The HorBraJacSac Sagaby Norman Horwood
9th June 1926 (or possibly earlier!) - 27th June 2019
The Families' Backgrounds.
We have four families; Abrahams/Horowitz/Horwood; Bralofsky/Braley; Jacobs and Tchaikofsky/Sacof. Taking my pair, the (Abrahams) Horowitzs/Horwood and the (Bralofskys) Braleys. They escaped from different parts of "Mittel Europe" at different times.
Abraham and Rachel Abrahams, nee Gess, (Horowitz), had been in England longer than the Bralofskys, having come here from Lithuania in about 1897 as a married couple without children.
It is certain that Abraham was a Master shoe-maker before emigrating, but there is no definite information as to the name of the place where they originated. It is thought that they came from Vilna/Vilnia, a small town in S.E. Lithuania. Their first-born, on 2 June 1898, was Hyman (Hymie; Hyme), a ladies man if ever there was one, then Ann, next was Betty (known as Bess or Bob), then Tobias (known as Bike), followed by Jack (another "lad") and lastly Fannie (Fay). Ann was the eldest daughter, and was married off, against her wishes, to an elderly gent, John Steklyn,. Bess was in the retail clothing trade. Bike, a simple, small, energetic man, was a tradesman who followed in his father's footsteps and worked as a cobbler in their shop at 35 Fairfax Rd. London. (Which he always referred to in his Cockney as fir'yfive Fairfax Road).
Jack was the wide boy who speculated in property, borrowed money from Hyman, and anyone else who was at hand, and actually made good, ending up in Johannesburg, where he married a divorcee with children, eventually divorcing her after a year. He was from 1990 to his death in 1993, in a Jewish nursing home in Johannesburg, suffering from advanced, terminal cancer. Fay was a nice, pretty, homely person who married Pacey Laderman and had a family, Ronald, Josephine and Anthony, after starting in the dress trade with the other girls. It should be noted that all the males of this family also changed their surnames to Horwood, following the example of Hyme, who also changed his forename to Harold.
Brothers of Abraham also lived in the E. End in London. Morrie (Maurice), a cousin of Hyman/Harold, was a ladies tailor, who once made an overcoat for him that looked like a dressing gown. There was Chaim-Labe, an uncle who was a gents suit presser, and Chaim-Yankle who had a wife with a funny facial habit of rolling her bottom lip downwards, she was called Mumer Anna (Auntie Anna). She also made the worst Madeira cake ever, which we had to eat with some sweet wine whenever we visited them, sitting with them on the pavement outside their front door (as was the way in that area). The elite among the Horowitz relatives was Mottle, a cabinet maker. He made furniture for members of the family - quite a guy. In particular, as a wedding present for Harold and Pearl, he not only made them a beautiful dining suite in mahogany in the style of Chippendale, including beautiful claw feet, but also a figured wallnut bedroom suite, with a his & hers pair of wardrobes, and dressing table. All now vanished.
Hyman had, at the suggestion of his best friend, Jack Heggerman, moved himself out of his father's craftsman environment as a shoemaker into the high technology of Electrical Engineering, having left The Jews' Free School aged 14 with a first class academic record in 1912. Between then and the start of the first world war in 1914, he had attended technical college, Regent Street Polytechnic, to study for corporate membership of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, and some of his notebooks survive with meticulously accurate sketches of tools and equipment. There are also some sketchbook records of artistic work, but it is interesting to note that there was nothing original, only copies of objects or photographs.
As soon as he reached the age of call-up (1915/16), he registered as a conscientious objector, and was therefore not called up. There is no record of what he did in the war effort, but as his technical education advanced he worked in more demanding jobs. One in particular was in the generating station for the London Underground railway system. Here he assisted in the switching of power generators and the charging of standby batteries.
He used to tell the stories of his adventures here, brought about by the premature responsibility put on him by the lack of senior supervision due to the demands of the war. On one occasion he was told to check on the level of electrolyte (Sulfuric acid) in the batteries. These were in a dark cellar, not very well ventilated, and he - wait for it - struck a match to see the level of liquid while they were still being charged. No one had told him of the danger of Hydrogen produced by the electrolytic charging process, and naked lights in an enclosed space, and the inevitable happened - boom! Fortunately there was not much gas there, but he was slightly singed, and had a wigging from his boss.
Having survived that, he was given a more important job to do, monitoring the power requirements of the railway system. This involved watching various meters, and judging when to switch in additional 3-phase generating power so as to be in phase with the existing mains. This always happened at peak operating times during the rush hours, and was quite a simple operation. A large pointer would rotate slowly clochwise to show the difference between the existing power lines and the new alternator. The the phases would be aligned when the pointer was pointing at the 12 o'clock position. No-one had told young Hyme that there was a delay after throwing the big switch lever before the the switch which connected the additional power actually connected.. On one day the supervisor was absent sick, and Hyman was asked whether he knew how to do the switching operation - of course he did - and they left him to it. Came the 'moment critique' and he watched the large pointer very carefully, and at the exact time when it reached the vital 12 o'clock position he threw the main switch handle - BANG - the whole station rocked and all the underground shut down! He had not allowed for the delay in the switch, and the thing had actually come in about 10 seconds late with devastating results. The outcome this time was rather more serious and Hyman left their employ earlier than intended.
The next few years were not very exciting. Hyman worked for a firm doing domestic wiring – called capping & casing. One anecdote, showing the initiative of a combination of Hyman with his close buddy,Jack Heggerman was the renovation of a large motor cycle in the front room of the Horowitz family flat on the fourth floor of the Horowitz home,111 Ladbroke Grove, N Kensington. They actually finished the project, and ran the engine in the room. Unfortunately the bike was too big to get through the doos and they had to lower the bike out of the window to get it out!
It was during this time Hyme was introduced to pretty Polly (Pearl/Pauline) Braley/Bralofsky, a close friend of his younger sister, Bessie. The Bralofsky family, headed by Nathan and Miriam, were all girls; Pearl (Pauline/Polly), Marie, Anne and Bella (also known as Bubella or just Boob).TheBralofskys had escaped from the Russian pogroms and arrived in England from a shtetl near Kiev in about 1904 or 5. The immigration official interpreted their name as Braley as neither of the parents spoke a word of English. Pearl, then 5 years old was pitchforked into a primary school and had to make her own way. Bella was not yet even in sight, Marie was in arms and Anne must have been on the way. They somehow settled in a small terraced house in Brady Street E London, alongside all their fellow refugees and tried to make a living.
This was very different from life in the shtetl where Nathan was secretary to some local government big-wig, and Miriam looked after a small-holding with chickens. With what little capital they managed to smuggle out, they started a drapery shop, and suffered the attentions of the local anti-Semites and the protection racket operated by the beat policeman.
By all accounts they gave as good as they got, and the story goes that one day they were being insulted in their drapery shop by a local yob in the traditional manner, and Polly, as Pearl was called, responded by picking up the 'yard stick', a robust measuring rod, from the counter, and broke it over the yob's back. The "assault" case was brought to court with Polly in the dock, and after all the evidence had been given, the Magistrate dismissed the case saying that he could not believe that such a petite and pretty girl could possibly have wielded such a weapon with such force!
It was with some shock that the fourth child appeared on the scene, very late in life for her mother, during WW 1. She was not exactly welcome, and unfortunately somewhat slow witted and given to obesity. However she, Bella, turned out a blessing in disguise, as she elected to stay with her mother after the premature death by suicide of Nathan in 1925, thus relieving the others of the duty of caring for their mother, now a broken and sick old lady. This allowed the other girls to pursue careers, with Polly being introduced to the retail rag trade by Bess Horowitz, a friend from 'the street' – Bradey Street in the East End of London. The others followed the same course as they left school and came of age.
Polly ascended the management tree rapidly and was soon chief buyer for a small chain of "madam shops" in London. Her next sister, Marie, also worked her way up in shop management, until she was a senior manager for the expanding chain of Richards shops, and Anne also worked in the same trade. The first to succumb to the temptations of the flesh was 'pretty Polly' who was smitten by the handsome Hyman Horowitz, brother of friend Bessie, who lived nearby.
It was also about this time that Hyman decided that there was too much anti-Semitism for comfort, and he changed his name to Harold Horwood by deed poll. There is no record of how he chose that particular rendering of the name. Their marriage in October 1925 was endowed by a suite of furniture made for them by Harold's uncle Mottle consisting of a complete dining suite in inlaid mahogany; a full extending dining table with sideboard; and a gramophone cabinet to match, all in the style of Chippendale with ball & claw feet. There was also a full bedroom suite in figured walnut.
Glamorous Anne Braley was the next to be seduced by a gent called Dick Posner - more of whom later - and the last to be married was Marie who waited very late before hitching to a successful Chartered Accountant called Leslie Prager. Bella never married, and died early in life of lung cancer brought about by incessant smoking, after spending most of her time working happily in a factory, on an assembly track for Smith's Industries.
There were no immediate Bralofsky (Braley) relatives in this country, but there were a few cousins, one of whom was Julie, a statuesque lady married to an optician called Max Aberstone who had a shop within a shop in Chiesman's store in Lewisham. Probably one of the first of such arrangements in England.
Julie was quite wealthy in her own right, and ran a very posh establishment. She had three children, twin sons and a daughter. One of the sons was badly injured at Dunkirk and didn't survive for long after. The other, Raymond, was in the army but never had to leave these shores, arriving at the rank of Captain in the Royal Artillery. Raymond eventually married Anne Braley, his cousin, after she had left Dick Posner, having established himself as a lawyer, with a working arrangement with Leslie Prager, his brother in law, married to Anne's sister Marie. This marriage, of course was after the divorce of Anne and Dick Posner. Posner used to bash Anne about, probably because she was a bit flighty, and on one occasion he chased her with a gun, and she took refuge with us (the Horwoods) at 106 Wood Vale, Sydenham. I remember the policeman on guard duty outside our house!
It is known that a contingent of the Bralofskys ended up in the USA, some of whom were musicians, although whether of any note is uncertain!
My impending arrival was the cause of the earlier than planned marriage of Pearl (Bralofsky) Braley with Hyman (Abrahams) Horowitz (eventually Harold Horwood) in October 1925. This accounts for my birthday being registered as 9 June 1926, it being impossible to admit pre-marital sex in those days. I gather that I was actually born on 9 May 1926 - Oh well!
Pearl and Harold Horwood and I lived on the top (fifth) floor of a large mansion, No 111 Ladbroke Grove, N.Kensington, London, England, owned by my paternal grandfather (Zaider) (Abraham Horowitz) who lived on the ground floor with his wife, Rachel, the younger Horowitz children and a large Alsatian. Their entrance hall was filled with an enormous glass case full of stuffed wild life. Not far away was Kensington Gardens, where my mother would daily wheel me in the pram - weather permitting. The economics of living in a flat owned by one’s parents was somewhat counterbalanced by the need to ascend daily the four flights of stairs with me in tow. Apparently I was not a lightweight, and the story goes that the house would shake when I started to learn to walk and flopped down on the floor.
As soon as they could afford it, my parents bought a small terraced house in a new development not far away, 10 Kensington Gardens. I must have been about a year old. Not long after the move my mother became pregnant with my sister, Monica, and my father had the bright idea that now was the time to venture abroad. What with the depression at home and the huge inflation in Germany, he and a partner - Jack Cherz - cooked up a business plan to buy domestic appliances, namely "Vampire" electric vacuum cleaners, in Germany, taking advantage of the low Deutschmark, and reselling them in Britain. The scheme worked very well until my father became suspicious and returned home one day to find that his erstwhile partner had done a bunk with all the stock and the cash, except for a couple of samples which we had at home.
One of the benefits of his sojourn in Germany was the fluency my Harold gained in the language. He might have been broke with a newly pregnant wife, but he could swear in German. The result was that he landed a job with a large German electrical firm, AEG gmbh, as a sales representative based in London selling their electricity meters. He arrived back home just in time to escape the attentions of Hitler and his gang in Germany, and to greet the arrival of twins, no less (30 June 1928). My mother had had a difficult birth and was kept in hospital - Charing Cross - for a few weeks. During that time incompetent nursing had caused the death of the male twin at two weeks old due to scalding with an unwrapped ceramic hot water bottle. His name was Trevor. The surviving twin is my sister Monica.
During this difficult period, I remember being farmed out to an aunt, my father's eldest sister Ann who lived, I think, in Wimbledon with Uncle John Stecklyn, a much older person whom Ann had been forced to marry by her autocratic father. I recall that they had a couple of very yappy Pekinese dogs which at the tender age of two scarred my mind so that I had a fear of dogs for many years afterwards. This fear was reinforced by the boisterous Alsatian kept by my paternal grandparents. It later transpired that this aunt committed suicide not long after in desperation at her unhappy marriage.
Life returned to normal eventually at home, but this new sister was a little bit much for me. I was quite glad to be sent for half days to a nursery school. Dad would take me on the No.2 bus, on his way to work at AEG head office in Victoria, when he would get off and walk me across the road to the school. I was about 3 or 4, and with the help of Mum I soon learned to read. I think my greatest achievement was to play the imaginary cymbals in the school pretend band, and we would march up and down bashing and clashing marvellously, if silently.
My father must have been doing quite well, as we could afford a nanny to help Mum who was still suffering from the after-effects of the twin birth. Strangely, I can recall very little of the nanny who stayed with us for a couple of years. My only memories of those times are of Mum in the kitchen and Monica in the pram, or playing in the small garden or in the street, often with a whipping-top. Two accidents stay with me - One happened to me in the kitchen. I was wont to watch Mum preparing delicious meals in the old haimisher way she learned from her mother, and on one occasion I had climbed on to a chair in order to get a better view when over I fell, backwards on to an iron boiler which produced a gash in the back of my head. No stitches were required, and although I was taken to the local hospital, I soon recovered, and was much more careful with chair climbing in future.
The other accident happened to Monica. We were playing in the street, a very quiet road, I with my whipping-top and Monica on her pedal trike. Suddenly screams from Monica - she had somehow fallen on to her trike astride the handlebars and had managed to cut herself in the crotch area. Blood was everywhere, and she was rushed to the local hospital. She was soon back home, apparently none the worse for the experience.
Strangely enough I had become a thin child, very active but thin. This was a constant source of worry for my mother, and as I recall, for all my aunts, on both sides of the family who constantly commented on my lack of fat. I think it was the implied criticism of my mother's method of feeding me that prompted her to take me to the doctor. I was pumped full of cod liver oil and malt, which I liked, with no effect. Mind you I was full of energy, and was constantly in trouble for tormenting Monica. I was once accidentally locked inside the house with Monica in her cot and my Mother outside. The terror created by the fact of my being alone with my sister led to the police being called to force an entry for mum to rescue her daughter from my attentions.
One of the spin-offs of my skinniness was the removal of my tonsils and adenoids. This was a traumatic experience for me at 5 years old, and I still have clear memories of every detail, from the arrival at the hospital with my parents pretending that we were visiting someone else just to get me into the place. We had to wait on a landing for my bed to be made ready, and I had to be forcibly undressed and deposited in the caged bed. I remember screaming incessantly while there, even louder when my mother left for the night. The poor nurses could do nothing to placate me. The next day I was dragged to the operating theatre and held down on to the table while the anesthetist banged on to my face the chloroform mask and poured out the liquid. I remember coming-to in the cot, still screaming for my mother. Eventually, my parents arrived and were told that as I had generated a high temperature by my screaming I should stay in longer. This produced more screaming, so my mother insisted, against medical advice, on taking me home. We called a taxi and as soon as we arrived at our front door, I demanded a fried egg. I was starving, and finished off two eggs pronto. I was home.
Not long afterwards, about 1933, it was decided that we should leave Kensington. The move to another house was not accomplished without much searching, but we were surprised by the insistence of my father in looking on the south-east side of London. By this time we had acquired a car, an Essex saloon, with a real honking, Klaxon-type hooter, and we would all visit the grandparents, each at alternate weekends, and take them either to Brighton, Southend or Eastbourne. Although the S.E. side of London was some distance away from all our relations - my mother's family who had shifted towards the northern boroughs, and my father's who had stayed either in the East End or had followed the general exodus to the north, around Hampstead or Hendon - the car made these visits still possible. We also regularly visited the other East-end based relatives, to be prodded and squeezed and called Tyrah Buchah or Shaynah Madel depending on who was the target. Anyway we eventually saw this place in Forest Hill (Sydenham), 106 Wood Vale, SE 23. I remember being shown over the house. It was a large Victorian, double fronted, semi-detached three storey edifice with a garden front and rear. The road was pleasantly suburban middle class, joining Sydenham with Peckham and Dulwich, and there were some useful local shops just along the road from the house.
Opposite and to the right of a small road, one house away, which led up a hill to some fields behind the house, was a huge cemetery. All that could be seen was the fringe of mature Hoarse Chestnut trees behind a well maintained wooden fence, so there was no unsightly view. At the back of the garden was open land, but in a cutting about ten yards behind was the electric rail link from Sydenham to Victoria, with the local station, Honor Oak about a quarter mile down the road. The lines were far enough away from the house not to bother us, the garden being quite long and divided into two halves by a large hedge. On the house side of the hedge was a large herbaceous border full of lupines, delphiniums, roses and weeds, and the bed extended along the edges of a lawn on either side back to the house. Against the house was a good conservatory which was accessed from a large room (my parents' bedroom) through double French windows. One side of the conservatory was a high, smooth rendered wall forming the boundary with our neighbour. The floor was a smooth mosaic tile. Not long after we had moved in, the glass roof started to fall in and, as this seemed a hazard even to father, he took the only solution - at least for him - and that was to demolish the whole edifice! This way he would kill two birds, one, he would be saved from the chore of using the glass-house for its intended purpose, and two, he would not have the bother of taking someone to hospital with glass in their head. However – and this is probably the first recorded evidence of EHFTB in our family – the smooth floor and the large high wall formed a natural tennis practise court, or cricket bowling range - hooray! Funnily enough the neighbours never complained about the noise. The only slight drawback was the vulnerability of the glass in the windows in the doors and sashes of the rooms overlooking the back garden.
Even this playground was overshadowed by the hidden delights of the rear section of the garden behind the thick hedge. We had a gardener from time to time, depending on availability, and during spells of professional assistance the front half was kept in good order, while the back served as a sort of kitchen garden. This arrangement didn't last too long as the only vegetables which survived were always in plentiful supply when they ripened, and as the conservatory had been demolished, there was no way to propagate anything early, or out of season. During most of the time there was no gardener, so everything depended on mother. She shouted at father to get into the garden and cut the grass and prune the roses or whatever needed doing. His philosophy was to let everything grow to its maximum height, and then either set fire to it or wait for someone else to have a go. He liked "long wavy grass", and somewhere there is a photograph of him sitting in it up to his knees. However there was this section at the back. Monica and I unseen from any house would play all sorts of imaginative games, and some not so imaginative, like throwing soft clay balls at the passing electric trains to see if we could make them stick to the windows, or better still go through the open ones! Talk about vandals.
One of the more practical, if useless, things we did was to dig a deep hole in the clay soil, right down to the water table which was about five feet deep. The idea was to make a bomb-proof shelter. Unfortunately we were unable to seal off the water so that project failed. But it did produce much high quality clay for the ammunition, and plenty of exercise for me. Another revolting game I developed was the mortar shell game. This utilised dad's tennis racquet and the best smooth round pebbles the garden could produce. Fortunately the garden path was constructed of these components, so I would gather a handful and then see how high or far I could propel these missiles with the aforesaid tennis racquet. The noise of breaking glass occasionally followed the best efforts, only once from our own windows, and that was the breakfast room, which had a large plate glass effort onto the garden, and was the unfortunate target of a high flown pebble.
Back to the house itself. The general idea was to use the ground floor for our family, and to let out the remaining floors as self contained flats. With his usual bodging my father managed to create some sort of living accommodation on the first floor for two separate residents sharing a bathroom. Both had two large rooms with gas cookers in one of them, and they were soon let. One to a pair of old maid sisters called the Misses Becker who constantly grassed on the doings of Monica and myself; the other to a smashing middle-aged man called F.W.Fanning. We called him old Fanpop, but he always came to our door when he returned from his office at one of the railway companies with some sort of small gift for us, often a copy of one of GA Henty's books for me, a couple of which I still have, and the Evening Standard for mother. His handwriting was microscopic and very neat, and he would compose poetry when he had some sort of message to give us, even for quite mundane subjects. None of his works remain - a pity.
The top floor was kitted out with a small kitchen, and had two other rooms plus the whole roof space as loft storage. Monica and I loved this glory hole, but it was very difficult to let, probably as there were so many stairs to climb to reach it. This was the reason for the complaints of the Beckers since the loft was directly above their rooms, and we must have made a deal of noise scrambling about among the junk.
There was a strange arrangement downstairs for us. The main bedroom was the large lounge type room which led into the lean-to conservatory, while to begin with, Monica and I shared the room fronting on to the street, adjacent to our parents' room. There was another sizeable room the other side of the front porch with a serving hatch leading to a cubbyhole from the passage which led from the front door to the back garden door via a baise-cloth sealed butler's door. This cubby hole also had a door which opened directly onto a steep staircase leading to a cellar. This was intended for wine and coal storage, with a chute from a manhole at the front of the house. It also was provided with plenty of junk storage space.
The room with the view of the back garden, in an earlier existence the scullery, was now our morning room with a partitioned-off bathroom and toilet. The dividing door from the bathroom was also the door to the kitchen and the larder, and depending whether there was anyone having a bath or in the toilet, this door was shut either in one direction or the other.
The garden side boundaries were high brick walls, usually covered in ivy and convulvulus. This made them easy to climb, at least for young skinny boys, and I took full advantage of this. The semi-detached neighbour was even worse at gardening than we, but the other side, a superior detached, corner mansion, had an immaculate garden - with fruit trees, and a small dog. Along their wall on our side grew an old Fig tree. This tree had many strong branches, and they had formed into a sort of cradle high up. I made this my tree house, and from there I could observe the happenings in both gardens. There was just room for two small children to perch safely, and Monica would often join me. She was a game little girl, ready and willing to join in any skirmish into the unknown, and we would creep along the top of the walls, between the shrubs and trees, scrumping apples and plums in season.
Although we had some good fruit trees, the lack of attention resulted in poor fruit, so next door's was attractive. One of our games was to climb over the rear fence into the railway cutting, and then to climb up the banking on to the road bridge - highly dangerous but oh so exciting. Then there was the terrorising of the passers by in the street by hiding in the thick hedge and pouncing out when they least expected it. We were no angels, and most of the time mother was left to deal with us without the help of father who was away all the week doing his commercial travelling.
We had a succession of servants. Always the daily help who did the steps and floors and the other rough work, plus the live-in maid who did everything else except the cooking. Mum was a good haimisher cook, and her Borscht, Fried Fish, Potato Lutkes, Gefilter Fish and Roast Chicken with Lokshen Soup and Knadles, were the envy of all our relatives.
Another dish which seems to have gone by the board these days was sliced hard boiled eggs and meat pieces in jelly. This was prepared from marrow bones and beef cut into small chunks. Monica and I called this "tadpole meat" as we used the left overs to feed our pet tadpoles, but it was delicious. There was always a really good meal ready for the return of the breadwinner every Friday evening, with the erev Shabbos (Sabbath eve) candles kindled by mum. This homecoming was also the signal for two emotions for me. One of fear of punishment for the latest misdeed of mine, usually something I had done to Monica or the furniture, the other, excitement to discover what gift Dad had brought us. This was usually some cheap toy which lasted until the next week.
There was the other emotion of puzzlement when dad disclosed his latest purchase of junk. He had these fads, there was the Majolica phase, the Chinese vase phase, and once he surpassed even his crankiness by having delivered a huge cast iron mantle piece with the ugliest mirror with ornamental shelving dotted around it. This was then painted with a horrible brown gloss paint and screwed to the wall over the fireplace in the morning room using steel brackets which were still visible after fixing. The results of these random purchases were scattered all over the house, where they were eventually smashed by our play activity. If a repair was deemed possible, then the master craftsman, dad, would use the best materials available - as long as it was the wrong material for the job in hand - with the result that either the thing disintegrated soon afterwards, or stayed in one piece but looked terrible. His favourite joining material was red sealing wax, and this was used to repair blue and white porcelain, white and red ivory chess men - almost everything. My favourite of his repair jobs which lasted in its ugly glory for another fifty years, was the French 19th century chair with fluted legs, one of a pair and one of the only purchases Dad made, worth what he paid. This chair had been maltreated by someone and one of the legs had snapped half way up a tapered fluted section. This should have been professionally pinned and glued, but no! Dad knew best, and as he had in the loft a piece of iron tubing of a diameter suitable for the widest part of the tapered leg, it was obvious that if you squashed the tube at one end then it would eventually be tight at both ends of the fracture. With the aid of a hammer and brute force he actually joined the broken leg by this means, but no-one was allowed to use the chair as the leg would fall apart if sat upon. This rusty eyesore stayed with us from then on.
Another professional repair, this time of a structural nature external to the house, was undertaken by the same expert. The right hand boundary wall was looking shabby due to the cracking and flaking of the cement rendering over the brickwork. There was only one suitable repair material available to science, or dad, at the time - Macleans Dentifrice - and several tubes of this structural material were squeezed into the cracks of the wall. The colour would mellow said dad when mum objected to the resulting road map in brilliant white on the wall. It never did, and the cracks grew larger.
Schools came and went for Monica and me. I was just old enough, about 5, when we moved to '106' to start Primary school, and I was sent to Goodrich Road School, a standard council establishment. The only event which I recall from that place was caused by constipation. Mother had dosed me with syrup of figs one bedtime, and nothing had happened by morning. The dosing had been forgotten, and half way through the morning I was in trouble. The teacher was in no mood to allow any child to leave her vital lesson, and my pleas were refused. I therefore deposited my load on the seat and sat in it until the time came to go home. My form-neighbour, a sweet little girl, actually noticed the smell, but didn't let on, and I walked out with an empty heart and full knickers. I was met as usual by our maid in her afternoon uniform all spick and span, but I refused to let her hold my hand as both mine were occupied clutching the front of my short pants to prevent the evidence escaping while I walked the mile home. I think she suspected something was wrong! Anyway immediately on arrival mother ran a bath and stripped me into it. The school had the rough edge of mother's tongue the next day for not allowing me to leave the class.
It was at this seat of learning that I first donned military uniform. There was some sort of school function involving a display of childrens' activities, and my contribution was to be part of a guard of honour. To this end mothers had to make to a strict pattern a silky red uniform, together with a pillbox hat and chin-strap. Mum excelled at dressmaking, and produced a Dior version of the gear. With my military bearing and her uniform we were the high-spot of the display. A photograph exists to prove it.
I eventually outgrew Goodrich Road School, for I next found myself at The Friern Road Junior Mixed School, opposite Peckham Rye. I suppose I was about 9, and the change seemed smooth enough. The school was quite a long way from home, but still within walking distance in good weather. The route was along the whole boundary of the afore-mentioned cemetery, but it also had the outstanding advantage that the fence became penetrable to small boys intent on collecting conkers. The graves had no deterrent effect, and the journey home was made much more exciting.
The Fairy Tree was another diversion. This was the stump of an enormous oak which had been left to rot, and had created some weird shaped arches and hollows around the base. We would play for as long as possible here, inventing all sorts of scenarios. Monica in the meantime had been sent to the local private prep. school, Miss May's, which happened to be in our street. She learned French among the other feminine subjects, and seemed quite happy. She also became the proud owner of a fairy-cycle, which seemed a little unfair, as all I got was a pair of roller skates, which she also received. We would race up and down the road and do a slalom down the hill along side the house, screaming round the comer into anyone passing. Monica would also tow me behind her bike, with me whipping her from behind to go faster - I think she enjoyed it!
Eventually at the age of 11 I had to take the equivalent to the 11 + exam to see whether I was suitable to proceed to secondary school with a grant. I failed this hurdle, and became a problem. My parents wanted me to go to Alleyn's School in Dulwich, or even Harrow or Dulwich College as a day boy, but I failed their entrance exams. The only thing for me to do was to go to a local crammer, The South London Preparatory School. There I went, and learned enough to pass the Alleyn's entrance the next time. I also learned something about girls, as there were some nifty numbers studying typing at the same establishment.
I was kitted out in the full Alleyn's uniform and sports gear, and started in the lowest form and a member of Ropers house. The form master was 'Pussy' Wright, an ex-army major who hated Jews. He took a delight in humiliating me, and I was quite unhappy for a time. The change came when one of the boys tried to emulate 'Pussy' and I turned on him with some violence. This stopped any further overt anti-Semitism, and from then on I was accepted as one of the lads. In fact I improved so well that I was moved up the school two stages in the next annual assessment. I was at last enjoying myself, winning prizes for art, and winning long distance running events. Monica was also doing well at James Allen's Girls School, a sister organisation to Alleyn's, winning a national copper-plate handwriting competition.
I remember seeing the flames from the fire at Crystal Palace from my 1st floor bedroom window - this was after I had been separated from Monica, and we were forced to stop our story writing in bed. We had invented this hero called Johnny Thompson who was a genius and was able to design all kinds of marvellous machines. I used the blank fly-sheets at the front and back of our story books to write these stories down as we thought them up in bed. Sadly they have all been lost.
Came the 1939 war, and panic hit father. His first thought was to leave his reps job, now with Measurement Ltd., part of the Parkinson Cowan Group, and join the Special Constabulary, presumably to avoid military service, although at the age of 40+ there was little chance of his being called up. This lasted about a month, and he left to return to Measurement Ltd.
Alleyn's School panicked and evacuated the middle school to Dover of all places. Well not quite, but Walmer was still too close for comfort, and we used to have a grandstand view of dogfights over the channel and the town. I was billetted with a labourer by the name of Handford and his slovenly wife, and shared a bed with a much older boy called Smith A. For some reason he objected to me wetting the bed every night, and the liaison didn't last very long. There was one useful thing I learned from Handford. It was how to make the foundations for a stationary petrol engine. He had this machine in his shed to drive a woodworking lathe.
Apart from the machine guns from dog-fights overhead, and shelling from the French coast, the school decided that the middle school should join the seniors in S.Wales. However, shortly before the move my father entrusted Mr Handford with the task of selecting a suitable bicycle for me. I think a budget of 30/- was set, and a machine designed for an overweight policeman, with 29" wheels and a huge frame, was purchased for my enjoyment. I could just move it, and had to sway from side to side in order to pedal. We were temporarily returned home to London while the school made other arrangements for our evacuation to Newport Mon. I discovered that Monica had been moved to Sevenoaks with her school, and she was living in style with the grocery family, Cullen, in a beautiful mansion. As soon as my parents saw my two wheeled tank posing as a bicycle, they got rid of it, and that was the end of my cycling for the time being.
I was billeted in a village called Bassaleg on a delightful family, probably called Jones. The husband was a surveyor, and set up his theodolite in the back garden so that at night he could focus on any illegal blackout disturbing lights with his cross-hairs, and the next day, in daylight, identify the culprit to the air raid wardens. Needless to say we were bombed quite regularly, nearby Newport being a large port and oil terminal. The school shared facilities with the local Council school, Bassaleg Secondary, pronounced Bayzlig. We had schooling on half days only, the rest of the time was spent in riotous living with the local kids. Nothing was learned, and the school disintegrated after two terms. This meant that I returned home, still at 106 Woodvale, no formal schooling, and plenty of air raids, it now being the Blitz period. We used to sleep in our cellar, in hammocks, listening to the bombs falling and the anti-aircraft guns firing. After a time we were issued with Morrison shelters. These were steel tables with massive steel legs and a sheet steel top with side panels of steel mesh. One slept on the floor on a mattress, with this structure around to protect against falling masonry if the building was hit.
Dad in his wisdom decided that the time had come to move out of London, so he chose Northwood Hills, a small development between Harrow and Pinner. The house was a small semi-detached villa with three bedrooms and a small garden. The neighbours were the Cockshuts - don't ask how to pronounce it - who were nice people. Monica was still in Sevenoaks with James Allens Girls' school, I was still a problem. A solution was at hand, as just up the road in a field was a school. This was a state school of the new variety with forward thinking teachers. I went there for a while and learned how to lay bricks and recite "A dirty British Coaster with salt-caked smoke stack". Not quite what my parents anticipated, but it kept me off the streets. I attended this establishment for a full term, and then dad pulled his master stroke. He used his Freemasons contacts to find a school which was both cheap and boarding - the Reading Bluecoat School or Aldworth's Hospital. Just before I was due to start on my first term he sprang the good news that I needed the school uniform, velvet blue knickerbockers with silver buttons, yellow stockings and a blue gown and a cravat. I was ecstatic, and very nearly killed him, but he had made all the arrangements, including requesting that I attend Sunday school as a Christian Scientist. This was in lieu of going to Schul.
Was I or was I not mixed up? Duly kitted out I made the best of things, and found life there most enjoyable, after the first shock of having to shower en masse in the nuddie, with the house master inspecting the quality of the soaping etc. Fortunately, the style of life suited me and I progressed well, becoming a prefect, and generally mucking in. They produced their own honey and vegetables, and the standard of food was much higher than wartime Britain in general. I learned the humane method of slaughtering rabbits for lunch. This was after I had fattened them up for a few weeks. The headmaster, called the "Boss", was W.F.W.King, sometimes corrupted to Woolfy Foolfy Windbag, but he was a stickler for discipline and cleanliness, and I became friendly with him and his son.
I had been given a good cycle for Xmas 1940, a Hopper Super Club, which I could ride about the outskirts of Reading, usually with young Bill King. I managed to make a key for the lock of the ammunition store and the chemistry lab. so we could have fun in the rifle range and make small bombs out of homemade gunpowder and screwed-up newspaper with a round stone as detonator, with which we amused the suburban population as we cycled past their semis.
Meanwhile, mum had moved to Harrogate where Dad, by now an Assistant Director with the Ministry of Aircraft Production, had been evacuated. Mum shared digs with Bessie, Dad's sister, and after a time decided to separate and moved again, this time to Reading, now with Monica, who was removed from James Allens and transferred to an establishment in Reading, Kendrick Girls' School. The digs here were unusual, to say the least. A Vicarage, complete with Vicar and wife and family. They got on well together, and I used to have the odd day off from school to visit them. Dad would also visit at weekends, he still ran the car, by now a Wolsey 14 HP saloon, just like the police at that time. He had priority petrol for official business.
During the school holidays I had to be accommodated in the school, as there was insufficient room in the vicarage for me as well as Mum and Monica. I therefore had to be farmed out, and on one occasion I stayed with the Headmaster, Mr King and his family in their holiday caravan at Poole. It was here that I had my first taste of whitebait. The overnight bombing of the harbour had killed millions of fish which had been washed up on to the beach, and were still fresh in the morning. So we would gather them up in buckets-full, and Mrs King would fry them. They were delicious, much tastier than the present day apologies for whitebait which some restaurants dish up.
I was coming up to Matriculation age, and took the Oxford School Certificate examinations with reasonable success, first at junior and then at senior level, doing well at maths but not with enough credits to give exemption from London Matriculation. By then the family had moved back to London, as the Ministry had decided that they could return to their offices on Millbank - the Germans were concentrating their attack on the East End and the outer defences, as well as the main cities in the shires. This time they decided to live in North Harrow, 107 Slough Lane, and it was from here that I took special evening class coaching in art in order to obtain that extra credit. It took a year, during which I worked as an Engineering student apprentice at Sunbeam Talbot, in Barlby Rd., N.Kensington - not a stones throw from Kensington Gardens, where we had first lived after the Ladbroke Grove flat. I rode my bicycle to work down the Harrow Road as far as Neasden tube station, where I left the bike with some householder. I cannot think why I used this method for travelling to work, except that I was clothed in working overalls, and travelling by train was not exactly the thing to do from N.Harrow dressed like a grease-monkey .
I was trained in most branches of Engineering, with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine as my subject, which was the main item of production, but also with a spell on assembling the Commer Karrier range of commercial vehicles. It was during this training that I first met Trade Union methods.
Some of the machine shop processes were paid on piecework, even during the war, and when I went all out to maximise my output I was told by the shop steward to slow down, as it upset the workers who had falsified their speed during the rate-fixing to get a better price. I'm afraid I ignored their request, and pressed on as best I could. I recall another similar situation, this time it was during the inspection of the cylinder head machining where the seating of the separate cylinder liners was lapped with abrasive paste to ensure no leakage of coolant into the sump. The old hands could distort the measuring jig to reduce any apparent mis-alignment while the inspector was checking their work, and so increase their earnings by doing less work than the job required. This was potentially lethal for the pilot who would eventually fly the aircraft, but the Union couldn't care less.
However, after about a year I re-took Art and obtained the requisite marks to give me exemption from London Matriculation. I was then eligible to go to University, and I was given the choice of either King's College London or Cambridge for my Engineering degree. Of course I chose London! I suppose it made sense to live at home, even with the bombing.
I found that I was so far behind in maths, chemistry and science in general, that I hardly understood the lectures, and failed to meet the required standard in chemistry in the Intermediate exams to allow me to proceed immediately to Part 1 finals. This was a blow, as I was then (1943), aged 17, of call-up age, so I volunteered for air crew in the R.A.F. While awaiting the inevitable call-up papers I took extra tuition in chemistry at Northampton Polytechnic and re-sat the Intermediate exam and passed this time, but it was too late to be allowed back to King's immediately.
After a few weeks, while still awaiting call-up, I got a temporary job at de Havilland Propellers, Stag Lane, Stanmore, as a design draughtsman, where I continued to work as a fully inexperienced designer. My first project was to design a rig to test the strength of the drive gears at the roots of the Hamilton/ deHavilland variable pitch propellers. I produced a mechanism which would have tested the strength of 16" gun turret. The thing was powered by a huge electric-motor-driven hydraulic pump, as used in the steering gear of the Queen Mary, running at the high, (for those days), pressure of 1000 lbs per square inch. I think they eventually made it, but I know not whether they ever used it. They had other geniuses there designing similar rubbish for other purposes, so there was plenty to do other than make my junk. The chief designer was a Mr Blazeby, who left all the work to a little weed of a man called Cornish, a sort of technical Squeers.
There were the usual blue stocking girls in the tracer section, but one was not so blue, and spread herself around the younger men. One of these young fellows was Tony, and he was a music freak. He had a collection of thousands of good records, the 78 rpm variety in those days, and was responsible for introducing me to the world of classical music by organising group visits to hear the London Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestras at the Wembley Town Hall. This cheerful and attractive young man had the misfortune to have a collapsed lung due to TB and had to attend hospital regularly to have air injected into the chest in order to allow the lung to heal. He did not live long after I left the company.
Another character of that office was an ice-skating fanatic called John Otley who used the Richmond rink and persuaded me to buy some Canadian ice-hockey skates, which I still have, and on which I learned to skate - not very well. Somewhere in my archives there is an illuminated farewell ‘certificate’ with the autographs of the whole office, given to me when I left. Another piece of evidence of my attempts at being a designer is the solution to a design puzzle posed in the magazine ‘The Draughtsman', which was the official organ of the Union to which I belonged, the AESD - the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen. This allowed me to display my ability to solve problems by the longest and most complicated route. My solution was so involved that the Editor asked me to explain it before publishing - I didn't and he didn't. It was due to the information about the 'Hankey Scheme' contained in the magazine that I was allowed to leave de Havillands.
This scheme for accelerated academic qualification in the Higher National Certificate in Engineering, was designed by Lord Hankey, and allowed suitably qualified people in Industry to attend Loughborough College for a six months intensive course, all fees and expenses paid, and with full reservation from the forces. I applied on the strength of my Intermediate B.Sc. exam results and was accepted. I was given digs in Kegworth with a grumpy but kind Willow farmer, but had to share a room with a lunatic called P.H.(Taffy) Davies, a mad Welshman, but great fun and a good sport. He was a Civil Engineer, so we only met in the mornings, evenings and at weekends. He had a 600cc Panther single cylinder motor bike. It had huge tyres and was built like a bus. This was just as well, as he used to give me a lift into college most mornings and the machine had no pillion seat and no footrests. I had to sit on the rear mudguard with my feet on the two silencers. I would arrive with boiled feet and a sore arse, but it was good fun! Taffy was more concerned with scratches on his beautiful chrome plated silencers than with my comfort.
Another unusual machine owned by Taffy was his circus acrobat's bicycle. This was specially strengthened to stand the heavy bashing in the ring, and instead of brakes had fixed chain drive, and one day we proved its strength. Taffy and I had decided to explore the local countryside on our bikes. I still had my Hopper sports bike, and Taffy was on his circus machine.
The area around Kegworth was riddled with military camps and at the bottom of this hill we ran into one. At least Taffy lost control of his brakeless monster and overtook me on this steep hill, with his feet off the fast revolving fixed drive pedals i.e. no free-wheel, with no braking effect. As he passed me I tried to grab him to slow him down, but to no avail, and he crashed at full speed into the five bar gate which was closing off the entrance to an army camp. Taffy was a stocky lad of about 14 stone and he held fast to the handle-bars; this had the effect of projecting him vertically into the air as the front wheel struck the gate. The heavy timber splintered, the front forks bent backwards about two inches, and Taffy landed back in the saddle with a yell. This woke up the sentry who was not very pleased at the broken gate, and asked Taffy to repeat his act as he missed it the first time. It said much for the strength of that bike (and Taffy) that we were able to ride off the way we had come, up the hill without being shot, and with Taffy's bike still roadworthy even with the distorted forks.
In spite of all these extra-mural activities we completed the Loughborough intensive course without much trouble. I managed to catch Flu just before the final exams, and was admonished for coughing all through the sittings. However, I managed a respectable pass in all subjects, basically up to degree level, and had to organise a job on completion.
I managed to get a design post in a small private company called Egerton Tools in Colindale on the Edgware Rd. This was an outfit making mainly socket sets out of the softest cheapest rubbish steel, plus the occasional novelty, such as a folding coathanger in scrap aluminium, probably stolen from the de Havilland Aircraft Co just up the road. I was terrible as I knew next to nothing about tool design, and less than nothing about design drawing. Eventually the long awaited call-up papers arrived, much to my delight and mum's distress.
I went to a selection board to be informed that they no longer needed pilots, only rear gunners. I told them that I was not interested in being a rear gunner, only a driver, and that they could stuff the R.A.F. if that was all they could offer. The next invitation was to join the Infantry. This was even more rapturously received by parents, and this time I wasn't so keen. I was due for a fortnight's holiday from Egerton's, so I told them of the call-up, and prepared them for my imminent departure soon after my return from vacation. The directors, messrs Browne and Gatward, threatened me with the sack if I took a holiday at that time, but I was browned off with them and their outfit by then and was fully prepared to join the forces, so a last holiday seemed in order. On my return to the works I was greeted with great joy and the information that in the intervening fortnight they had applied for and received full reservation from military call-up for me, if I stayed with them. Like hell I would, so I gave them notice and left after a week.
This was January 1947, the year which turned out to be one of the coldest and longest winters in living memory. I remember snow and ice well into May and I think into June. In fact the weather delayed my start at D Napier & Son, Acton due to the power-cuts which had closed their works for the time being. When I did start there on Monday 17 February, the offices were lit by a small motor generator which powered strings of fairy lights all around. The power-cuts continued until the 1st week in March.
This was the year of VE day – Victory in Europe Day. All the lights in London were switched on, and I cycled to the top of Harrow Hill to see the panorama.
It was on the 29 March that the whole Horwood family entertained Uncle Jack during one of his infrequent visits home from Johannesburg, S Africa, and we went to see the show "No room at the inn" and afterwards to a dinner dance at the "Hungarian" restaurant in town. We had to walk home from West Harrow Tube Station, having caught the last train, and arrived home at about 2:00 in the morning.
I bought my 35mm camera with cash from my mother as an early birthday present on 16 April '47. It cost £22 - an Agfa Karat Compur Rapid, and I still have it in working order; even the cassettes are still available. About this time I discovered that I might be eligible for a Government grant to complete my university B.Sc. course, and I duly applied to the Dept. of Education for a FETS (Further Education Training Scheme) award meant for ex-servicemen. Apparently I qualified, as my university course was interrupted by my military call-up request, even though I was not actually called to the colours - being exempted by Egerton Tools.
I was enthusiastic with my camera, and built an enlarger as well as processing my own film. I was in demand by the girls in the Napier office and took and enlarged some portraits for them. One of these girls died not long after and I was able to provide her family with extra copies.
I have a record of buying a pair of tyres for my bicycle, the Hopper, costing 66p (6/8) each, in preparation for my summer holiday in France, due to begin on Saturday 14 June '47. This holiday turned out to somewhat mixed - the outward journey by train to Lyon ending with a very long delay by the customs (Douane) at Lyon demanding all sorts of form filling to allow me to collect the bike from the train. It was very late when I eventually left Lyon, having arrived at 3 o'clock in the morning and was released at noon. I reached Givors on the Route National 7 (N 7) by evening.
The next day, riding through Valence, I discovered that I had lost my jacket with all my papers. On reporting this to the local police, they told me that I would have to go to Marseilles and see the British Consul. By the time I got to the Consulate they had heard from Valence that my jacket had been found and was awaiting my return to collect it. As I still had all my cash, and it was very hot, I decided to carry on with my camping tour. I managed to enjoy the trip and eventually reached Valence having cycled along the Route Napoleon northwards via Grasse to Chateauredon and then Serres and at last Valence.
On arrival at the police station I was informed that my belongings were still with the old crone who reported her find to them, and I would have to visit her to claim them. I managed to find her cottage, and she gave me a glass of wine before demanding money as a reward for her honesty. I only had a couple of pounds in sterling and a steel rule which happened to be in one of the pockets of the jacket. There was the return ticket to London, but she had no use for that, so she let me have the jacket with my passport and other papers, and I left for Lyon and the train home. I arrived in Paris at midnight, only to find that they were on strike and no trains were expected before the morning. I slept on a seat in a waiting room. Naturally, my bike failed to arrive at Calais with my train, and I had to wait until the evening to collect it for the ferry to Dover. I had only enough cash for a few hard-boiled eggs from a dirty cafe in the Calais port area to last me until home.
Three days later I was very ill and was confined to bed with heavy diarrhoea and headache etc. for about 10 days, with the doctor calling several times as I was alone - my parents being away. I eventually recovered enough to be basically normal to greet my parents when they returned.
In early August I acquired 2 Motor cycles with some cash Mum had given me for passing the Loughborough exams. I needed 2 bikes for the petrol coupons which came with each machine, petrol rationing still being operated, so that I could use one of them for longer journeys. I left the plodding 350cc New Imperial in the shed, and rode the 350cc Velocette MAC, which was quite a sporty job. Of course I had to start renewing various components almost immediately, but that was par for the course. Anyway the Velo only cost £60 and the new parts added £47 which I fitted. The New Imperial only cost a tenner! I was surprised it even started.
Not long after that I left Napier’s prior to returning to King’s to complete my degree course on 6 October 1947, having been granted an FETS award.
After having obtained the Higher Nat. Cert at Loughborough College the previous year, I was not too heavily stressed this time, being up to speed on most subjects. I was able to indulge in some of the extra-mural activities such as Shooting, Judo, and Photography, and for a time Boxing. But as time went on I had to drop most of them as the Finals drew closer. I made good use of my camera for illustrating my course-work, especially the lab equipment.
On 25 June '48 I rode my Velocette to Bloxwich to stay with my pal Ray Haycock at his family pub - Spring Cottage Inn. At that time it was serving a very small village and was very picturesque. They made me very welcome.
For some reason which I fail to remember, I arranged to return to D Napier for a period of 8 weeks in July and August ‘48. It must have been a Summer vacation job. It was about then that I noticed a slight deterioration in my eyesight and visited a specialist in Harley St on Friday 13 August. From then on I have worn specs more or less full time.
In September I did the grand tour of the I of Wight on my Hopper bike and met up with a couple of nurses who supplied me with company during and after a steamer trip from Shanklin to see the Queen Mary docked at Southampton.
The Winter '48 term at King's was taken up with such important matters as raids on the Daily Mail offices; and raids on University College and Imperial College. Something to do with various mascots being hijacked and recaptured. However the finals exams were looming, and eventually finished on 15 June.
I filled in the next few weeks with a biking holiday taking in Devon and Cornwall. On the first day out I was knocked off the bike by a Pickford's lorry near Salisbury and hurt my foot. Fortunately, the bike was undamaged and my foot eventually healed. The driver accused me of falling off the wrong way! He was eventually convicted of dangerous driving, probably as I had a witness who was following us in his car and he corroborated my story.
I managed to fit in my pal's wedding way up in the Black Country on Saturday 9 July, where I was his best man.
Having obtained a reasonable degree I started at Bristol Aeroplane Co on Monday 25 July 1949 in a concrete shed at their Patchway gas turbine research division.
It was during '49 that I joined the 'Social Club' organised by the Bristol Shul and started to attend the various 'Musical Evenings' which were held at different members' houses.
I was getting a little fed up with the motorbike and was tempted into buying an old MG from some acquaintance. I think I paid him £50 plus the Velocette for a 1934 J2 - 4 seater saloon with bodywork about to fall off. In October 1950 I decided to scrap the rotting bodywork and build a new body. I was helped by the kind Ellimans - Arnold and Sonja who had recently been married - who allowed me to use their garage. I think I paid them 10 shillings a week. I obtained some original drawings of the soft-top model with a slab-tank at the rear which held the spare wheel, and a source of genuine components from an enthusiast called Jon Bendal in Bristol. I used solid Ash timber with Dexion Aluminium struts and heavy steel nuts and bolts. It was a tour-de-force and took me over a year to complete. I managed to get a proper 'bosoms' shape for the front scuttle panel with a folding windscreen. Unfortunately there was no roof, hard or soft, so to keep dry in the rain you had to travel at high speed so that the bosoms deflected the rain up over your head. Another slight difficulty was that there was only a half floor on the passenger's side. The gap was covered by a carpet, and the passenger had to keep their feet well forward to avoid dragging their shoes on the road! Another little problem arose if it rained - I had no tonneau cover either - so everything was soaked in the rain, and it took some time to dry out enough to allow comfortable seating.
These slight difficulties tended to put off my more discriminating girl friends, but a few enjoyed the delights of open-air motoring. It is safe to say that 1950 was full of social activity, interspersed with car building. Most of the social activity was based on the Berk family - in particular Julius who was exceptionally kind and hospitable. He and his mother ran a wholesale schmutte and household goods business out of a warehouse in the centre of Bristol (eventually to be a prime development site).
The year 1951 was filled with social events, including Monica's wedding to David; a visit to the Festival Hall; and navigating for a pal from the car club, Mike Manning, in his Morris Minor, on the Exeter Rally.
The wedding was a grand affair. The ceremony was held at the St Petersburg Shul, London and the reception at the Savoy Hotel. Monica had not long recovered from a bad dose of TB, probably contracted while she was working in a pathology lab. This was after she gave up studying medicine at the Sorbonne, and couldn't find a vacancy at any UK university - she being female! Part of her treatment required her to stay for many months at a sanatorium in isolation, and this made quite a dent in her career development. It was while she was recuperating at our parents' home in Menelick Rd. that she met David Wimborne who lived next door with his parents. He was a recently de-mobbed doctor from the RAF and was then specialising in Pathology.
The Wimbornes were fair-ground suppliers of those magnificent goods to be found on the stalls, both for sale and as prizes. It seems that Pop W was a naughty boy with the ladies, and was wont to chase our mother round the kitchen when she was alone. Mind you, Pop H was also that way inclined! There must have been something in the water, or was it the gefilte fish? Pop H bought Monica and David a nice bungalow in the Harrow Weald area as a wedding present which must have given them a good start.
A trip to the Festival Hall was organised by my Bristol tennis club, Elmgrove, and I and a group of the younger members had a good time. This was the Festival of Britain designed to sell British goods and tourism, and it seems to have done quite well.
One of Monica's school friends, Phyllis Swerling, was still studying medicine in Paris, and I thought it was a good idea to spend a few days there. So I saved up my pennies and booked a hotel close to her digs. Hotel was a grand name for the doss-house, but it had a double bed and was reasonably clean. We traipsed around Paris and saw most of the tourist places. I was rather short of cash and was not able to give Phyllis much of a good time, which she resented. At the last minute she relented and forgave me in the best possible way. I reported all this to Pearl when I returned to Bristol, and we gave the visit a sort of post mortem. Mind you, it was at Pearl's and Joan Brett's (Bank friend of Pearl) instigation that I did the trip in the first place - to get Phyllis out of my head I suppose!
The Exeter Rally was a last minute arrangement. I had joined a local car club where I had met Mike Manning, and he was looking for a navigator. As I had never done this before I was a natural candidate! His car, a Morris Minor, was borrowed from his parents and was in good condition. We were therefore restricted as to how hard we could push it and where we could safely take it. So we had to by-pass some of the more robust stages, giving up the possibility of gaining any prizes, but we managed to get the car home without any damage, and had a great time as well, without getting lost - too often.
I was spending a great deal of time going to rallies and hill climbing meetings. All this travel took its toll of the MG, and I was constantly having to carry out repairs and renew parts. At the same time I was adding authentic components which made the car look quite presentable.
All this went on into 1952, but I was still only meeting Pearl irregularly, and usually with Joan Brett. One of our joint activities was to help out at a youth club in Downend, in the depths of Bristol's deprived area. I was a sort of athletics coach, but the kids seemed to prefer to treat me as a piece of gymnastic equipment. Things became too energetic, even for me, and we only lasted a few visits.
On the 12 May '52 I moved out of the 16 West Park room into Mrs Stratton’s very posh establishment in 9, The Avenue, Clifton. Mrs Stratton was the widow of the local Vicar, and Clifton College was just across the road. I'm sure she mistook me for a relative of a Mr Horwood who was the Headmaster of the Junior section of that school. Fortunately she didn’t discover her mistake until I had been in residence for some time. Here we were served by an Italian maid in full regalia, with Mrs Stratton ringing a little bell for each course to be brought in from the kitchen where it had been prepared by a cook-housekeeper.
The other residents were: the Co Secretary (John Reader-Harris) and the Sales Manager (Joe Bradford) of Bristol Aeroplane Co., a Brain Surgeon (Douglas Phillips), lain Gordon (a very nervous clerical type) and Major AG Robinson (a very military gentleman). We all got on very well and would occasionally go on a pub-crawl together - not the Major though!
After I had broken my MG having competed in the Naish Hill climb on the 13 September '52 with another girl-friend (name forgotten!) as navigator - a big-end decided to seek fresh air through the side of the crank-case on the way home and the liberated engine oil sprayed all over my passenger, I had the wreck towed to some ground alongside 9, The Avenue. This displeased Mrs Stratton and I was forced to sell the car to Jon Bendle for the princely sum of £27-10-0 on 29 September '52.
On 25 October, Pearl went to Holland for a week to stay with her brother Dennis and Sheila.
I had to arrange transport to and from Filton, and a good pal, Spud Taylor helped me out daily in his Jaguar. Pearl returned from Holland on the 2 November and I gave her a silver marcasite galleon brooch. I was beginning to look for a better job, out of the aircraft industry which was a risky trade due to government cut-backs etc. My job seemed fairly OK but other divisions of Bristol Aeroplane Co had suffered badly. I was running the project management side of the ram-jet development project for "Red Duster" (Bristol Ferranti Bloodhound missile) and had to travel to Salisbury Plain and Aberporth firing ranges. On one of these journeys I was driving the company Land Rover, KDD 774, to Aberporth on Sunday 23 November '52 when I hit an icey patch on a LH bend in Bwlch* and bent the car in the RH ditch wall at Glanpant Tara. We were rescued by the police, and the only slightly injured passenger who was thrown out of the door on impact, was sewn up by the local doctor. The rest of our team came from Aberporth to collect us. The show must go on!
Pearl, Simey Jacobs (Daddy) and I spent a happy Xmas at the Torbay Hotel, Torquay.
I was still investigating other jobs and nearly emigrated to Canada (A.V.Roe), but it fell through, probably because Pearl wasn't too keen. Pearl and I spent the '53 Easter holiday in Holland at Scheveningen with Dennis and Sheila. Pearl was still refusing my offers of marriage, and I was going to car rallies and hill-climbs with my car club mates - now as a passenger!
In the Spring of ‘53 I started taking flying lessons at Filton in an Auster Autocrat.
On Mayday I went with Doug Phillips and lain Gordon on a climbing weekend to Snowdonia. Here I was persuaded to skree down from the top of Snowdon where my golf/climbing shoes lost their studs, and I nearly broke my neck
The coronation of Elizabeth II was on Tuesday 2 June '53 and Pearl and I were invited to Spud Taylor's to watch it on his large projection TV.
It was on a fatal week-end in June when Pearl and I were waiting for a bus in Queens Road Bristol when Stuart, a friend of Pearl's stopped at the bus-stop and gave us a lift to join him to wherever he was going. He had a building cleaning business, and heard about my itchy feet and suggested that I let him apply for a job in my name to the chairmen or C.E's of several companies and see what happened. We agreed and selected several large firms which he wrote to as from me. I was not expecting much to come from this, and was very surprised to get a letter from George Harriman, C.B. of the Austin Motor Co. Longbridge, Birmingham.
Pearl was due to go on the Chusan for a cruise to Norway on 25 July with a friend. By now she had agreed to marry me, and this job possibility, while taking her away from her friends and relatives, would be a useful boost to our finances. I followed up the letter and was interviewed by Harriman and John Rix the chief Engineer and was offered the job of 'Personal Assistant' to Rix. I left BAC on 16 October and started at Austin on 2 November '53 at the princely salary of £900 pa. The hunt for decent digs began and I eventually found them at the top of the Lickey Hills within walking distance of the factory. My host was blind, and his wife worked for a local carer organisation, and I was well looked after.
There was this hilarious event when Pearl visited me in the Spring of '54 and I managed to get her a room for a couple of nights in a "hotel" on the Bristol Road near the works. It looked fine, but it turned out to be a students' hostel and the accommodation was very very basic. I don't know how Pearl put up with it, but we were house hunting and had to spend as much time together as possible. We eventually found this flat at 457 Gillott Road, Edgbaston, owned by Dot and Miff Smith. It was a two roomed affair with a kitchen! breakfast room and scullery/bathroom. The cooker was an antique two burner job and the heating was by an open fire. There was no heating in the bathroom and I rigged up a single bar electric fire which was on most of the time. I learned later that we were offered the flat because while I was waiting in the landlady's breakfast room I mended her cooker!
Our wedding was booked at the Bristol Schul and afterwards at the Berkeley on the only day that Daddy (Simey) Jacobs could find free in his diary, the 25 August 1954, and we organised our honeymoon to Aclare House, Drumconrath, County Meath, Ireland. Simey collected us from our overnight hotel, Southboume Hotel, South Parade, Bath, on the 26th and drove us to the airport for the Air Lingus flight to Dublin which was uneventful.
We had a very happy time in Ireland, hiring a Standard Pennant car and touring all over the island. On one occasion I was driving northwards with the intention of looking at Belfast in Ulster, when I noticed a sign on the main road that it was "Unapproved". I thought that it was a perfectly good road and we continued into Northern Ireland where we had lunch. Wanting to take a different route back to our hotel we asked directions of a local man who was prepared to direct us but with the warning that due to the "troubles" I would have to put my foot down hard and duck below the windows when we crossed the border. I told him that we had no trouble travelling north from Eire, and he was aghast that we had used the unapproved road - what did I know? Anyway we dashed over the border without being shot at. On another day we were touring around the west coast in the Connemaragh area, and decided to drive through the southern hills back to the East coast at Dublin. There was this interesting place called Dun Laoghaire just south of Dublin, but no-one had heard of it, but it was marked clearly on the map. We eventually reached it and carried on to Aclare House. Some time later we discovered that the place was pronounced Dun Leary, but no-one had bothered to correct me when I was asking the way, and they pretended there was no such place - very hospitable.
They have these severely hump-backed bridges in Eire and I hit one of these in the Pennant at high speed. All the wheels left the ground, but we landed safely leaving our stomachs in the air. Another interesting aspect of driving there was the habit of the locals to ignore halt signs at 'T' junctions, especially when they are driving cattle.This provided interesting diversions on hot afternoons. Pearl took the wheel one day, and she copied this habit at one 'T' junction, fortunately there were no others to witness this manoeuvre. The final stomach-churning event occurred on our flight home from Dublin. The Dakota took off and immediately banked heavily to the left and descended in a circular path. The pilot announced that we could get a good view of the Empress of Canada which was being towed to a dry dock after it had caught fire - the announcement came after he had started the dive towards the sea! Anyway, we managed to get home to the Gillott road flat, and started to get into a routine. The Smiths had a little Sealyham called Billy which spent most of its time with Pearl. Miff, the landlord, was prone to "happen to call in" just as Pearl was preparing a meal, and would scrounge food without any conscience.
This was the time, 20 November '54 we went to a car auction with £45 in our pocket and drove away in an old 1937 Morris 8 costing £35 (ERE641). The journey home was about 2 miles and the clutch started slipping after the first mile. By the time we arrived home it hardly worked at all, so I parked it on the waste ground opposite the house and there it stayed. I managed to obtain a new clutch through the 'system' after a struggle, and spent every spare hour underneath the car covered in oil.
My work at 'The Austin' included developing the use of Aluminium in car construction, and I met a number of high powered men in that industry. One of them was Colin Bailey who was the sales director of 'Birmetals', a local producer of special alloys who were keen to get in on the ground floor at Austin. The Baileys lived in a fair-sized house in Moseley, opposite Highbury Park in Moor Green Lane. This was then a salubrious area of Birmingham, and they invited us to their new year party. Colin and Olive Bailey showered hospitality on us, corporate of course!, and we also met their daughter, Tricia who was getting desperate for a man. She would serenade me on their piano at every opportunity - 'Be My Love' being her favourite melody. At one of their parties we met the newly-weds Johnny and Diana Walker who lived locally, and with whom we were to develop a very close friendship.
It was during these visits to the Baileys that we heard of the new houses being built just behind their house in a new road called Elizabeth Road. I made enquiries and we dived in and employed one of the developer-builders, Horace Davis, and an architect, Peter, Ring and Jones, to design and build a house there. The site was perfect, being the first one on the left in that road with a good sized garden backing on to woodland. It had one drawback - the left boundary took in the back fences of about four gardens of the houses in the main road. This was to be a blessing in disguise as the owners of the last of these houses were also newly-weds by the name of Dennis and Kay Monk, Dennis being a solicitor practicing in Birmingham.
The trials and tribulations which beset us during the building stage were quite horrific, the builder misreading the plans and having to pull down a complete inside wall and re-build the staircase. I had included in the design the installation of a new, experimental heating system designed by Ferranti. It was called the Ferranti Fridge-heater, and extracted heat from the large, insulated walk-in larder, and fed the heat into the domestic water using the ‘Heat Pump' principle.
We had arranged a mortgage with the Alliance Building Society, but of course the Government had to get into a financial crisis and there was a 'credit squeeze' which caused the Alliance to renege on our agreement at the last minute. This placed us in a very nasty position, but help was at hand in the person of one of Pearl's uncles - Harry - who was in the wallpaper business (Decorwall) and had some pull with the Alliance. He was able to put some pressure on them and they re-instated our mortgage with his guarantee behind us. We had to promise to never fail with the repayments - which we did with alacrity! The total cost of the house was £3,750 - a detached 3 bedroom with 1/4 acre land freehold. We moved in to NO.8 Elizabeth Road on Wednesday 4 April 1956, with no furniture and a small boy.
Unfortunately, while the theory of the heat pump was perfectly OK in the text book, it failed to work in practice - there being insufficient heat to transfer to the water from the larder in winter, (which produced a snow-storm in the heat-exchanger) and too much so that the water boiled and the larder stayed warm in the summer. We experimented in collaboration with Ferranti for about a year, with Pearl having to read and record the results from various instruments all over the hot water system. Having to replace three sets of equipment during this phase, and still not having a working system we reluctantly threw it out. It was replaced by a very compact gas-fired boiler contained in a radiator in the dining room integrated with a Baxi back-boiler in the lounge. This set-up worked very well and heated the whole house as well as providing all the hot water we needed.
There was plenty of work to do to tame the wild garden, and I spent much of my time trying to do that with variable success. I concentrated on the front garden, and we managed to create a drive-in paved area with a small lawn to one side. I was having a fairly rough time at work after the resignation/sacking of my boss, Johnny Rix, and I was being sidelined in the organisation, and had been transferred to the 'Electronics Dept.’ under Frank Highfield. He was a tyrant with a busted knee which made him bad-tempered. I was still carrying on with the Aluminium car development, which he resented, and I also carried on with other activities nothing to do with his department. He and I had had a shouting match when, shortly after the arrival of Jeremy, Pearl had a bad cold and I was tending to be a little late in getting to work having to sort out Jeremy's nappies etc. before leaving in the mornings. Highfield had a go at me about this one morning and I snapped and told him I would continue to look after my wife and child whatever he wanted, and I stormed out of his office slamming the door. This worry, plus the hard work I was doing at home must have lowered my resistance to infection as, one bank Holiday, 5/6 August '57, after spending an afternoon in Highbury Park at a local fair with Pearl and Jeremy, I was hit by what looked and felt like a very bad dose of 'flu. However, the next day after a bad night, Dr Grice visited us on the 8 August and immediately called an ambulance to take me to Little Bromwich Isolation Hospital. I had Polio. This was the year of the Scout Jamboree in Sutton Park, and they had introduced what was named 'Asian 'Flu' which had spread all over Birmingham. It appears that I had caught a version of that which had mutated to give me Bulbar Polio.
My parents came up from London and stayed with Pearl who was pregnant with Richard and helped as much as they could. The doctors had given me up and told my family to pray, as this was all that was left. This gave my father an opportunity to bring in a Christian Scientist practitioner. This lady visited them and seemed to give them some comfort - mainly helping them to have positive thoughts.
Pearl suffered considerably at the hands of the local authority officials who treated her like an outcast. When she attended the pre-natal clinic at the hospital, soon after I was admitted to Little Bromwich, they made her separate from the other pregnant women in case they caught Polio from her, and refused to attend to her in the clinic. Officials from the 'Health' department visited her at home and were extremely unpleasant, leaving her in tears. The same day my parents arrived and my father gave the Health people a telling off for treating a pregnant woman so badly. Even the other residents of Elizabeth Road would cross the road to avoid any contact with the 'unclean' in No.8 - all except the family living opposite and our friends the Walkers who were very kind and helpful.
Frank Highfield, my boss, was most kind and provided Pearl with a chauffeur driven car every day, after my parents returned home, to visit me, and my colleagues wrote to me with 'get well soon' messages.
It is interesting to record that at that time I was virtually delirious, relying on nursing to keep me as comfortable as possible, and living on Aspirin to keep the pain at bay. However, there is one thing I remember - at about the same time as one of the visits by the Practitioner, I had a dream of myself playing with two children in the garden. I awoke with an appetite and asked for food. They brought me some chicken breast which I ate, and from that time I began recovering. They removed the 'Iron Lung' from outside my cubicle where it had been kept in case I needed it in a hurry, and started physiotherapy to try to regain the use of my neck and right arm. My swallow and eye muscles took a little time to recover - I had to twist my head round with my left hand in order to be able to swallow food, and I could only read if I held the page at about a foot away from my eyes as I had fixed focus for some time. I was in that ward for seven weeks, arriving home on 28 September. During my absence my parents had employed a landscape firm to lay a lawn in the back garden with some fruit trees, and had cleared my overdraft. This was a great relief, and we were most grateful to them.
We spent a couple of weeks in Bournemouth, my parents looking after Jeremy, and arrived home on the 1 December.
Then started the long grind of physiotherapy and part-time working to try to get my neck and shoulders into some kind of tone. I designed a special head support like a rugby scull-cap with a long piece of elastic down the back attached to a belt. This stopped my head falling forwards, and when reversed acted as a 'resistance' for exercising the neck muscles. I wore this contraption all day as a safety device, instead of the clumsy neck-brace supplied by the hospital, for many months, and the staff at Austin's eventually got used to this Frankenstein monster walking around the works.
The Walkers and the Monks managed to have their first children, Susan and Caroline, around the same time that Pearl produced Jeremy Arthur on 21 September 1955 at St Chads Hospital, our first-born, and this provided us with our very close and long-lasting friends. Strangely, the Monks and the Walkers never hit it off with each other, but certainly Pearl was to maintain a very close relationship with both mothers, and the children. Diana never had any more children, but Kay delivered Charles soon after Pearl had Richard Jonathan on 10 February 1958.
In view of the traumatic events during Richard's gestation, it was with great relief that he was born in excellent condition. He had one slight problem due to Pearl having Rhesus negative blood - he contracted Jaundice. Fortunately he recovered without having to have a blood transfusion, and Pearl was able to bring him home soon after.
I had picked up a nice little project while Johnny Rix was there - this was the investigation of the use of Aluminium in car design and production. This was in conjunction with the Aluminium Development Association who funded all the materials and research. I had a marvellous time getting a couple of A35 cars made all in Aluminium - even getting to drive one of them on test tracks and privately. I was getting a reputation as an experimental project manager.
Not long after, I was approached by Fisher & Ludlow, the bodymaking division of what was then the British Motor Corporation, to see whether I would join them as chief Engineer of their materials handling company - the Gridway Company. All this was in secret, so it had to appear as though it had been discussed with top management. So F & L persuaded George Harriman, the joint managing director of the BMC to "ask" Frank Highfield, my immediate boss, to release me for this job. Highfield reluctantly agreed, and I met the Chairman of F & L, Harold F Price, who negotiated a contract with me and then had it rubber stamped at their next Board meeting. All this happened in March and I started at Gridway on 14 April '58 with a company car (Austin A55).
I was thrown in at the deep end with a vengeance. They had a couple of very big jobs which had gone wrong - one was an underground conveyor for coal mines, the other an automatic conveyor system for destroying used bank-notes for the Bank of England. The designer of both these systems was a crack-pot who tried to get away with light-weight ingenious components which bent and twisted in use. It was costing a fortune to get them accepted by the customers, and I was getting all the flak from them. Eventually we got the Bank job running for long enough to get paid, but the coal mine one never lasted long enough as the patented supporting rollers, made of chopped up old belting re-moulded to the shape of rollers, always broke up after a few hours in the mine.
Another legacy I had to deal with was a complicated, automatic conveyor for a large hardware warehouse in Bristol. This had a multi-storey carousel overhead conveyor with a final stage which tipped whatever was on the conveyor on to a spiral chute which delivered the goods to the despatch bay. Theoretically this should have worked - unfortunately the spiral chute threw everything off halfway down, and this included fridges and cookers as well as small packages. The designers (my team!) had forgotten to allow for centrifugal force due to the spiral shape of the chute, and this together with the "craftsmen" who made the thing who managed to put adverse-camber on the slide caused mayhem. I had to get the whole thing ripped out and remade properly. I was not a happy bunny. To cap everything I discovered after a couple of management meetings that the M.D. of Gridway (Charles Remfty) resented my appointment and was doing all he could to make my life difficult. It was not long before I was being drawn into the F & L politics, and I was approached by other managers from the main works with evidence of the dishonesty and nepotism being carried on by Remfty. It became clear why he resented my presence as I was discovering irregularities in the placing of orders to his relatives and friends with no control of the quality of their products. He had equipped his son's factory with machinery from Gridway and was generally feathering his own nest at the expense of F & L. In collusion with my informants, and after cross checking the evidence, I wrote a confidential report to the Chairman, HF Price, and awaited the result. This was not long coming. I was immediately transferred to the main company at Castle Bromwich and given carte blanche to set up a department to investigate and implement manufacturing methods. It's worth mentioning here that it seemed that everyone was under the impression that I was related to George Harriman (Group Joint MD), and reported directly to him. I was coopted on to the F & L production committee chaired by Geoffrey Rose, a wartime member of General Montgomery's staff, and really got stuck into the job.
My report on the activities of Remfty had been acted on and he was fired. I think they closed down the operation or sold it off .I began to get involved with computers and facsimile data transmission in an industrial context and was sent on various courses. It was while on one such course at Birmingham University that I met Jim Miller. We happened to be in the same team during some role-playing and got talking. He asked me whether I had considered management consultancy. At the time we were beginning to notice the cost of bringing up two boys and Jeremy was due to go to his Prep. school. After a short deliberation and some negotiation about terms I accepted a job with AlC in Birmingham in July 1960. They were glad to get someone with motor industry experience as they had committed themselves to a couple of clients in that industry and were short of specific expertise.
After a short indoctrination course I was sent on assignment. At first the assignments were located within commuting distance, but after a time they required me to spend time away from home. One of these even took me up to Scotland for a few weeks, but at least they paid for Pearl and the boys to accompany me during the summer holiday. This assignment lasted through 1960 and 1961 up to August 1962 when I was transferred to a foundry in Worcester (Alley McLellan) headed by a very sociable fellow, Tom Pattison. I had a colleague working with me, Alex Gray - a quiet, very experienced, very competent consultant, and we hit it off immediately. There was one slight problem with Tom Pattison - he kept a bottle of whiskey in his desk and insisted in filling glasses every evening after work. When our supervisor visited us on his weekly check-up we all had to accompany Tom to his favourite pub and continue until closing time. We even went to a night club in Birmingham to celebrate something and I delivered the whole of the meal at the table after imbibing rather too much. Ah! Happy days! That assignment finished in April 1963 - with a party of course.
About this time I acquired the personalised car registration number "NHI2" from Northampton City Council, where it had been on a corporation dust cart. I paid £5 for the privilege, and the family Mini was adorned with it.
My mother had recently developed Diabetes and was in and out of hospital, mainly due to irregular injections by father, and there were some traumatic moments as the medics re-balanced her blood chemistry. However there was one occasion when they got it completely wrong and failed to notice that mother had fallen out of her hospital bed due to over dosing with insulin when she actually needed sugar. Father saved her when he found her on the floor and gave her something to eat. He immediately discharged her and took her to another hospital on the instructions of her GP, where she recovered and went home soon afterwards.
On the 15 July 1963 I was promoted to senior consultant and this coincided with an assignment at a transport company in Nottingham called Thompson Jewitt which had gone wrong. I had to convince the MD that his method of loading his juggernaughts was inefficient. So, I agreed to take continuous records of all the activities at his warehouse for three days and nights non-stop. I did this and was out on my feet at the end of it, but the client was convinced that I was right and paid his bill!
From now on I was very busy trying to drum up consultancy business as well as continuing to run various assignments which had been sold by other supervising consultants. The variety of assignments was quite amazing. There was the ceramics company, MacIntyre in the potteries, who were trying to diversify into giant high voltage insulators from small industrial and domestic articles; a rock-crushing outfit where I was covered in flint dust and deafened by the crushing machinery; a cheap jewellery manufacturer supplying Woolworths; a bakery supplying supermarkets; a chainmaker who designed his own specialised machinery; a non-ferrous foundry and an electrical Engineering company. It was during this period that I was promoted further to Supervisor/manager, and had then to supervise the assignments which I had been attending myself. One of my prospects was the Dennison Watchcase Co. (Denbro) and the chairman, GD Bond, invited me to join their board rather than pay AlC for my consultancy. I received a small retainer which I had to declare to AlC and which they would have preferred to have as a fee, but they let me continue as a director, hoping that an assignment would result. It never did, and Dennisons had to close down after a year or so, they having left things too late to recover, in spite of my intervention.
In August 1964 I was introduced to a strange, tubby little ball of fire called Berj Matossian. He was an 'expert' in ‘Value Analysis' and I was delegated to absorb his technique and apply it to our clients. There was no doubt that he had something, and his enthusiasm was infectious. I was very impressed and ever since have applied V A to any reasonably appropriate situation. Even in the home, where Pearl was also imbued with the same philosophy.
By now our family was growing up, and we needed a larger car to carry all the paraphernalia for the boys whenever we went any distance. So I bought a 'tank' - probably the toughest car ever produced by Austin - an A60 countryman. This car went like a bomb and took all the punishment our lot threw at it without a murmur. I even had a slight disagreement with a tipper truck which tried to push us off the road, and all that happened was a slight crease in the passenger's front door.
Talking of creases - the night of the 21 October '64 we were awakened early in the morning by Jeremy, who was nine, standing at our bedroom door crying, with his pyjama trousers dangling at his knees. A closer inspection revealed that he had strangled his willie by tying the pyjama cord around it and pulling the knot tight. The cord was cutting deeply into the flesh and could not be loosened by manipulation. I had to use a razor blade and carefully cut the cord until it loosened and could be removed. I was very scared that I might slip and do him a real injury, but he has since proved that nothing was damaged!
This was the year I bought a new MG saloon which let me down badly within a few weeks. I had to visit a potential new employer at his home near Eastbourne. The address was not on the well-used tracks, so public transport was not the first choice. I stayed with my parents in London overnight and drove across London to the A22 southwards without any problems. I had plenty of time to spare. Until, just approaching East Grinstead on that road, the gearbox decided to free-wheel and refused to allow me to engage any gear. This was on an uphill section about half a mile south of the town. I had to free-wheel backwards and mount the grass verge to get out of the way and parked the car on the grass. I decided to remove anything of value from the car and the boot. This included an umbrella, a pair of wellingtons, a briefcase full of papers, a raincoat and my bowler hat. With that lot carried as best I could I tramped up the hill into E Grinstead to the top of the hill. On finding that the railway station was way back down the hill and somewhere down a lane, I phoned a taxi and was deposited at the station. I discovered that the train I needed would be some time, so I parked myself with all my clobber on a seat on the platform. What I didn't know was that there were several express trains which didn't stop there, and when they went through they created a gale which played havoc with my rolled umbrella and hat which I had placed, standing, inside one of the wellington boots. I had to rescue them a couple of times from flying down the platform.
I eventually arrived at a station close to my destination which was in a small village, and was given directions by a local yokel. So I walked, still carrying my clobber, for about half an hour arriving for the interview an hour late, in a state of collapse and filth. The person who was to interview me had gone out, but his wife helped me wash up a bit - as luck would have it the bloke returned as I was half-way through my ablutions. This was not a successful interview. I was slightly angry with the British Motor Corporation who niggled about replacing the two-week-old car, but did replace the gear-box.
Not long after this fiasco we were driving south along the recently opened M5, and took the new motorway towards Hereford in the west. The turn-off from the M5 is almost a full circle, and unless you are used to it being a very tight bend it is possible to take it rather too fast. The car being a MG I felt safe and didn't panic, just maintaining enough lock to take the bend at about 50mph. It was quite fun and the car was very stable - for the first 1/4 of the turn. Unfortunately the rear suspension rubber connections to the chassis disintegrated and we veered wildly. Luckily there was no other traffic at the time and I managed to keep on the road. We jogged slowly home with a loose tail. This decided me to change the car after only a few months.
One of the little sidelines which Alex Gray and I cooked up during our quieter moments at Alley McLellan's was to invent an instrument for balancing multiple carburetters in car engines. Alex and I designed the instrument and he and I monopolised our dining table making prototypes. Pearl didn't appreciate this intrusion, but she allowed it to continue as we were so enthusiastic. I even souped up her Mini with twin carburetters to act as a test-bed, and she enjoyed the "Grand Prix" at the lights when she was able to streak away from everyone else, even with the car full of kids! We also used to go to hill climbs and race meetings to try to persuade the competitors to use our device. Some even reported improved times after our attentions. I even managed to demonstrate the balancer to Alec Issigonis at Longbridge, and he was impressed. In fact, we were convinced that there was a market for the device which we had named the "Twin-Tune", and had set up a limited company to make and sell it. The company was called "Gray Horwood Engineering Ltd."
One of my ex-clients was an Engineering firm called Norton Harty, making coal-washing and grading plant, and one of their younger staff (the son of one of the directors) Joe Norton, was a keen motor sport fan. I persuaded them to back this invention and provide space for its manufacture. I had to give Joe Norton the sales job, but he was keen enough so I took a chance with him. Alex was not interested in leaving AlC to work full time on this project, so we parted company, still the best of friends. I did leave consultancy in the Autumn of 1967, having persuaded Norton Harty to pay me a good salary and to support the company during the formative stages. I redesigned the whole thing to make it easier to use, although the design of the measuring instrument was exactly as we had developed it. It needed a range of moulds in steel to make the Neoprene connectors to fit any carburetter, and I machined them on the lathe which we were provided by Norton under the advice of the rubber moulders who were to manufacture them in quantity. We also had to find suitable workers to assemble the delicate mechanism and the only local labour at the right wage came from the abattoir up the road. They were ladies in their 50's and I had to train them to use the jigs and fixtures which I had made. Eventually we had a little team of four women who could be trusted to put these instruments together unsupervised.
As soon as we had amassed enough stock to feel safe to let them out to customers we started issuing samples to prospects. I was travelling all over the country demonstrating the thing to anyone who showed the slightest interest from Alec Issigonis of the British Motor Corporation and Colin Chapman of Lotus, to the local garages, in and around Birmingham.
A highlight of our marketing plan was to demonstrate to the trade press at a private show organised by a publicity outfit. We arranged to borrow several sporty cars from various garages and these were taken to the Londoner Hotel where we had hired their ballroom. The cars were driven into the ballroom and their exhaust pipes ducted through open windows into the street. Martin Norton, Alex Gray and I demonstrated the use of the TwinTune on running engines, to the accompaniment of clinking glasses and journo-chatter. We did get several favourable write-ups in a couple of magazines and sold a few sets on the strength of that, but it was not really enough to set things alight. It was great fun though!
One of those very interested was Laycock Engineering who were in the business of supplying garages with car tuning equipment and were looking for a good robust instrument. The idea was to licence them to make and sell TwinTune. Their development manager, McBride, even visited our factory on 21 June '98 and expressed great interest. We negotiated and agreed terms, exchanging letters confirming the deal, and on 23 August I was invited to their HQ to sign the contract.
As I recall, it was a couple of hours drive each way to Sheffield. When I arrived, on time for our 12 noon session McBride was nowhere to be found and I was kept waiting. This was the more annoying as we had spoken on the phone that morning to confirm the date and time. At 3.00 pm, with my having had no lunch, along comes McBride with the news that they had changed their minds and no longer wanted to do business! This was a shock - on an empty stomach - and I was slightly angry, to say the least. McBride slunk away and I had a very miserable drive home - in the rain - too late to go to the works. Next morning I had to break the news to Nortons. As that contract was the keystone of our marketing effort it was a very heavy blow and the Directors were very suspicious that I had done some sort of private deal with Laycock, they having seen all the earlier correspondence negotiating the contract. They gave me a few weeks to dig up something similar to save the company, and then pulled the plug on my salary. They gave the company to Martin Norton to run as best he could using up the stock of components already purchased, and I became unemployed on 11 October 1968.
The rest of 1968 was spent in looking for another job, mainly by contacting any previous connection and following up all introductions. After a few weeks getting nowhere I actually signed on at the Labour exchange, and I would park the Jaguar 3.4S out of sight while I queued for my pittance every Thursday.
Having turned over every stone without much success, and having turned down a job offer with Plessey in Southport because they insisted that I have a Vauxhall car and not a Rover, I accepted a job with Stenhouse Holdings in Glasgow. This had resulted from a phone call, out of the blue, from an old colleague named Phillip Bums. Phillip and I had worked together for a couple of years on assignment at the Rootes Group. He was on their main board and was selecting managers for their ill-fated Scottish project for the manufacture of the Hillman Imp. I was looking after the Engineering planning and general project management, and we shared an office, so we got to know each other very well. Anyway, Stenhouse needed new top management for their Engineering division occupying some 500,000 Sq Ft on Clyde-side at Paisley. They offered me the job of Managing Director with the brief to turn it round from a dying millstone. After at least ten minutes thought I accepted, and then had to persuade Pearl to move to Scotland. That was no easy task. Jeremy was just about to take up a free place at King Edwards School in Birmingham and Richard was still at Hallfield Prep. It was going to be a wrench, and we also had to sell the very comfortable house in Elizabeth Road, Moseley.
Anyway, we decided to take the plunge - I would have to commute from Birmingham to Glasgow every week by air, staying at a hotel while house hunting in the evenings. I used to take polaroid photos of likely houses and show them to Pearl.
The day I arrived in the Stenhouse HQ I was met by Phillip and another Director, Archie McCunn. They told me that the Engineering job would have to wait as they had a very urgent, sudden vacancy to fill in another of their Group. This was Marlowe Upholstery in the dregs of Glasgow slums where the M.D. had suddenly resigned to join their main competitor. Would I please do them a favour and take over there temporarily? Like a fool I agreed, and the next day I was introduced to the management in this clapped out furniture factory which had recently had a fire in the warehouse, thought to be arson.
[This is as far as Dad got with his memoirs. Below are the notes he made to help him complete this story. Sadly Alzheimer's overtook him and he never managed to complete his tale, but I'm incredibly grateful that he managed to get this far.
His life inspired me. I hope by posting this story, warts and all, it will also inspire others]
His notes:1898 2 June Hyman Horowitz born – London;
1900 15 Sept Pauline (Pearl) Bralofsky born - Kiev Oct March 30 July 14
1920 May 30 Pearl Jacobs Born - Bristol
1925 Oct Hyman & Pauline married
1926 9 June NH Born Charing X Hospital London
1928 My sister and brother twins Monica & Trevor born
Trevor killed in hospital – 2 weeks old, scalded by china hot water bottle.
1929-32 Dad in Germany, on and off, with Jack Cherz back in GB
Goodrich Rd Junior School
Moved to 106 Wood Vale, SE 23
Monica Started Miss May's Prep School, Wood Vale. Friern Junior-Mixed Primary School
S.London Prep School
Started Alleyn's College, Dulwich
Monica Started James Aliens Girls School, Dulwich
Left Alleyn's (school closed while at Basserleg School, Newport Moo.) Started Blue Coat School Reading
Left Bluecoat School
Started Sunbeam Talbot (75 Manor Way, N.HlIITOw) Joined ATC, N.HlIITOw
Keeping chickens (75 Manor Way, N.Harrow) Charlie teaching me Judo at Sunbeam Talbot
Left Sunbeam Talbot; Matric exemption - started King's, Inter. B.Sc.Eng. Firewatching at King's
Left Kings (temporarily)
Started de Havilland propellers (£2.75 /wk)
RAF selection Board - rejected - not enough experience in ATC Army interview ï don't ring us well ring you
Re-took Inter BSc @ King's College, London Left DeH
Started Loughborough (Higher Nat Intensive Course) Left Loughborough with HNC
Started Egerton Tools
Pearl's Mother died
Monica to Paris - Sorbonne - studying Medicine with Phyllis Swerling Left Egerton Tools
Started D Napier & Son Acton
Left Napiers and returned to King's College, London with a PETS award. Monica returns to UK and joins a UK Lab as Assistant pathologist Passed driving test on Motor-bike
Started D Napier for 8 weeks
Monica returns flom Paris for a few days and returns on 24 April Graduated with BSc Eng (King's London}
Started Bristol Aero
Passed Driving test
Monica meets David at Menelik Rd. Neighbours the Wimborne's. Petrol Rationing ends
Worked on car body in Elliman's garage Monica's wedding at St Petersburg Shul & Savoy
Visit to Festival Hall London with ElmgroveTennis Club Trip to Paris - Phyllis Swerling
Exeter Rally in Morris Minor with Mike Manning . Met Pearl at Sonja Berk's wedding
Started Austin Motor Co.
Married Pearl and moved to Birmingham - 147 Gillott Rd. Edgbaston Jeremy born
Moved into the Moor Green home of the Baily's while our house was being buih. Moved into our 1st house, 2 Elizabeth Rd., Moseley, Birmingham 16
Polio - Little Bromwich Hospital
Started Fisher & Ludlow Started AlC Birmingham
Elected Member of Institute of Management Consultants Promoted Supervisor AlC
Started Gray Horwood Engineering (Twintune) with Alex Gray & Norton Harty Engineering Left AlC to run Gray Horwood
Pearl's father died
Sold Gray Horwood to Norton Harty
Sold 2 Elizabeth Rd and moved to rented bungalow in MiIngavie Bought 10 Camstradden Drive West, Bearsden
Started Stenhouse (Glasgow)
Started Freelance Consultancy with Grampian Holdings (Glasgow)
Sold 10 Camstradden Drive West 1974
Moved back to Birmingham. 11 Melville Hall
Elected Chairman Melville & Westfield Halls (Melwest Ltd)
My parents both died within 12 days of each other.
Birmingham Business Park - Planning Permission granted 1987
Purchased Spring Cottage - Stoke Poges
Moved into Spring Cottage
Sold 11 Melville Hall £50,000
Eye Media involvement
Eye Media liquidation
Moved into CHA - Greathed Manor, Lingfield. 1995 July
Co-opted to the Board of Trustees of CHA and chair of RESCOM
(Residents Communication Group)
Resigned from CHA Board after new M.D. makes total mess of the management
Offer to purchase lease of Greathed Manor from CHA – offer refused as MD refuses to re-assign the lease. He wanted the landlord to pay CHA for the remaining period of the lease. Instead, CHA eventually have to pay Greathed Manor landlord £300,000 delapidations to release the lease.
Greathed closed – we have to find equivalent accommodation – impossible in the time available.
We have to move out of Greathed Manor October 2002
Move to Swallowfield Park - Re-design Apartment 30
CHA liquidated - £20M cash from sale of all 9 houses.
Offer by us to purchase Swallowfield Park £2.75M Offer refused – David Koch (Gurnsey) has options on all CHA houses in payment for a loan of £1m to cover CHA for the repayment of all CHA residents loans on eventual liquidation and vacant possession to eventual purchaser of the whole estate.
Sunley Group purchase Swallowfield Park, Aynho Park and Great Maytham from David Koch who exercised his options.
Greathed Manor converted to 40 bed-sitter nursing home by Stoke Poges developer.
Sunley Heritage Ltd formed to run the 3 CHA houses.
Aynho Park sold to single occupier. Sunley failed to get planning to modify Aynho.
Swallowfield Park gradually desecrated to re-furbish all vacant apartments (many CHA residents leave)
Pearl suffers from double pneumonia c.2007
Sunley allocate me 2 garages (Nos 3 & 4) which are enlarged by cutting the dividing wall to allow the car door to open to enable driver access. Lexus GS300SE H15UFO
Sunley cease catering. Old kitchens converted into Apt. 35.
Attic of main house converted into Studio apartments.
Swallowfield lake completely renovated by the local fishing club.