Working at Autowrappers from 1964 to 1973. by KELVIN WOODARD August 1964 saw the beginning of the Auto Wrappers apprentice training school. I started there aged fifteen straight from the Lakenham Boys secondary modern school and with no particular qualifications. My father had on an earlier occasion walked me around to AW and Heatrae looking for an apprenticeship as he had told me that I needed to get a trade behind me! Other apprentices who started at that time that I can recall were Phillip White, Graham Tuddenham, Keith Ripley, Barry Moore, Oliver Chastney, Peter Clarke, Micky Hunt. Also, there was Ray Watering who went straight into the drawing office. The person in charge of the apprentice training school was a Mr. Tuck whose only claim to fame was that he got stopped for speeding through the Mersey Tunnel on a tandem! My starting wage was £3/6s/4d a week. At age sixteen I along with my farther signed my apprenticeship papers as a “fitter machinist” with Frank Salt who was the then MD. The MD’s secretary at that time was Cybil Flowerdew. In 1964 the AW factory was still in Edward Street and the training school was located behind the tool room in the newer part of the factory to the left of the loading bay. The foreman of the tool room at that time was one Peter Marlee. For the first week in the training school Mr. Tuck was not there and the new apprentices were placed in the charge of Peter Marlee. As he had nothing better for us to do Mr. Marlee gave us each a file and a piece of mild steel, which was already cut square, and told us to get on and file it square! In addition to spending time in the training school the apprentices were also sent on “day release” to the City College’s engineering department to obtain their City and Guilds qualification. From the training school and still at Edwards Street, my first job in the factory was in the “details section”. Here we would make small handmade machine parts and assemble items into jigs ready for welding. The details charge hand at that time was George Wigget. The only other names I can remember are Arthur Rowley and ???? Basingthwaite. The details section was located through the machine shop (the machine shop foreman was Ray Sexton he left Wrappers and took over as the landlord of the Ringland Swan) and up a set of wooden stairs. It was a long narrow room and was over the top of the tool store. This part of the AW factory consisted of an old dark Victorian type building and was separate from and to the left of the new Edward Street factory. The windows along the outside of the details section looked onto the side of the old Odeon cinema which was located on the original Botolph Street prior to the Anglia Square / Sovereign House redevelopment of the area. This part of the factory may still exists as part of the PMT shop, the rest of the site is currently a car park with bright graffiti painted on the remaining walls. Edwards Street at that time was a dead end and the plating shop was a separate building standing at its end. In addition to the new Edwards Street building, the machine shop and the plating shop AW also owned the end terrace house on Leonards Street. (I believe this house was demolished to make way for the road changes that have taken place over the years). The terrace house was used as the factory kitchen. The tea lady who worked in there was Ivy Greengrass. She made the tea in a big urn along with cheese rolls. At tea breaks a trolley was pushed around the factory by Tom Scrafton with the tea urn and mugs on it as well a basket with Mars bars etc. in it. Tom would sometimes start his tea round with a drip on the end of his nose. By the end of his round the drip was gone and nobody was quite sure if the drip had gone into their mug of tea! As well as Ivy and Tom an apprentice also had to help out with the tea making etc. On one occasion an apprentice had fallen fowl of somebody in the drawing office, on that afternoon the DO’s tea pot was laced with Ex-lax resulting in some urgent visits to the toilet for some of the draughtsmen! By 1967 AW had moved to its new site on Whiffler Road. The details section was now located at the bottom end of the machine shop in front of the welding shop. The welder at that time was George Moon. Although my apprenticeship was for a “fitter machinist” I spent little time in the machine shop as I had very little interest in working on a lathe or a mill. I was more interested in the assembly of the machines. So it was off to the assembly shop after spending a little time with George Moon. My bench was in front of Pete Marlee’s office (he had by that time become works manager) just where the door was through to the clocking in clocks and canteen. At this end of the assembly shop we built the Versoflow machine, the SIG horizontal flow wrap, the WLX over wrapper and the cartooning machines (I think they were called D machines). At the other end of the assembly shop the Super 2000 roll wrappers and feeders were built. I worked alongside the likes of Dick Gash, Georgie Proudfoot, Ken Kalinski, and his son Dave Kalinski, Dave Reynolds, Frank Oakley, George Wigett, Roy Middleton, Roland and Martin Catchpole, Micky Gosling, John Prentice, Bob Bull, Billy Allen, Vic Harvey, Dave Garnett, Phillip White, Barry Moore, Adrian Warnes, Johnny Dye etc. The chargehand was John ??? who worked on the same bench as Morris Jones. Incidentally Johnny Dye was the first aid man and also supplied the apprentices, from the first aid cupboard, with the necessary family planning item for the weekend! At this time Ken Mirams was managing director, Pete Marlee was works manager, Burt Goodings was works foreman, Jack Lowe was the assembly shop foreman (he had previously been the union shop steward which was taken over by Frank Oakly). Angus Sherwin was chief engineer, Reg Suffolk was head draughtsman and John Plumstead tested the machines before dispatch. The company ran a bonus scheme and overtime was available. So, by the early 70,s providing I worked four hours overtime during the week and a Saturday morning and achieved the maximum 50% bonus I could earn £20 per week, which was the same amount that a charge hand was paid at that time. In 1972 I got married and needed a mortgage to buy a house. The building society needed a letter from my employer for proof of earnings. Pete Marlee was good enough to write this for me and asked how much I needed to have to get the mortgage approved. So, a figure was calculated which was not necessarily the same as what I was earning! When the Whiffler Road factory first opened there was a proper canteen at the front of the building looking out towards Drayton Road. I believe that by the time Wrappers left the site it had been turned into office space. Two ladies, the manageress’s name I cannot recall but her assistant’s surname was Hawes (the mother of Alan Hawes), ran it and provided meals at lunch time. The canteen was segregated with one part for the office staff and the other for the factory workers. There was also a social club and I was on the committee for a while, which was good because we could skive off during working hours for meetings in the canteen. We organized coach outings to places like Felixstowe, Christmas dinner dances at the Landsdown Hotel and trips to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal for member’s children. There was always some sort of “fun” going on and one Paul Jarvis, who worked in the development section, probably had something to do with it. Unfortunately Paul is no longer with us having died aged sixty of cancer. On one occasion a dummy camera appeared fixed high up in the toilets off of the assembly shop and looking down at the sinks. The words “Big Burt Is Watching You” were written on its side. This was a reference to Mr. Goodings who would be after you if you attempted to wash your hands before the allotted time, at going home time. Then there was the Russian spy trawler jest. In the sixties and seventies the Cold War was still at its height and there was always stories in the Evening News about spy trawlers being off the coast. From the development section there appeared a rocket shaped object made of aluminum, about eighteen inches long and four inches in diameter with a point at one end and fins on the other. The pointed end unscrewed and a Christmas cracker was placed inside and some Russian characters were put on the outside. The rocket was then taken down to the coast and stuck pointed end into the sand. The next evening there was a piece in the paper about a local who had found the “Russian” rocket on the beach while walking his dog. It also included a picture of him holding the rocket. Curiously that was the only ever mention of the incident in the media! I left AW in 1973 and went to work for Mayflower Packaging, which was run by Bill Sawdy who at one time had worked in AW’s sales department. The likes of Danny Tyrrell and Brian Parker also worked there. After working at Mayflower for a few years I left and went to work for myself. For twenty five plus years up to 2010 I had my own company CSS Machine & Engineering, which I sold to Scan Coin who had been the main customer. Unfortunately Scan Coin in early 2017 closed the Norwich operation and moved it to Sweden. Over the years I employed many ex AW “Boys”, and worked with others who had also gone on to run their own business. Due to the great background and training people had received at AW I always had a great team of colleagues to work with. “Good old AW”!