Wanting a job at Batas
For a while at Pitsea Essex where I lived, I was a butcher boy and errand boy. I received £1 per week wages and as part of my "perks" I was given a few sausages on Wednesday and half a joint of mutton on Saturday night!
I was beginning to tire of seeing my mates going dancing on Saturday nights when I was still scrubbing out the butcher's shop after 9 p.m. sometimes. News went around that Batas was always looking for new staff. This was due to the militia call up of 20 year olds. I was 18 years old in 1939 and after serving my week's notice at the butcher's shop I thought I'd try my luck with Batas.
Getting a job at Batas
I applied in person (like Les Wade) at the Bata's office waiting room. Patience obviously was the keynote here because looking at all the pen and pencil scribblings on the blackout paint, the walls and window sills, former applicants had almost "died of waiting" to be taken on by the company! However, patience being a long suit of mine, I waited and waited, hoping to get taken on in any capacity, as I had burnt my bridges so to speak. Unemployment was pretty rife in those years and I was the only member of my family in work to help out financially.
Well, at last the hatch opened and a gruff voice said, "Well, what do you want?" I had been told to expect this treatment at the start because it was a good system to initially weed out applicants who may well become a "pain in the side" to them at a later date. However, very diplomatically I said that I was quite prepared to work in any capacity they thought fit. I added a good sprinkling of "yes sir" and "no sir", for my good mother had always drummed into me to "show willing" as you would get nowhere until you did. This was a piece of sound advice and I have continued to put it into practice to this very day! Youngsters of today please note, as it will pay dividends!
Well, the long and short of it was that I started there and then in the leather factory on the ground floor in 401 Department. People I remember were George Game my foreman and Ken Tucker his 2 I/C Assistant Foreman. Also there was George Downs, the Leading Hand.
I recall that there were twenty clicker machines operating in 401 Department. I became a "clicker" on the leather cutting machine where we used different sized shoe knives and heel knives. All day we stamped out leather and heel soles. Those machines had all been brought in from Czechoslovakia and though quite serviceable and heavy, were not brand new by any means. There was only one drawback to these machines and that was the three-inch deep compressed cardboard and wood block that we had for the week.
Continuous stamping out with the shoe shaped knives caused the block to deteriorate in time. The cardboard dust soon filled your nose and facial area because you worked so close to this machine. Your face was within twelve inches of the action when you coordinated the stamping out of the leather part with your right foot on the pressure plate and quickly turned the knives around with both hands immediately after the foot action. This sounds complicated but really it wasn't, provided you watched carefully as you proceeded so you didn't waste any valuable leather with faulty cuts.