|‘A good wood machinist has all his fingers’.|
John here describes how company employees could buy a huge range of goods at trade prices and some of the sidelines that were commonplace at the factory. He also relates how you could always spot a good wood machinist.
Both of us were well known in the factory, by sight maybe not by name because we had the keys to the timber shed. And you could buy timber through the company at trade prices. A lot of people there were doing up their houses, doing up houses.
One chap we knew he bought a Victorian house and he needed some skirting board but it’s twelve inches high and got a fancy moulding on it. Can’t buy it anywhere so he came to us and Jack Day was a proper wood machinist, you know fully trained. And what we did we joined two bits together and did the moulding and we always got well looked after. Put it that way!
What other sideline work was going on?
Well you could buy timber, right, so they would come to me or Jack with a list. We’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we can do that’. You went to the Buying Office and you got a special note thing – you paid for it. Saturday morning was almost what they called ‘Homer day’. If it was quite a big amount, if you spoke to the chap – the foreman that did transport – they’d deliver it for you, you know, deliver it to your house, things like that.
And was this uncommon for the Hawker factory to be doing other work?
No, no – because you could buy anything.
Like at Christmas – this time of year – bicycles would start turning up from the Goods Inwards. ‘Cause you could buy a bike – you could buy things cost price.
I mean, we made our own tea because the canteen was right the other side, by the time we walked over there our tea break would be gone – so we made our own. We even got the electric kettle we used cut price. Shop in Kingston, I can’t remember the name of it now, but the chap in the Buying Office he would buy it and we’d only have to pay cost price.
Did you ever go in when you weren’t supposed to or was that up to you?
I went in one Saturday night actually. I was at the Sports Club which is just next door. One of the ladies broke the heel off her shoe. And, you wouldn’t know this, but most of high heeled shoes is held on with a wood screw and glued. So I took her shoe and went round to the police box, got the keys, went round to the workshop and mended her shoe for her.
A true gentleman! Besides the working conditions, given that you were using a lot of timber was there any injuries that people suffered?
Nothing serious. Now if you go anywhere where there’s woodworking machines, you’ll get some idiot who will say, ‘Oh, you can always tell a good wood machinist, he’s got a piece of finger missing.’ No, no. A good wood machinist has got all his fingers – nothing’s missing. Any fool can cut his fingers off, it’s ever so easy.
And did that happen to anyone?
No, no. The worst one I saw, one of the chaps from another department was using a machine and he had to undo something with a spanner. And his hand slipped off the spanner and there was a blade and it cut him across the back of the hand.
Not really serious – that was the worst thing – well a bit of blood but it didn’t injure him at all, no. For the amount of wood machining we had it was amazing. I say those drop tanks you used ten thousand feet of floorboard every day. That’s a lot of timber being cut up.