortable. Both caravan and shed were placed within the empty factory unit, so rain, wind and troublesome residents were no problem to us.
You know how years ago you were asked where you were when President John F Kennedy was assassinated? Well, I knew exactly where I was, for on the 22nd November 1963, I awoke in my garden shed to the news of his assassination in Dallas, Texas. Unless you were around at that time, it's hard to imagine the impact this had. He was seen as the vibrant, charismatic leader of the free world, and somebody had gunned him down. Without exaggeration, there was little else talked about in Portmadog for the next few days. My subsequent garden sheds, have all been reminders of where I was when that dreadful deed occurred.
So, finishing in Portmadog, we returned to work in Union Street, and the daily travel from Penycae to Wrexham (about six miles). I would catch the 7.25am Crosville bus to work, and hopefully finish by about 6.00pm to catch the bus home - anything much after 6.00 would only go as far as the Rhos, which meant a two mile walk home. As a slight aside (you do like your asides don't you Evans?), I would often leave the house about 15 minutes early and go into the Chapel, which was next door to home and the bus stop (they were never locked in those days). Ascending the pulpit I would read out loud from the Bible; this was to experience projecting my voice, which I took seriously for one so young. Actually, it was worse than that, for I would often on nice, long summer evenings, cycle up to the mountains, park myself in a suitable spot, and preach a sermon to numerous confused sheep. Again, this was about voice projection. Do you think that I needed counselling at that time?
|Honda 49 CC Moped|
I had a classy helmet (!), and all the wet weather gear. I really looked the part, that is until I wheeled out the moped from the back of the house, then I just looked a prat. But hey, I got 150 miles to the gallon, so was saving me money, what did I care. The problem was that whichever way I left the village, and whichever way I wanted to return, there were steep hills. One stretch in particular between Penycae and Rhos was not to be looked forward to.
Either way, there was a steep hill down, and then a steep hill up. My plan always was to race down the hill as fast as I could (maximum moped speed 35 mph), and with full throttle race up the other side. I never got more than two-thirds up before losing engine speed and having to start peddling. With no one about, this was no more than a minor inconvenience (par for the course you may say), but with the inevitable groups of school children or young people about, it was an embarrassment, as they fell about laughing, and shouting out all manner of unsavoury things. You can imagine what added delight I brought to their day, when in my flustered state, my foot would slip off the pedal just as I was about to climb the rise, and be away to safety. But did this put me off? No it didn't. We Evans are made of sterner stuff.
I just changed my route. It was a bit longer; full of narrow country lanes and some hills, but at least there was hardly anyone about to see the frantic pedalling which was an inevitable part of the journey. The country route it was to be. It all went well until one day, a moron in a car took a sharp corner on my side of the road and drove me into a ditch. I still have the scar on my knee. Granted you need a fairly strong magnifying glass to see it, but I know it's there - a legacy of being a 'biker'. That was enough for me. The bike was sold, I hung up my helmet for the last time, and it was back to the 7.25am Crosville bus, Penycae to Wrexham.
The following year, my wife to be and I moved to Birmingham, got married, and settled down. I'd left my village, my home and started a new life. But that's another story altogether.