Doug’s Tales and Others.
A number of splendid anecdotes and amusing tales from Dougie Hey who worked at Parky’s in the 60s and 70s
Parkinson’s 1 - Chiselling out a Gear Planer Bed - Doug Hey
As an apprentice fitter I was rotated around the factory working in a number of different areas, turning, grinding, inspection etc. but the intention was always to return to fitting after experience in other aspects of engineering was gained. I was put to work in several sections of the fitting shop and eventually was resident in the Sunderland gear planer section where I built up the main bases of the machines fitting the main slide upon which the cutting mechanism was to be mounted and building up the main arbor unit upon which the gear blanks were mounted ready for machining. Building the bases was left mostly to me with occasional assistance it becoming “my job”. Building up a base took about 3 to 4 weeks depending on the size of the machine and I built up many over a period of a couple of years, then one day I started a fresh base of one of the medium to large models, It soon became apparent to me that something was wrong with the main casting, the long trough at the front of the machine was misshapen and did not present enough clearance for the two big locking levers which ran in the trough, After a thorough check I called over the foreman who called over the supervisor and much discussion followed. Measuring the error it seemed that the trough was not deep enough by about 3/8” to ½” over a width of 5 or 6 inches and a length of about five or six feet , this inaccuracy could be corrected by sending the base casting to the factory section where a very large plano miller machine had the capacity to machine away the excess cast iron. For some reason this option was not available as the machine was badly needed for other work and it was decided that I would have to remove the offending metal by chiselling with a cold chisel! So began a process which took about two weeks or more of constant chiselling with cold chisel and hammer, inside the main fitting shop the constant loud noise upset the other workers some to the point where they became angry with me but what could I do? I was under orders to do the work which was difficult enough as it was working in a restricted area on elbows and knees and occasionally managing to smack my knuckles with the hammer. I was given a pneumatic cold chisel to speed up the work but this was not as accurate as the hand working
It was grim work but I persisted until the work was finished. When the word flashed round the fitting shop that the chiseling was complete a loud cheer rang around the workshop. I then discovered that the constant hammering had lifted the vee upon which the saddle worked and a team of scrapers had to be brought in to realign the bed and vees. Altogether a very difficult job needing determination and skill and one which I didn’t want to repeat. After this I was an expert with a cold chisel.
Parkinson’s 2 - Beppo and the Light Bulbs - Doug Hey
During my apprenticeship at Parkys I spent a period of time in the main fitting shop building up milling machine tables which was interesting work as part of a group of several engineers. One of the fitters a tallish very stout man who’s name escapes me (I am not very good at remembering names) but was known as Beppo had a trick he liked to perform. His party piece was to put an electric light bulb into his mouth so that only the bayonet fitting end protruded. I saw him do this on a number of occasions. Now light bulbs vary a bit in diameter depending on the make and one day someone gave him a bulb to demonstrate with.
Without hesitation he started to insert it but with more difficulty than usual eventually getting it in fully. Getting it out proved more difficult,
With much gurgling and grunting his face was changing colour becoming a rich purple hue, we the audience could not assist and did the only thing possible, we laughed uncontrollably. Eventually he got it out intact but I never saw him do the trick again. Keeping ourselves entertained whilst at work was a large part of our day.
Parkinson’s 3 - Greenbat and the Effs - Doug Hey
During my apprenticeship I worked in numerous areas of the works, whilst in the turning dept I worked on a number of different lathes.Through the department were aisles to allow parts to be moved around and one of the methods was an electric truck carrying the name Greenbat.
The Greenbat truck had a regular driver who was very shortsighted and wore very thick spectacle lenses, He was also known as Geenbat after his truck, he would crash down the aisles oblivious to the world catching anything on either side, all the machinery had bent handles if they were near the aisle and any barriers bore signs of contact with his truck. Another character in the turning dept was a chap with a very bad stutter, he was a labourer and spent much of his time sweeping up keeping the section clean, his stutter made conversation with him difficult and unproductive. One day he was sweeping up down the aisle when Greenbat came crashing down it on his truck, he ran over the toes of the labourer and without noticing what he had done continued on his way bouncing off the barriers, The labourer was left hopping around on one foot shouting F F F F F F.
More howls of laughter.
Parkinson’s 4 - Around the Works - Doug Hey
Parkys works had lots of interesting nooks and crannies, one of the more interesting was an upstairs storage room just off the drilling dept. In it were stored hundreds of old glass photographic plates dating way back, they recorded all kinds of milling machines and attachments that Parkys had built over the years, I used to sneak up there occasionally and look at some of the glass plates which I found very interesting. The plates were stored in specially made pigeon holes. On the floor around were many more broken ones and it was obvious that the archive was not being looked after.
I did consider liberating a few plates but thought that they should be held together as a collection so left alone. I wish I had taken a few because I heard that when the works was shut down they were all destroyed. What a shame.
As I worked in various parts of the works It always interested me what variety of machinery was in use in the factory, some very ancient machinery was still in occasional use and I often came across old machines bearing Parkys name and trademark. Some of them were very obscure machines and testing equipment the use for which was not obvious to me and I had no idea that such plant had been made by Parkys. Whether It was machinery made for general sale or one offs made for works use only I did not know.
In the milling department was a very large German vertical miller which I was told was part of war reparations after the war. How the reparations were distributed around the country would be interesting to know.
Parkinson’s 5 - Scrap from the Canal - Doug Hey
During my time as an apprentice sometimes at lunchtime several of us apprentices would walk up into Shipley centre for a bit of fresh air or call into one of the pubs (usually the Fox and Hounds at the traffic lights) for a beer or two. On one occasion as we left the factory we passed a group of foremen on the canal bank muttering and looking into the canal which had been drained for some waterways work. In the canal bottom was a huge amount of machined parts which had been thrown there presumably by workers who had scrapped parts whilst machining them and to loose the evidence had dumped them in the canal over a period of time. Many different parts were there and I recall that a number of milling machine arbors were amongst them, sizeable and expensive parts. The foremen didn’t look happy but this was not the case of a rag and bone man who was there with his horse and cart with his trousers rolled up paddling in the canal bottom and filling up his cart with the scrap having a real bonanza day. I reckon there was at least four cartloads of rusty scrap to recover.
Parkinson’s 6 - Drilling Thumbnails - Doug Hey
During the course of heavy engineering work at times minor accidents were suffered probably the most frequent would be a bruised fingernail caused by trapping the finger end whilst handling heavy parts or hitting the finger with a hammer. I had my share of these and they were extremely painful as the blood collected under the nail and it would throb badly making concentration on the work in hand almost impossible. Old hands said that if you heated a piece of wire to red heat you could burn a hole through the nail to release the pressure. Not fancying this method I decided to drill a small hole of about 1/32” through my thumb nail which was hurting to distraction. Setting a suitable drill in a pillar drill and flaming it with a cigarette lighter to kill germs I got a colleague to hold down my thumb on the table whist I carefully drilled through the nail. As soon as the drill was through into the bloody bruise underneath a gob of very black blood escaped and the intense pain disappeared instantly and completely. What relief!
Over a working lifetime I repeated this action a few times on myself and others to relieve the pain and all were grateful.
Parkinson’s 7 - The Laxative Chewing Gum Saga - Doug Hey
Always looking for a laugh a group of us apprentices dreamt up a scheme to feed laxative chewing gum to some of the workforce, The group included Eggy Moore, myself, Mally Baxter, Lincoln Barraclough, Roy Chappel and Geoff Baxter. The chewing gum could be bought at Remington’s chemist at Fox corner and was almost indistinguishable from the pillow shaped “Beechnut” chewing gum which was widely consumed at the time. We all clubbed together and bought a plentiful supply of both types of gum then we used the wrappers of the Beech Nut gum to cover the identical Laxative gum. As if to prove how easy it would be to hand out the gum whilst we were repackaging it on the pavement at Fox Corner Eggys Mum came round the corner saw the gum and grabbed some and was gone leaving us dumbfounded. I noticed that no one tried to stop her including Eggy.
Back at Parkys pieces of gum were offered to likely candidates and were almost never refused, All you had to do was leave an opened packet on top of your toolbox and it would soon be gone, Stolen! Some candidates were particularly greedy including Roy Smith who grabbed a whole pack and scoffed the lot with a smirk on his face. Mally Baxter worked near him and settled down to watching him for results keeping us informed as to progress. Suddenly Smithy made a run for the toilets and only just made it thereafter spending much time there. Other candidates were fed lesser amounts over longer periods including foremen and much mirth was enjoyed by us apprentices. It was just before Christmas and the weather was worsening with snow in the offing.
At home time Smithy was observed making a dash for his Landrover and hot footing it home. He was not seen for a couple of days as was the case with some other candidates, then when he returned he related how he had spent the whole first night on his outside toilet in freezing weather with an eiderdown wrapped around him, snow falling and his wife bringing him cups of hot cocoa to warm him. I often have visions of him wrapped up in the dead of night with the Christmas Star twinkling above his outside loo and snow building up against the door.
In order to divert suspicion from ourselves some of us said that we had also been unwell and thought it was the liver and onions served up by the canteen . The next lunchtime Smithy had the canteen manager half dragged over the counter threatening to punch out his lights because he had lost two days work and had shat himself twice on his way home. You cant buy entertainment like this!
We did feel a bit guilty when one of the candidates from the pattern making department said he was leaving Parkys because the job was getting him down. We dared not come clean and anyway jobs were easy to get then!
Parkinson’s 8 - The Great Bonus Prediction - Doug Hey
During the 60’s we had a monthly bonus scheme which gave a welcome boost to our wages, It was based on factory output and was well thought of by most of the workforce. A bar chart was on the notice board so workers could see how the months bonus was progressing.
Now one of our apprentice gang Jeffrey (Eggy) Moore saw an opportunity for a giggle but it nearly caused a riot, He had befriended one of the office girls who was involved in calculating the bonus scheme payments and using this inside information he drip fed accurate information on the monthly payments well in advance of the noticeboard information. For months he was the guy to ask what the bonus would be and was invariably right. The workforce had complete faith in what he said as it always proved correct.
Then came a bombshell, He dropped the word that the next bonus would be a massive payment, excitement and expectation ran high, some people had virtually spent it, then when a normal average bonus payment was posted on the notice board all hell broke loose, disappointment and disbelief was rampant, some thought the company was fiddling them, rebellion and resentment surfaced amongst the workforce. Eggy was dragged before the board of directors and severely bollocked,
After this episode the bonus scheme was changed and piece rate schemes installed which I always thought was the beginning of the end for Parkys.
Geoff Wood was an eccentric cyclist and engineer of renown. Although he was wealthy he chose to work at Parkinsons for a while, presumably to gain engineering knowledge. He was fascinated by designing and making things, often cycling related.
(Parkinsons) were a self-contained medium-sized family manufacturer of vices and machine tools, with their own foundry, so Geoff was able to learn engineering from A-Z, which he clearly did. I spent the last 7 years before I left Bradford working there. Needless to say, Geoff Wood realised an opportunity for profit when he saw one, nipping out during the morning for pies and sausage rolls which were then sneaked down to the Heat Treatment to await the break.
During my time the foundry installed a pneumatic Jolting Table which gave the big sand moulding boxes a good bumping. It was on solid rock below road level at the top of Ives Street. At the other side was Ellis Briggs’ shop, from which the stucco started falling into the street. They said the cause was obvious, but our people pooh-poohed it. It’s all history now as the whole area has been ‘redeveloped’, and Briggs long since moved across the main road.
James Shaw Source – http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/bradfordbuilders.html