Thursday, 18 April 2013

Chapter 3 1972

Thursday 1 August 2013 – with apologies for taking so long before writing the next chapter – firstly in the spring we weren’t very well and then the hot weather has been a bit much!

Going back to my ephemera collection for 1970 I found a copy of the Gazette dated Friday October 16 bearing the front page headline: “Petition Calls for Rejection of Road Plans”, which would lead to the Inner Relief Road Protest Movement.   This favoured a by-pass following the former railway line, which was led by the redoubtable Mr E. Jackson-Stevens, supported by Councillors Ian Tucker and Hugh Barker.

The Inner Relief Road plans were still in the Council plans the following year,  because in the newspaper dated 31 December 1971 the headline reads: “Traffic Study Favours the Inner Relief Road – conclusion of the County Surveyor”.   Aren’t we lucky that the Protest Movement won the day?

In the same edition on the back page. the Jack Blandiver Column features “Fantasy posters start new business”.   And Mr West’s Diary, Western Daily Press for Wednesday January 5 1972 has an article with photos of us both: “The boss presents his amazing imp poster circus”.

Thanks to Western Gazette and Mid Somerset Newspapers for these cuttings

In the box for 1971 there is a set of new decimal coins dated Monday 15 February and a Guide which states that it was delivered to every household, containing a message from Lord Fisk, Chairman of Decimal Currency Board:  “with a little practice, you will find that decimal currency is not difficult …”, explaining how the changeover will work.   Thank goodness decimilisation occurred before our business got going!   And there is a programme for the musical “Hair” which was being performed in Bristol Hippodrome – I took our youngest daughter, Ruth (aged 11) from Sidcot, telling her that there would be naughty words which she wouldn’t understand.  Later I learned that most of the scholars knew these off by heart.   Lastly, there is the prospectus for the Open University for 1971/72 and I sign on for a Foundation Year in Humanities, starting in 1972.

Our eldest son Rob is a steam buff.  On Thursday 6 January 1972 I take him up to the Kilmersdon Colliery near Radstock.   He is 17 years old and is already spending time on the Talyllyn Railway in North Wales, where he learns his engine driving skills.   My first cousin once removed was Tom Rolt, founder of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in 1950, but unfortunately we didn’t realise this connection until Tom had died.  Now, Rob is one of the Trustees of the At Steam Locomotive Trust and has actually driven Tornado on the Grand Central Railway in 1999.   To return to Kilmersdon, here we spend a happy afternoon on the footplate with Mr Herbie Loader, taking the coal trucks from the head of the mine to the incline, where they were let down by the shunter to join the main railway line to Bath.   No health and safety regulations in those days.   I return home with a face black with soot.   That shunting engine, named “Kilmersdon”, is now at the S & D Museum at Williton.

Returning to Glastonbury Prints in 1972:  the West Country Gift Fair is held from a Sunday to Thursday in Torquay in January.  My step father, Bernard, said:  “Would you like to share my bedroom in the Palace Hotel?   So I was away for a couple of nights the following week, taking my turn on a stand for our first trade show.  The Palace Hotel bedrooms were taken over by small exhibitors and I laid out our pictures on the bed.   There were a couple of other small exhibitors sharing the room, but I can’t remember who they were now.   Our dentist and John’s fishing friend Frank Campbell, together with his wife Jean, had a holiday cottage nearby and they very kindly let me sleep there.   As you will see later, Frank then allows us to rent his attic room behind the dental surgery in Magdalene Street, Glastonbury, as our workshop for awhile.

Early in February I visit the International Gift Fair at Blackpool for a night, meeting several sales agents who had been introduced to us by Bernard – I can’t remember much about this time though.   Bernard and his colleagues could not have afforded their own stands at this show (renting a space at the West Country Gift Fair was less expensive), but they probably helped out on their principal’s stands during the exhibition, which lasted for 5 days from Sunday to Thursday.  

We paid our agents 10% commission on sales and each agent handled goods from several small producers and importers – Bernard represented The Russian Shop, Copco (up market kitchen ware) and Taunton Vale Industries among others.   The larger firms like Portmeirion and Royal Worcester (and Morlands in the clothing and footwear trades) employed full time representatives who visited customers.

The diary now shows when my projects (each month) for the Open University need to be completed;   I am listening to radio programmes, watching the occasional television programme and doing all the necessary reading.   After each section of the course we had to write an essay.   All that as well as managing Glastonbury Prints; fetching the frames from Worcester and collecting packing materials from Ashton Containers in Bristol;  processing the orders;  visiting our accountant in Surrey;  dealing with sales agents;  and packing children off to boarding school or collecting them at the end of term or putting them on a train to London to visit John’s parents, Deena and Bry, in Hampstead  In March, the wreck of the SS Great Britain comes to Bristol – we probably go and look at it during the Easter Holidays.

 Remember, John was still working full time as a Director at Morlands.   In our first year he was drawing the cartoon posters (one took him 40 hours to complete) in the evenings and at weekends.   By the second year of the business,  he had moved on to drawings of birds and flowers.   When a collection was complete, he would take the originals up to Radstock Reproductions, who produced the plates which were used in the printing process by Bigwood & Staple, our printers in Bridgwater.   Print unions were very powerful in those days, but John was privileged.  Gordon – against union rules – allowed him to watch the printing process and make suggestions about how much ink was being used.

All the printing was in black and white of course, in short runs.   However, after Bernard reported back that customers would prefer the birds and flowers to be coloured, this was done under John’s careful instructions;  I have already told you how my cleaning lady, Rose, became our first hand painter, working at her home – our first outworker.

On 12 April 1972 my diary entry reads “saw flycatcher at lunchtime” – this would have been from our kitchen window at Schehallion.   For several years, a flycatcher built its nest in the vigorous and vicious yellow rose (Mermaid?) growing at that time on the front of the house.   On the first occasion, when the gales blew and the branches of the rose moved, the eggs dropped out of the bottom of the nest.   Next spring when I groomed the ponies I brought handfuls of horsehair home, hanging it in a bag on the bird table.   This time, the flycatcher nest survived and the great tits went off with beaks full of hair, looking just like Jimmy Edwards.   When the bird table was visited by the lesser spotted woodpecker, the flycatchers would valiantly mob him.  

We are still cultivating a large garden, with vegetables and lots of fruit bushes as well as harvesting Bramley apples from our orchard.  There were lawns to be mown and trees to be pruned.   We did have some help from Salvadore Buccione, one of the Italian prisoners of war who stayed behind here after the war ended in 1945.    In 1956, the year after we moved into our new house, I started keeping records of bottling and jam making (unfortunately I did not record vegetables).   That year the list is as follows:

gooseberries         40 lbs
blackcurrants        25 
raspberries              2 
cherry plums        31 
Victoria plums     10            total 108 lbs of bottled fruit plus 21 lbs of jam

However, fifteen years later my records are fragmentary, probably because of other interests and the acquisition of a freezer.

Returning to Glastonbury Prints:  the accountant, Mr Sayers (who had been recommended by Bernard), set up the first balance sheet with our year ending on 22 April and introduced us to the Kalamazoo accounting system – I am visited by their representative, Mr Maskell on April 10.   We used a version of this system until the late 80’s I think;  it consisted of hand written ledger cards bearing the names of customers or suppliers, using carbon paper to record the entries onto the appropriate cash or sales sheets.   No small computers or calculators in those days of course, nor mobile phones or internet or any of the other stuff with which I am not familiar (all I can do is use the computer as a word processor and get our older daughter, Julie, to put the results on the blog for me!   Please don’t send me emails as I shall never read them).

This book keeping system served us well for many years – later we employed Betty Abbott as our book keeper   She was so meticulous that she had the pleasure of correcting British Road Services when they issued an incorrect invoice and admitted that their accounts were in a muddle!   I think our end of year figures balanced within a few pennies.

In May, I write to Mr. Sayers with a list of our expenses for the previous year of trading, totalling around £464 including £268.73 purchase tax and £80 commission paid to the four agents.   (note the purchase tax).   I paid Clarks Printing Works (then off Magdalene Street, Glastonbury) £2.76, probably for our price list.   I didn’t realise until years later that they also called themselves “Glastonbury Prints” – but we had successfully registered our name with Companies House around 1971 I think.

John begins clearing the land.
John’s Great Uncle Oliver Morland had founded Kalamazoo before the War.  Uncle Humphrey Morland, managing director in the 60’s, was looking forward to becoming wealthy when Oliver Morland (who was childless) died.   We also had some shares in the company (probably given to us by John’s father) which we sold in 1953 in order to buy our acre of orchard at the top of Bushey Coombe from Uncle Humphrey, on which we built the first part of our house “Wick Beech”, with access from Bulwarks Lane.   He charged us £1,000, a lot of money in those days! 

The builders.

Under construction.

  In 1962/3 we built an extension and created a drive leading into Wick Hollow, changing our house name to “Schehallion”. 

The extension being built.

I must digress and tell you a story about Great Uncle Oliver.   He and his wife Eileen lived in a lovely big house at Chideock and we went several times in the early 50’s to visit them, travelling down on the motor bike and sidecar before our children were born.   We had noticed that there were often pheasants on the B3151 about a mile beyond the Somerton turning, so the next time we were poised and ready – I leaned from the pillion and whacked the pheasant on the head with the pump and we hastily stowed the body in the boot and went on our way.   After lunch Uncle Oliver saw us off.   “I see that you have been lucky with your pheasant” he commented with amusement – there was the tail sticking out of the boot which of course we hadn’t noticed!   Our first bit of road kill, well out of season.

Humphrey never inherited the Kalamazoo fortune because Eileen Morland spent a lot of money after her husband died, building an old people’s home in Bridport and putting copper domes on the roof.  Sadly, Kalamazoo had not kept up with modern developments and went into liquidation (in the 1990’s?);  we lost around £15,000 worth of shares, which we must have inherited from John’s father.

John and I had both been taking photos of people and events since before we were married.  John’s first camera was a prewar Kodak bellows camera which he had bought from a retired professional photographer in Hampstead -  together with a Parker pen - with his first wages earned at Columbia Fur Dressers (a Morlands subsidiary where he worked for a couple of years after leaving school in 1946).   This of course used black and white film (was it 410?) and which continued to be used until after we were married and moved to Glastonbury.   I took this photo of John around 1953, when we were still living in a flat at the eastern end of The Thatched Cottage, Bove Town, Glastonbury, as tenants of Uncle Harry and Aunt Elizabeth Scott-Stokes:-

Thatched Cottage
(photo of John with motor bike parked at the end of the barn, then part of the Ynyswytryn estate and now the home of Rory Weightman, Bushey Coombe Farm.)

 Later, John was using a more up to date camera with colour film to photograph his subjects, which he would later draw with Rotring pen;  sometimes he would use pencil for buildings.   He always drew and painted from photographs.   I have been taking colour slides since 1958    our older daughter, Julie, has digitised the early family pictures and I have hundreds of record shots of our business from about 1971 until we retired from the shop in 1998.   (You will hear about opening the shop in due course.)   We didn’t go digital until 2005. 

So with the Glastonbury Prints business building up, John was no longer able to continue to fulfil orders;  he had been putting pictures together in his free time in the garage at home and packing them in parcels to take to the Post Office.   Out fishing with Frank Campbell one weekend, they must have discussed this.   “Why don’t you rent our back room?” was Frank’s helpful suggestion.   After moving into the attic room up a steep staircase at the rear of the dental surgery at the end of May, we then took on our first employee, John Chaffey.   I think to begin with he must have worked in the evenings on a part-time basis, but on 14 August I record that he was “officially employed” at £2.35 an hour.   The back of a hand coloured and framed print of a wren bears the following inscription: “Made in attic 1972  J.Chaffey”.    

John’s wife Elizabeth was the receptionist at the dental surgery and had introduced him to us.   She was also studying the Open University at the same time as I was, so we sometimes compared notes;  she went on to complete the six year course and gain her degree, while I gave up after the Foundation Year because of increasing pressures from the business.  

By the middle of the summer we had four groups of agents covering the country – my stepfather Bernard;  the redoubtable Mona Russell, who covered Yorkshire and Lancashire and probably further afield;  Philip Smith from Rochester;  and “the boys” from Marlborough who were gradually taking over the West Country from Bernard.   Phil Turner and David Haines came to stay with us on one or two occasions.

On Wednesday 12 July John attends the British Leather Manufacturers Association, of which he is the Chairman, in order to receive the Queens Award to Industry.   But we were now beginning to discuss whether he should leave Morlands in order to concentrate on the business.   He must have given in his three months’ notice to his fellow Directors by September, though the official news would not have been released until much later.

In August I take Julie and Ruth to stay with John’s parents in  Hampstead (Rob is away working on the Talyllyn Railway), while I drive up to Norwich to attend the Open University Summer School.   What an experience!   I had left school at 17 and my only other experience of education had been Mrs Hoster’s Training College in London, where I learned shorthand and typing and office procedure (whatever that meant).   And for a term before that, in the autumn of 1948, I had attended a short housewife’s course at a Polytechnic.   Still rationing of course, so ingredients were rather limited.  (I have given the original cookery book to one of our children.)  

“I can’t cope with all the paperwork for Glastonbury Prints as well as the Open University any more,” I complain to John.   So we take on Vera Osmond on the 19 September at £2.29 an hour, probably for a couple of mornings a week.   She is seated at the dining room table, using an old adding machine that Rob had brought home in the holidays from Reading Dump.  Remember, he is a boarder at Leighton Park School – apparently they often raided the local rubbish heap.   This machine had been thrown out at the time of decimilisation, so Vera only logged figures in the “pound” places, leaving shillings and pence alone.   After the figures were printed onto the paper roll, it was simple to add decimal places.  Then these were recorded in the accounts in our hand written Kalamazoo system.   Turnover wasn’t very great and this served us well for a few months.  It had to be hand cranked of course.   In those days computers were only for the large firms (like Clarks and Morlands).  

A later investment would be a small Roneo machine.   Producing lots of copies of documents involved cutting a stencil on the typewriter, wrapping it round a drum which had been carefully inked by hand and using it to duplicate pricelists or “Dear Customer” letters.   All other letters were of course written on the typewriter with one (or perhaps two or three) carbon papers.

By now there were several hand painters, working in their own homes under John’s detailed instructions.   Over time the painting round grew to about 25 colourists, with a supervisor who visited them every week, inspected the work and paid them on a piecework basis.   In our prime, we produced 1,000 hand coloured pictures a week.

I take the Open University exam on Tuesday afternoon, 31 October 1972.   Can’t remember where though.   I did manage to pass the Foundation Year.  

And on the Friday we are visited by Dudley Tremaine of Cooper & Tanner Ltd., estate agents.   “I hear that you are considering moving the business into larger premises” he said.   “There are rooms available at 5A High Street, which you could rent from Mr. Trussler and which I think would suit you perfectly.”  This building was formerly the Health Clinic – I remembered going there to collect orange juice when the children were small.  When the surgery moved out into the new building in  Feversham Lane, Mr. Trussler of Western Relining Services took over.   It consists of a large two storey rectangular building at the back of what used to be Frisbys Shoe Shop (now a bookshop), with vehicular access from St John’s car park and a passageway from the High Street;  it is now called “Number 10 St John’s Square.”

Two rooms upstairs were ideal, with plenty of good daylight.   I remember spending a couple of hours cleaning the filthy staircase and suffering from a sore throat afterwards!

A month later, on Friday evening, November 24, John returns home and declares “I am leaving the factory at Christmas.”   Our adventure has begun.

1 comment:

  1. I am so much enjoying the blog, which Ben drew to my attention, for the pictures, the memories of Schehallion and the family, Jan's fudge (which I hadn’t realised was a family industry) and in my capacity as a Glastonbury prints employee from 19.8.73 to 19.10.73 at £14 a week. I remember well the journey to Worcester Jan describes, which I undertook once or twice on her behalf, pausing on the hairpin descent of Dundry Hill to negotiate the purchase of my first 4-wheeled vehicle, an orange VW Beetle that was advertised for £75 at the side of the road. The memories are bittersweet but it’s wonderful to read the story in Jan’s words.
    Looking forward to further instalments.



I would welcome your comments.