Ivor's Insights Part 16

Part Sixteen
 When Dad, Bert and David were working at the Hazel Press there was a part of the building rented out to a Mr Walter Phillips. He was a designer and marketed photographic mounts which were printed by the press for him. He told Dad that he liked his work and insisted on Dad doing his printing. He also told Dad that, one day, he intended to have his own printing press and would like Dad to come and work for him. His dream became reality in 1947 when the Walter Phillips Unicorn Press was opened in Perivale and Dad left the Hazel Press and resumed his happy working relationship with Phillips by joining him at the Unicorn Press. This association lasted until Dad retired from the world of printing, a world in which he has left an indelible mark, in 1963, aged 70. 
   As mentioned earlier in my story I am lucky to come from a musical family. My Dad played piano and mandolin banjo and formed his own dance band during his time in Wales . Bert played tenor and alto saxophone plus clarinet and after the Second World War also formed his own dance band. My sister Lily also occasionally dabbled on the old Joanna (piano for the uninitiated). Bernard became interested in Traditional Jazz, learnt to play the trumpet and later joined the Greenford Rhythm Kings. There will be more information about this later in the story. David played bugle in the BB. 
   As for me I had some piano lessons from Dad when I was about 15 but my passion for sport was too powerful, I wanted to be out playing football, cricket, golf or tennis so I stopped tinkling the ivories. It was a pity because I could pick out most of the popular melodies of the day using my right hand and I learnt a few chords for the left hand but putting them together at the same time was not so easy.  Dad and Mum were disappointed but as usual they accepted it was my decision and I can tell you it’s a decision I have regretted ever since. I am green with envy when I see someone casually sit down at a piano and, without the need for any music, hear the melodies flow effortlessly from their prowess at the keyboard.  I could also play the mouth organ and as previously mentioned the bugle. Later on Bert taught me to play the Alto saxophone and eventually I became proficient enough to join forces with Bert. We spent many happy moments playing some of the old standards such as ‘Lover come back to me’ ‘South of the Border and one of our all time favourites, ‘If I loved You’ from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel’. I can still remember playing the lovely melody of this song on my Alto and Bert coming in with the harmony line on his Tenor sax. What wonderfully happy and treasured days they are. Finally in the 1950’s I bought a guitar and joined the skiffle craze, more about that later.
   I also liked to sing and although I don’t profess to have a particularly good voice, it was enough to impress my teacher, so I was told.  I would also sing for my Boys Brigade tent mates on summer camps. Perhaps my love of singing and the ability to hold a tune comes from all that Welsh air I inhaled for the first 4-1/2 years of my life?
      I left school in 1946 aged 14 not knowing what I wanted to do except to be a footballer. I was told that I had been watched by a scout from Brentford Football club but nothing came of that. I knew those ‘wet’ football boots of mine were a mistake. Anyway, like my brother Bernard, I had no desire to go into the printing trade, it just didn’t appeal to me. Although I would never be considered the Brain or Dunce of Britain I quite enjoyed my school days. I think on a scale of ten I would probably rank at around seven and a half.  I liked sport – you knew that anyway – reading, writing, geography, history and singing. My maths or Arithmetic as it was called in those days was alright but I never could make head nor tail of Logarithms or Algebra. 
   So, not knowing what to do I spent a few weeks hanging around at home until one day my Dad heard of a vacancy in a local factory which made tables and chairs.  So, taking a day off work Dad and I took a bus to this emporium of wood which was situated in Southall and we met the Manager. To be truthful I wasn’t really interested in the job, I quietly mused to myself that if this factory were making goalposts or corner flag posts for football pitches that would have been more appealing but tables and chairs, how mundane can you get? But the pressure was on and I had no choice other than to accept the job.
   The job entailed me standing at a bench which had a vice fixed firmly to it. On one side of the bench, neatly stacked, was a pile of table legs. After picking up a leg, I would insert it into the vice which I would then tighten. The next operation was to pull down a handle, which had a drill attached to it, and drill a hole into the table leg.   Upon completion of this exciting task I would return the handle to its upright position, loosen the vice, remove the leg, now complete with a beautifully cut clean hole, and place it with pride on another pile of similar completed ‘holey’ legs on the other side of the bench. Then I would return to the ‘unholy’ Everest mountain of legs, eagerly awaiting their turn to be drilled, and repeat this tricky operation. For this daily exacting and mind boggling procedure I was paid the princely sum of £1.30 a week. No wonder there was a vacancy for the job.
   After two weeks of this, I tabled a motion that I didn’t want to be lumbered with the world of wood anymore so I gave in my notice and decided to leg it.
Naturally Mum and Dad were disappointed but accepted that it wasn’t for me.
   I had a few weeks of convalescence at home until Mum took the initiative and told me she had found me another job. No bus trip was required for this new venture because the job was in a shoe repairers shop just around the corner from home. Off I went, leaving the world of wood behind and entered one of leather.
   I couldn’t help imagining the answer I could give to someone asking me about the sequence of these two jobs, my first after leaving school. I thought I could reply that I left a ‘boring’ soul destroying job of making ‘oles’ in furniture legs, - a sort of human woodworm -  and went to a job where I repaired the down at heel and worn out ‘soles’ of shoes by becoming a Cobbler! No-one ever asked me the question which I suppose is just as well.
   Much to my surprise I found the job quite interesting. There is a sense of achievement in removing the worn out soles and heels of a pair of shoes and replacing them with new leather, which after polishing, made them look as good as new. .
   The shop was owned and run by a husband and wife who were not only very pleasant and kind to this new kid on the block but also increased my pay to £2 a week.  I settled into this job well, learning the noble art of cobbling. I stayed there for a couple of years and then moved to another cobblers shop for more money and  ‘lasted’ there until I was eighteen and called up for National Service. Even then I carried on pounding and polishing leather except that by this time it was more on boots than shoes.  
   Disaster was to strike our family in 1947 when Mum was ill and after many hospital visits was diagnosed with cancer. An operation was scheduled for January 1948. My brother Bernard, who was now in the Army in Palestine , was allowed home on compassionate leave. The operation was successful and Mum came home. Two of Dad’s sisters came and stayed with us, helping with the nursing and carry for Mum. After about a month, Bernard’s compassionate leave finished and he was sent back to Palestine . He was very lucky when a train he was travelling on through Gaza was blown up by a Jewish terrorist organisation. Thirteen servicemen were killed and many more seriously injured, but Bernard escaped with only minor injuries.
   Sadly in May 1948 Mum suffered a relapse and went back into hospital for another operation. The news was so bad that the surgeon warned us to prepare for the worst. Once more Bernard was flown home on compassionate leave. It was certainly a black and worrying time for our family. I remember lying in bed one night thinking deeply about the situation and, yes, also praying, when suddenly I had what I can only describe as a ‘warm glow’ enveloped me telling me that everything was going to be alright and Mum would recover. It was a little uncanny but the feeling was so strong that I told my brother Dave about it. Whether it was divine intervention, a miracle or just luck I don’t know but what I do know is that, thankfully, due in no small measure to the nursing care she received from Dad’s two sisters, Mum made a fantastic recovery, came home and we were blessed in having her with us for a few more years.
---End of Part Sixteen---
Happy Victoria day to you all. (Queen Victoria would have been 198 this year !)
Take care, and thanks for reading.
Chris, Carys and Ivor.

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