|The Richmond Road offices|
Working life in the early 1960s was very different in comparison with today. There were rules about dress code and addressing your seniors which were rigidly enforced.
Well this was in the first floor of the Richmond Road office, the main office block. And the office block, as I recall, on the first floor. That the end closest to Kingston there was the Technical Illustration and Authorship department. Then there was the Lofting Department. Then there was the Tracing Section, which was women, where they traced drawings onto waxed linen – drew in ink. Then there was different Drawing Offices. And the very far end – the Richmond end of the Richmond Road office was where the R and D was.
Where these divided up into sections by walls?
No, there were no walls it was a completely open office. The way the office was structured – everybody had their backs to Richmond Road so you were facing towards the river. And that was the same all the way through the office, irrespective of what the department it was.
And were there windows at that side?
No there wasn’t actually there was only roof lights. There was a, sort of, saw-toothed type roof. And there was no air conditioning in those days and when it got hot you could open sections in the windows, there were pull cords, and you could open the windows to let ventilation in. So no there was no windows – you could see the sky. I think that the glass was frosted, as far as I can recall. And it used to get pretty hot in there in the summer and they would come along and they would ‘slap’ whitewash on the outside of the glass to deflect the sun, and that made it a bit cooler but it could be pretty unbearable.
And In those days you weren’t allowed to take your jacket off unless you were told to you by the head of the department. In this case Tommy Wake. You had to work in a jacket.
And were you wearing collars and tie?
Oh yes, most definitely. Yes, oh you – I remember on one occasion, the very bad winter of ’63, fifty years ago this year. Which was one of the coldest winters on record, and went on for about three months. And one of my colleagues came in on a motorbike – I had a motorbike by then – and he came in on his motorbike and he was travelling in a fair distance. And he took his jacket off and he had a thick roll neck sweater on and he was told to take it off which he did – didn’t have a jacket on. So he was told to take this thick roll neck sweater off and he had an open neck shirt and he got sent home. Told he was improperly dressed and he lost a day’s pay I think.
And he lost a day’s pay?
I think so yes, I can’t remember now. But probably did.
And you were there for two years?
Yes. And also if you went out onto the shop floor – even if you had permission for what they called shirt sleeve order – if you went out onto the shop floor, you had to put your jacket back on. You could not go in there without a jacket. And in those days it was Mr this and Mr that. You wouldn’t dare call head of department by his christian name. Not like today when you are on christian name terms.
And what did they call you?
I was always Shorey, never Doug. The people I worked with would call me Doug but the heads of departments and the senior people it was always Shorey. Shorey this, Shorey that. And that was the convention in those days.