The Enamelling Department

The enamelling was finished off in stoves, on show motorbikes I've known as many as 7 coats go on. After each coat the girls have to flatten them down, cloth them down, and then then they would have another dip. After every dip they were always emeried down with very fine emery cloth, you could hardly see the grain on it. Usually it was 4 coats of enamel. When the cycle and motorcycle frames came from the brazing department after they had been filed and dressed, they used to go into what we called the coslatising department, and that was a liquid where the frames used to be submerged. Anything to do with steel had to go through this operation which used to turn anything including your hair white. We used to call George Sanders who worked there, 'Snowball' Sanders because of this. They would be about 20 minutes to half an hour in the vat, and when they came out there would be a deposit of green, and then the girls who were all dressed up, had to dress them and fetch all of the excess stuff off.

The works from near the top of Pool Street. The Enamelling Department was on the top floor.
And then the frames would come up to the enamel department for the first dip, the first coat a rubber coat. They used to fetch all of the dust off it, it would have a lot of dust after it had dried. They used to emery that down with very fine cloth again and it would come to us for enamelling, and as I say it would have 4 coats. A rubber coat in case it had to go into stock for keeping, and in any case if they were going to be used right away they would have a rubber coat, another coat and two finishing coats.

It was Pinchin Johnson Enamel from Scotland, nothing else, they would have nothing but Pinchin Johnson. We used to put it on the frame, hang it to drip and then put it into the stove to dry. When it came out of the stove you would know where all the drips were, you've got to get drips on the bottoms, you can't avoid that.

It would be hung so that you would get the least amount of drips. When it came out of the stove, my first job aged thirteen and three quarter years was to cut the pip off, the enamel pip, and fill it up with air drying enamel with a little brush, till it got to the same level as the surrounding enamel. I worked under a Mr. Mason, a very staunch and religious man, you had to stand to attention as he followed the tradition of John Marston. He used to come in a frock coat and top hat, and it was all green with age. The foreman of the carpenter's shop, Johnny Roe, used to be the same, he still used to come in his frock coat and his top hat.

When Mr. Mason came through the department, he had to come all up the stairs because it was on the top floor, with the chimneys so that you could get rid of the smell and the smoke, you had to stand to attention. He was very straight forward. As long as you did your work and didn't mess about he didn't mind if you spoke to somebody, or had words with somebody so long as you didn't do too much of it. If you were talking for too long he would tell you to "get back to work son". 

When we worked in the evening I was in charge of getting the tea. We had an arrangement with Nancy Benson who had a fish and chip shop at the bottom of Paul Street. We would lower a bucket on a rope from an upstairs window in Paul Street, and Nancy would come and put fish and chips in the bucket, which we then hauled back up to the enamelling shop.
The girls were always fooling about with me you see, being a young lad. There was only one other man doing the first dips this side, then you've got the stoves, and other side you've got the other man doing the final dips.

Then of course the girls gave it a dressing down before it went up to be lined, or whatever, by the blokes who used to line them all freehand.

The southern end of the works from Pool Street. The lower floor was half underground, as can be seen from the widows at pavement level. Behind these windows was the canteen.
It was great, but one of the stories that's been outstanding in my mind, as I say I was only a lad, was when one day they said that its your initiation time. I didn't know what they meant, I was very religious myself and had nothing to do with girls. Anyway what they did was to take my pants down and black enamel a certain part of my anatomy, and then they put me on the end of the stove, and they all stood round in a half circle singing a song while I was drying out.

Mr. Mason happened to come in early, he came right across. "What do you call this?, I want to see you in my office Peck". I said "Yes Sir", I thought that I'm going to get the sack, so I went to see him and he said "What the dickens were you doing?, what were you up to?". I said "I was hardening off sir" he shouted "You cheeky young hound" I explained what happened and said "I didn't realise Sir, I didn't know", and he replied "What do you think it was?" and I said "Its the girl's idea of my initiation, and I was supposed to be drying out". "Oh I see" he said, "If anything like that happens again you can rest assured that you will get the sack, but for now I will overlook it, and you can carry on, as it wasn't entirely your own fault". From then on I was alright, he always treated me very well, moved me about, it was a godsend in disguise really, I was well in with him. As I said he was a staunch old man, and I went on from there until I got to the toolroom, and that was the final, I stayed there for the rest of my days.

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