The Wallis's ~ The Complete Story
When I was a teenager, towards the end of the Second World War, I spent much of my free time with a group of boys and girls as members of a social club in Stanmore. We had the free use of the Institute Hall, which was run by the parish deaconess. Apart from the usual indoor sports like table tennis, and snooker we organised party games, dances, day excursions and parties. Everyone enjoyed the club which was highly successful there we had the opportunity to meet friends and many of these friendships became enduring relationships It was at this Institute that I met my first girlfriend, Pat Glover but. I lost her to my best friend. John who owned an Austin 7 car, a great “girl puller” in those days.
As the years passed by my father realised I could be called up to the armed forces and contrived for me to follow a reserved occupation. At this time I had become very interested in steam and motorbike engines so when he asked me what type of career I would like I declared I wanted to be an engineer. I had no idea what this would involve but my father knew success in this field would involve becoming a professional engineer at one of the London Institutions, He signed me on a “full term indentured apprenticeship agreement”, thereby fulfilling the requirements of a reserved occupation. At least that would keep me out of the services for 4-5 years and with luck by then the war would be over.
My father arranged for me to attend several interviews and we finally settled for Davey Paxman’s in Colchester. This involved preparing My Indenture Documents and having them signed witnessed and sealed with the company’s Seal. After the fees and indentures were paid for I became signed and sealed to the company for the next 5 years. Davey Paxman’s manufactured steam boilers and high speed diesel engines and my apprenticeship would cover every process of manufacture in the factory, from the design to the trials and testing, including such skills as pattern making, foundry and the casting of Iron. Plate cutting, engine design, testing and steam raising. Together with the design and manufacture of large marine and industrial High-pressure steam boilers.
After my nine hour day in the factory I had to attend evening classes at the Technical College in Colchester, to learning the theory of Engineering and also in my case the facts of life from the Essex Girls who I soon found at the college. The “Better class”, Stanmore Girls, I had already met would have to wait until I could afford to return home! This would be on alternate weekends if I was lucky. Earning only eighteen shillings (80p) a week made my finances became a great problem.
Talking with my friends and fellow apprentices I soon learnt that if one worked nights one would be paid time and a half, so could easily bring my wages up to £2 a week. With such an improvement to my income I volunteered for the night shift. This meant starting at 7 p.m. Monday, by 11 p.m. I was ready to drop off and just wondered around the factory looking for somewhere to sleep!
Most workshops had a foreman walking about so avoided these I knew if I were found sleeping I’d be reported and I did not want my training superintendent after me. Other areas were so cold or noisy I could not bed down. However I did find a warm corner of the engine assembly department, this had a bench with a soft cork surface. It was here where the girls worked day shift sewing asbestos round Engine exhaust manifolds. Finding a roll of asbestos on the table this was ideal for use as a pillow I crawled under a large sheet of asbestos which had been left on the bench if anyone came to this darkened corned I felt sure they would not be able to see me. I must have dropped straight off to sleep and very soundly too for I over slept my shift by over two hours.
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