I told you a story recently about when I was very much younger and worked in a proper office. I drove past it recently and thought I would take a photo to show you how magnificent it was. It is known locally as "The White House" and is currently occupied by Yorkshire Water. It started out life as the offices for a great local company "Messrs Newton and Chambers". Newton Chambers were a steel producing and heavy engineering company. They made bridges, dams and other wonderful structures that ended up all over the world. The Thames Barrier was one of the last structures that they made, and they also made most of Tower Bridge too. One of the side products of heating coal up to make steel, produced a disinfectant that Newton Chambers manufactured as a sideline - they called this "Izal" - an anagram of one of theirs daughters names - Liza. When I worked there, it was for a large American company who had bought out the disinfectants side and all its related products (you know which one I mean, and can I just say Buckingham Palace used to order it!!) of the company, but the steel production and engineering site was still very much in full production. I witnessed its swift and heartbreaking decline (at the hands of Margaret Thatcher)from my office window - in fact I did once witness Margaret Thatcher outside of my office window.
I was 18years old when I started work here, and I learned all about life from the remarkable ladies that I worked with. Ours was a fairly young (accounts) office, and the "typing pool" were all young too, but the rest of the 250+ ladies were ancient! (to me then) aged about 40-50 years and most had worked there all of their lives.
Joan was an exception. I remember Joan starting after me. Her husband had been kicked out of the army as he had reached 50 years old - he had been in all his life and Joan had stoically packed up home and 2 children and followed him wherever he went - even 3 stints in Belfast when it was at its worst. Her husband struggled fitting into "civi street" - even though he got a job and they had a nice home. He drank a lot and caused the family many problems. I remember one week in the life of Joan. She came to work distraught as her 18 year old son had announced that his girlfriend was pregnant. Then on the Wednesday, Joan was as proud as punch when the same son won "Apprentice of the Year" (at Newton Chambers) awarded to him by Maggie Thatcher (that's why she was outside my window). Then on the Friday, she was devastated once more when Newton Chambers announced redundancies - and Joan's son, and husband were on the list.
I remember realising then that life could be extremely tough.
I used to see Joan until recently in Asda. Her husband died of an alcohol related illness and even though he had made her later life a nightmare, she only spoke about him with great fondness. Her son moved abroad (like most of the extremely talented young engineers from Newton Chambers did) and her grandson - who's conception she was so distraught about - is now a successful journalist living in Hong Kong. So some things do come out alright in the wash!
This photo is from a book I found showing how it had looked in the 1930's with all the "reps" cars. It never really changed much - just got extended a bit. When I was there, the reps cars were all Ford Cortina's!
Some jobs just don't exist anymore. The prettiest girls worked in the Typing Pool, and always got chatted up in the pub on Friday lunchtime by the boys from "Outside Erection" at Newton Chambers (They used to have a plaque on the door with this title on it!). The"Comptometer Operator" who checked all our accounts figures (and always had RSI before anybody had ever heard of it!) is no more. The two "Telex" ladies were a sitcom in their own right! One, an elderly methodist chapel going"Miss" and the other 4 times married with a current husband half her age, rumoured to be a bit of a "goer"! (The salesmen hoisted a pair of her knickers up the flagpole on the day she retired!!). The "Gestetner" machine was one of my favourite bits of office machinery - a kind of photocopier producing cheap copies - using methylated spirit!
We worked very hard, but large offices in the 1980's were great places to work.
Sitting staring at a computer all day just isn't the same.