4. My early days at the Company
Cyril Evans was the Works Director when I joined in 1961 and conducted the interview of a very young, nervous school leaver, fresh from Stonefield School and given the opportunity by the Youth Employment Bureau, located in Coseley Road. Mr Evans, a Bilston man, lived in Fraser Street and started as an apprentice compositor in 1923, when the total staff numbered eight. ,He gained my immediate respect, not only because of his assurances that Wilkes could offer me a good and worthwhile career, but also because of his ability to talk and smoke a cigarette at exactly the same time. The lighted cigarette would never be released from his lips and it must have required remarkable skill to keep the ash intact without falling. At the end a quick blow would convey the ash to the front of his waistcoat, where a quick brush with his hand would despatch the residue in the general direction of the floor.
My first job was working in the Planning Office and I was soon put at ease with the friendliness of the people. My first job was assisting Mr Tom Hill on his progressing of orders in hand. Then I moved on to work on the wages section where, with the aid of a slide rule, I calculated the shop floor bonus figures. The chap who I worked with is still a pal today, Derek Hipwell. It's been almost 40 years but I have no trouble in remembering the names in the office. The fearsome Mr Fred Devereux was the office manager, assisted by Cliff Powell, the production planner. Other names were Peter Legg, Tom Hill, Bill Cowling, John Freeman, Derek Hipwell, Maureen Gilbert, Margaret Beddows, Barbara Curran, Joan Burgwin, Christine New, Iris Bowen, Ken Wilkinson and Phil Jackson. I have special memories of Margaret because, when money was short, she could always be relied on to help by "going halves" in a packet of fags.
In 1961 a Nationwide Commonwealth Training Week was instigated and sponsored by H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh. The three local concerns James Wilkes Ltd., John Price & Sons and Wm. Woolley Ltd. combined to present the printing trade at an exhibition held at Bilston Town Hall. A further milestone was reached in the company's history when the first magnetically imprinted cheques were produced for a customer. These were to become known as E-13-B characters and can still be found on cheques today.