My 5 year old Grand-Daughter recently asked me how I started in sewing machines. So I told her.
I left school at 14 in February, 1945. Got a job at 30 Bob (£1.50) for a 56 hour week assisting the mechanic in a sewing factory in Salfords Dockland.
I got on well learning the trade and the owner of the factory next door asked me to service some of his machines in the evening. He paid me, eventually, with two old broken industrial sewing machines heads, no motors or stands for them.
However, during my daily bike ride to work I had noticed a domestic sewing machine treadle stand atop a blitz site. That Saturday, finishing work at noon, I hired a handcart from a rag and bone yard and pushed it to the bombsite.
I struggled up the mountain of bricks and rubble and managed to drag the stand down to the street. Only to be greeted by a copper who told me “That’s looting, you can be shot for that”. Eventually he told me to ‘Bugger off before the Sergeant came along’. As he turned to go I asked him for a lift to put the stand onto the handcart with my bike. He seemed a bit amused by my cheek, but he did help me load it.
I pushed the handcart (“What’s a handcart Grandad???”) about 4 miles home to Irlams O’th Height and got the machine assembled and working. Took it about 400 yards to my first ever customer a real lady by the name of Vera Jollie. She was delighted with it and gave me the agreed price of Ten Pounds by way of two crisp white fivers. A tenners nowt these days, but in early 1946 to a then 15 year old, it was a fortune.
Finishing this epic tale, I turned to look at my Grand-Daughter, expecting the usual torrent of questions. She was sound asleep.
Since then my company has supplied thousands of machines to Schools, Colleges, Universities, Hospitals and nice people all over the UK. But I’ll never forget that first tenner from Vera Jollie.
My two sons, Alan and Steven, who run the business these days, reckon I’ve still got it.