Moving pieces

During my last year as an apprentice, I ended up in the refinery Maintenance Workshop. There were a number of colourful characters in the workshop. White Mac said he was a champion chess player. He was called White Mac because of his fair hair and skin, as opposed to Black Mac who was dark and swarthy.

White Mac showed me and two other plumbers how to play chess, and he happily thrashed us every time. He was very keen to start a mini league at lunch times and gloated every time he won. Our aim was to try to have him positioned at the bottom of the ladder. After many weeks we all improved and we eventually succeeded.

Ray Charles – ‘Hit the Road Jack’  1962
Hit the road Jack
And don’t you come back no more

All tradesmen had plumber’s mates (trades assistants). Rigga was one of them. He was so named because he was extremely slow and lazy, hence ‘rigamortis’.

It was strange when I was given more responsibility as a 20-year-old and had my own plumber’s mate, the same age as my dad.

The lab buildings were part of our maintenance responsibility. We often were required to make and replace a number of glass pipes on technical vacuum equipment. Most of the lab assistants made coloured glass animals and other objects in their down time, with their Bunsen burners.

I bought a gift for my girlfriend (a rearing, winged horse) and when I showed it to the guys in the workshop, they wanted to know what else was on offer for sale. I soon became a ‘middleman’ and a thriving side business developed, with me taking and collecting orders.

Eddie Cochran – ‘Three Steps to Heaven’  1962
Step one, you find a girl you love
Step two, she falls in love with you
Step three, you kiss and hold her tightly
Yeah, that sure seems like heaven to me

There was a rather surly storeman who sat in the locker room to eat his lunch. He made a habit of sitting in front of my locker and often refused to move when I needed to get something. One particular day, I needed to get my lunch box and once again he refused to move. I got fed up with his antics.

“If you don’t move, you’ll wear this tea!” I warned. He just laughed and stayed put, so I slowly emptied the whole cup on his head. The room erupted! He never sat in front of my locker again.

Frank Ifield – ‘I Remember You’  1962
When my life is through
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of it all
Then I will tell them I remember you

Next: 2014 – Whitby

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