INIGHTS ON IVOR
Part Twenty Five
Before the RAF introduced me to the world of Teleprinters I hardly knew anything about these machines. I certainly wasn’t aware of how much they were used in the world of communications, not just in the armed services but also in civilian life. Many men and women learnt the necessary skills through the training they received through the armed services but also in civilian life with companies such as the Post Office, Western Union, Commercial Cable Company, PQ. This quick way of communicating was also used by newspapers, banking and shipping companies. This was bought home to me and many of my colleagues when one of our colleagues at Northwood was demobbed and got a job at the American Embassy in London putting his Teleprinting skills to work and getting paid £7 per week, which in the 1950’s was a good wage. There was one subtle difference, the American system didn’t use Teleprinters as we know them, their machines were called Teletype machines which are different in design and layout but basically do the same thing and don’t pose any problems adapting to them.
Upon learning this information I decided that when I was demobbed I would also apply for a job at the American Embassy in London. This I subsequently did and was successful in being invited to the Embassy for an interview.
Dressed in my best suit and hair beautifully Brylcreamed I marched through the portals of this smart modern building in Grosvenor Square and was ushered into a room where I faced my inquisitor. He was a very pleasant and polite man who had my job application form on his desk. He asked me various questions about my upbringing and interests. When I told him that in my youth I had been a member of the Boy’s Brigade he looked a bit startled. At this point I should inform you that this meeting was taking place in June 1952, a time when the threat of Communist spies infiltrating America was causing widespread panic and unrest. A prominent Senator by the name of Joseph McCarthy was conducting massive witch hunts throughout the country. So the fact that I had been in the Boys Brigade solicited this worrying question from my interviewer ‘What is this Boy’s Brigade, some kind of group activity to overthrow the Government’? He had never heard of the organisation but when I explained it was no different to the Boy Scout movement he was placated. My application was accepted and I started working at the American Embassy in June 1952. On reflection afterwards I thought it’s a good job I never mentioned the Mohawks, Zulus, Eskimos and the Hottentots at my interview!
Once I had settled in at the Embassy I quickly adapted to the Teletype machines and I enjoyed the new working environment. We had a nice mixture of British operators backed up by some Americans handling all the clerical desk work. I must say the Americans were very easy to work with and generous, dishing out goodies especially at Christmas when they surprised us all by coming into the wire room (the name for where the Teletype machines were located) loaded with cigarettes, chocolates, candies and a bottle or two of bourbon, gin, rum, beer, anything to ensure everyone had a very ‘Merry’ Christmas. But surprisingly this job wasn’t to last long for me. This quick change came about because one of my new colleagues at the Embassy had previously worked for Shell in London and the stories he told me of how good a company they were to work for made me think. The reader will immediately think, if that is so then why on earth did he leave? I’m afraid for the life of me I cannot recall the answer to that obvious question. All I can tell you for certain is that Shell offered free meals, sport facilities and best of all a very solid pension scheme. So, although I enjoyed my time at the Embassy I decided perhaps in the long run I would be better off with Shell so at the end of December 1952 I said ‘so long, it’s been good to know you’ to all my ‘buddies’ at the Embassy and joined the Shell Petroleum Company (as it was called in those days) at their London Headquarters in St. Helens Court, Bishopsgate.
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