As I said previously (in my Apprenticeship Memories – The First Twelve Months), the first year apprentices received basic training away from the factory. Although you learned the basic engineering skills, it was only preparation for learning how to work in a production environment.
So off I went to work in Inspection, with a manager, I recall, called Percy Healey. A tall bald headed guy, he decided to put me in final inspection to start with. Probably because everything had already been checked and passed and he could see if I knew what I was doing. Thankfully I didn’t stay there long as it was an extremely boring position.
I’m not sure where I went next but I recall working with a guy called Ronnie Fox in milling inspection. The first job he gave me was to check five thousand bolts and he told me to do a 100% inspection, which was obviously to keep me out of the way. I just knuckled down without complaint and finished them in 2 days. After that he was OK with me but never really taught me anything. I do remember he used to use a micrometer like a thumb screw. If the part was a fraction oversize, he’d just tighten up the micrometer.
I got moved into Goods Inward Inspection where we checked mostly castings and forgings coming into the works. The most memorable thing about this was the guy I worked with. He was always very well dressed with a shirt and tie but constantly had a fag hanging from his mouth. He used to blow through the fag to remove any ash and lit the next fag from the one in his mouth. For a non-smoker you can imagine my thoughts on this. Nice guy though.
I then went to work with a lovely gent called Johnny in the turning section. Thankfully he taught and helped me with all the inspection requirements. First off inspection through to full inspection. What a difference it was to work with someone like this. The job became enjoyable.
Not sure where I went from there but I spent several months working for Barry Priceman in the turning section, at which time I worked with my brother on the capstan lathes. Barry was not only great to work for but became a good friend during this time. He once bought a lottery ticket and insisted on sharing the winnings with me and my brother, simply because we had helped him out on a few jobs. Ten pounds each was a lot of money those days.
While in this section I worked with a guy called Rolley Craven, who was one of the finest turners I ever knew. If they needed a stud that was usually ground but wanted to skip this step in production, they would ask Rolley to make one. The finish he could get with a roller box was astonishing and he could work to tenths of a thousandth of an inch.
We also had a Polish guy who worked on a vertical lathe. I didn’t know him very well but he once offered to pay for a ring he scrapped, because he took so much pride in his work.
My first of two stints in the Jig & Tool drawing office was in between production sections. I was working for Brian Warrener (the manager) & Pete Nelson. Brian was a jolly old chap, with long wavy grey hair, who smoked a pipe. Pete was a youngish chap of about twenty-seven. Of course when I first entered the office Brian said “put the kettle on.” I was quick to tell him I was not a tea boy. I had come to learn but would gladly take my turn. In fairness to Brian he too took his turn in making the tea.
Both were absolutely fabulous to work for. Even though Brian made me draw my first box drill jig four times. They didn’t call me ‘Scribbler Kibler’ for nothing. I was determined this would not happen again, so I spent lots of time practicing my numbers and letters. It paid off too, as I was often asked to produce shadow graph drawings later.
I remember we had a young girl who delivered the post. She was a stunner but I was only eighteen and very shy, so Brian, much to my horror, took it upon himself to tell her I fancied her and ask her out for me. Sadly, she was spoken for but can’t blame her. There I was with a very red face in a white coat. I must have looked like a Swan Vesta.
Brian also sent me up to the typing pool to collect some letters or something one day but neglected to warn me what the girls were like. We employed maybe a dozen typists in those days. Boy, did they have their fun. I came away feeling mentally raped. I would love to go back today !
I had another incident during my time in Jig & Tool. It concerned an NC programmer (Andy Thornton). In the early days NC machines worked on tape, which you produced by typing on a special machine. Any mistakes and you simply had to start again. Well, Andy had been typing for about two hours when I stood on and creased the tape. Oops…….start again. He unexpectedly grabbed me by the throat and shook me wildly. At first I wasn’t sure he was joking but he let me go eventually. Guess who volunteered to type the tape again?
I also spent three months in our gear cutting section but unfortunately due to a union dispute I wasn’t allowed to work any of the machines. Crabtree-Vickers used to cut all their own gears from straight involute to spiral bevel and worm gears. If you have never seen a spiral bevel gear being cut it is fascinating to watch. There was a guy called Chris Wilson who worked on the gear shaver, who used to think himself a bit above the others. The other guys used to wind him up something rotten and he’d bite every time. I had all on to keep my face straight. The inspection guy was called Eddie Swan, who I envied because he had two Vincent motorcycles, a 500cc and a 1000cc. They were superbly built machines, which he really looked after.
So it was I came to the end of my apprenticeship and was placed in the Jig & Tool office, only to be told that I was redundant as soon as my apprenticeship finished. Luckily for me, I think, they found me a position at our Hunslet site, where I worked for the next several years.
Without doubt an apprenticeship at Crabtree-Vickers was fantastic but what made it was the people I worked with. Most of whom I have the greatest of respect and admiration for. Thank you.
Andrew Kibler – June 2021