Mr Jim White was born in 1915. He was interviewed on 13 December 1991, when he lived at 22 Cross Road.
For more information about him, see White, Jim, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Continued from tape 153
[begins with discussion of Xmas cards of Witham at Post Office, not noted]
[continues with discussion of Crittall’s – Braintree Road side (west) – looking at photos/plans]
Q:……We were talking about the upstairs part, next to the railway.
Mr W: And then on this left hand side by Braintree Road, there’s what they call – a sort of covered roadway on the bottom. And on the next floor was the new canteen and the bar, the club, with the billiard rooms. That was the second floor. Oh, that’s the top, anyhow.
Q: When this other end stopped being a canteen, I wonder what they used that for then.?
Mr W: Over the other side? Well, eventually, it was – on the bottom it was – they used it for – what was it? A place where they put fittings on. Handles and stays and various odd jobs, on the bottom. Then, on the second floor [probably means first floor] the girls worked. They done – I couldn’t say exactly what sort of work, but some work on the windows, that was on the second floor. Then on the third floor [probably means second floor], on the top, they done sort of – they kept a bit of stock, stock windows, and a few odd jobs were done. Because I done my last two weeks there, with my brother. It was sort of where they done odd jobs and kept a bit of stock. That’s the best I can tell you.
Q: That’s good because I did wonder what was right up there. Some of these [photos] were taken from up there. In the end they seemed to have this [???] thing. That’s looking down on something from up there. [Looking at photos and mentioning features]
Mr W: It’s a bit of a job to recognise.
Q: And that’s the stairs. And views, you could climb up a ladder on the top floor, and look out. You didn’t go up the top very often, did you? And then we went out of the window at the top and took these views over the roof. (Mr Q: Oh yes, you had a good tour round then, didn’t you.)
Mr W: I used to work up there at one time, cleaning the windows. Yes, when we were slack, and hadn’t got much, sometimes you had to go anywhere when there wasn’t much work. You used to go up there and clean the windows and polish them. Yes, walk between these gutters.
Q: All right if the weather was nice. Not so good if it wasn’t. These are outside again. That’s another one along the gutter where you said you had to go for the windows, wasn’t it. That’s on the outside near the gate. (Mr W: Up the top, up this end more. A bit of a job to recognise). Looking out to the church again. These are a lot more from the top. I think you’ve told me most of it now. This is looking down from upstairs. That’s the door on to the gutter. There’s a lot of windows there, if you had to clean them all.
Mr W: There certainly was, yes. Bit of a job to recognise them …
Q: These are outside, near the railway line. [photo P66/4] Going out onto the Braintree line, along there.
Mr W: That’s right over the right hand side, by the railway line. Yes, that’s right. That’s the old railway line what used to connect up, I suppose. When they use to fill the trucks up with windows and then push – get them on to the line …
Q: Then there’s this other piece across the top end that I believe use to be British Oxygen. (Mr W: Yes, that’s right.) but it’s Crittall’s now.
Mr W: I think one or two office chaps used to work in there. Office people. …
Q: I think that was the powerhouse, that glass one.
Mr W: Yes, you’re right.
Q: I suppose you didn’t go outside much, did you?
Mr W: No, but things change a bit.
Q: It was quite an attractive building to start with, wasn’t it, but it was messed about a bit. (Mr W: This is over by the railway too I think.) There seems to have been a big curved piece, but that’s just been chopped off now. There was a building with ‘surgery’ written on it, near the back gate.
Mr W: That was the surgery. Round the back, and when you go in the gates, the surgery was on the right hand side. That was the nurse’s place where we used to go if we had any trouble, accidents or anything like that.
Q: Did you ever have any accidents yourself?
Mr W: No, I never had any. No. This is in that back entrance again, as you go in, by Cut Throat Lane.
[both murmuring – commenting on photos but not identifying them – not all noted]
Q: And these are the lift gates
Mr W: The old lift – I had a ‘scrap’ down there one day with a chap. (Q: Did you?) Yes [laughing] I used to get in brawls at work as well! There was three of us working and this chap, you know, he was going to do this and do that to me. So – I shouldn’t be telling you all this, really! [Q laughs] So, he said – ‘I’ll give you a good hiding’. So I said ‘ All right, well, I’ll see you dinnertime!’ Anyhow, another chap from Braintree, who went to school with me, we went – three of us we went down this lift to the – it went right through to the railway side and [laughing] we got stuck in to one another! And anyhow, my nose was bleeding, his nose was bleeding. Anyhow, he took a blow at me and he missed me and he hit the wall and put his arm out! (Q: Oooh.) Yes, that’s what makes me – [laughs] – it suddenly come back to me. I was only about – how old was I? About sixteen or seventeen [laughs]. You get into all sorts of trouble don’t you when you’re young! And do you know, after that – he always thought he was a bit of a hard lad, we were the best of friends after that. He joined the Army, he joined the Regular Army and he came out after the War. He was out for a little while and back he went again and done his time, twenty-odd years. And the last year, I think he hurt his back. I see him eventually down town. He hurt his back and he had to come out.
Q: What was the scrap about then?
Mr W: I don’t know, about trivial things – when you’re young, you know. You take the ‘mickey’ out of each other [laughing] when you’re young. And we had a scrap. Yes, I’ve never forgotten. And it brought it back to me when I saw the lift. We had a – the chap from Braintree, he worked the lift so we went down, we went down there to get out of the way. There wasn’t no crowd.
Q: Did that go further down then? Was there a sort of basement?
Mr W: Yes you go down to the bottom, underneath, and then there is a tunnel and then there’s a lift the other side, there’s two lifts.
There’s a lift this side – you went down there and then you went through this tunnel over to the side by the railway. But when I was there last time, that lift was taken away, one lift was taken away and they just left this other lift to go up and down. But in the old days, when I was young, this lift used to go down there and then there was a tunnel through, you used to take windows through. An easy way, because otherwise you had to get over the railway line. It was high like this and then the railway line was like that – there was a place you could run down but it was easier to take windows on the lift and through the tunnel over the other side.
Q: It came up the other side of the railway? The other side of the main railway or the Crittall’s railway?
Mr W: No it came up on the Crittalls’ side. (Q: In the grounds?) Yes. (Q: The other side of the Crittall’s railway.) Actually, the lift was there and the tunnel went there and this was a sort of covered roadway where this railway line went through. This tunnel went under the railway line, over to the other side. Where this railway line is, where they used to load the windows up, it was called a sort of covered roadway.
[looking at plan/photo, discussing position of railway, tunnel and road, not noted]
Mr W: Where the lorries was and where the railway line was, that was called the covered roadway.
Q: And this was all inside. There’s the lift that’s there, now, that’s this one. (Mr W: Just that one there, well there used to be one over there.) Just opposite it? (Mr W: Yes, it wasn’t very far). I see, so it was just for the sake of getting underneath and back again. That’s not there now is it.
Mr W: No, as years went on they – actually there used to be a wall here, right down. And this lift went down and under the wall and in this tunnel.
Q: There was a wall on top of the ledge? There’s a ledge about so high isn’t there.
Mr W: Yes. They chopped and changed the place around so many times.
Q: The actual tunnel would be quite good to have a fight, wouldn’t it? You were quite good at fighting, by the sound of it?
Mr W: Oh, I don’t know!
Q: You used to come off best quite often?
Mr W: Oh no, sometimes I got hidings! Oh yes. You don’t win them all Janet, do you! Mind you, whoever I fought with, when I was young, they never used to come a second time! [Q laughs]. No, they never used to come a second time. If I lost, the other chap had a good hiding as well! [laughs].
Q: You would never know to look at you now. You’re such a peaceful chap.
Mr W: Yes. That’s right. You know, when you’re young you think you are a little bit hard. And then, when you get old, you think ‘Oh, I’m not hard, I’m soft’. I am soft really, when you are young you get chaps throw their weight about and you’ve got to keep up to them otherwise, when you’re young you have a tough time, if you don’t stand up for yourself. Oh yes. I had a go, when I was about fifty-six! (Q: Really?) Yes. When I was about fifty-six there was a chap there, he wasn’t a very big chap but he was a Judo chap. So he was always taking the ‘mick’ out of me. I don’t mind people taking the mick out of me, but every time. And the other chaps would turn round and laugh. So one day I just hit him! Hit him hard! [laughs] Anyway, the boss, the chap in charge, he had to get in the middle and stop it. And I was fifty-six then. He never took the mick no more! I mean that’s all right, to a certain extent. But when they keep on, perhaps day after day, taking the mick, you get a bit fed up with it, don’t you? [laughs]
Q: Well, you were brave if he was a Judo expert.
Mr W: He wasn’t a very big chap, though, but anyhow, I clouted him one. He never touched me, never got the chance.
Q: Did you get into trouble?
Mr W: Well, I think you do at work.
Q: Did you get into trouble for hitting him?
Mr W: No, the foreman was a chap I’d been with when I was a boy. We’d grown up together in the factory – Gip Newman, did you know him? [Alfred Newman – 12 St Nicholas Rd] He lived at – round the corner to you. His wife worked for Dr Denholm. (Q: Yes, I know him.) That was the chap, he was in charge of us. He was a bit of a boxer, too, Gip. And – so he never said nothing. But eventually, later on, there was a father and a son – they were always at loggerheads and when they got to the factory, when they started work, they both worked near each other. That was in the Aluminium shop and they got stuck into each other, both of them. And they sacked them on the spot! So I was lucky. Really, otherwise I would have got the sack.
Q: You were able to stand up for yourself.
Mr W: Yes, you do get in trouble I think when you’re young. A lot of people would walk away, I suppose that’s the best thing, really is to walk away. But that’s how it is. Even the bosses used to brawl! ( Q: Did they?) Yes. Old Gip Newman he had – there was another chap there, I forget his name, he was a very clever chap. He was in charge of the final adjusting. They got brawling in the foremen’s – where they were having a cup of tea, Gip and this other chap. They got brawling there one day! And then this same – not Gip, another particular chap he got brawling with another foreman. Oh yes! The foremens have a go – it’s amazing, you know. I mean, chaps – one day you feel all right another day you don’t feel so good. It all depends what you say to another person, when he’s not feeling good – it soon flares up! Oh yes. There was quite – I mean, the bosses they were always having breakdowns. Old Jarrett – do you remember Jarrett? He was Assistant Manager. (Q: I think you’ve mentioned him.) He was always out with breakdowns. Then there was another assistant manager, he was always down with breakdowns. They used to call it ‘the Madhouse! Did you know that? Yes, they called it ‘the Madhouse’. It was called the Madhouse in the old days. ‘Oh, I work at the Madhouse’, that’s what they’d say if they worked at Crittall’s, they worked at the Madhouse.
In the old days, I was on the machine, a chap was putting a window, riveting the bars. You put the window on the machine like that and I was ‘the boy’. I was a youngster then, I used to stand here and press the pedal, like that. Directly the chap put the window in, and you put your foot down and rivet the bar, rivet the window. Old Jarrett said ‘Come on! Come on Jim,’ he said ‘Get a move on!’ I mean, I couldn’t go no faster! I could only go at the speed of the machine, put my foot down like that. He said ‘Come on! Faster!’ I mean, if you put your foot down faster on the machine, it wouldn’t go, it ‘d just go down, you had to do it gentle. That was old Jarrett. He was a funny old blighter. He used to go off his head every two or three years – three or four times they tell me he had breakdowns. And then there was a chap from Braintree, he used to go a bit nutty. And one or two other foremens. They’d throw windows about – chaps used to take – I forget the name of this particular bloke – he was a very clever chap really. He told me one day he was learning German, anyhow. And it was a tough line, this ‘final adjust’. They were fairly tough chaps and they used to take the mickey out of this chap. And he’d get a window and throw this window about! He’d sort of go off his head for a while and then he’d have to calm down, and be all right.
I’ve heard when old Gip [Newman] – he was in charge of our line, I was on the ‘reversible line’. This other foreman was showing Gip the way to do things. So Gip – this didn’t suit Gip or something. He said ‘I don’t want you to bloody-well boss me about and tell me what to do!’ and all that. And he went up in the air. And this other foreman, he said ‘Calm down! Calm down! Take it easy!’ All that sort of thing. (Q: Really?) Oh, yes, it was a proper old madhouse!
In the old days, when I first started as a boy, we had a manager there, I forget his name now. But he was there before the Smalls – you heard of the Smalls? He was alcoholic, he was always boozed up! He was always boozed up. And eventually they had to get rid of him. He was the manager before Mr Small. I think I’ve mentioned Mr Small, they hated him! They hated Small! They sent – eventually he had to go Scotland, sent him back to Scotland. And one day he came down and he came with Mr Rew – you heard of Mr Rew? He was a pal of Crittall’s, he was in the Army with them, they were all officers in the Army. And I suppose Crittall found him a job, Mr Rew, he was a nice bloke. And he was showing Small around and old Small came round the main shop there, and they went ‘Boo! Boo! Boo!’ [Laughing] Oh yes, it was quite comical, it was quite comical at times, you’d really laugh. [Q laughs] And old ‘Smally’ said, when he was manager, he said ‘I know the men hate me’ he said. ‘I know the men hate me’ he said ‘and I don’t care a damn!’ It was quite comical at times. One day, you ever heard of Horry [Horace] Brooks? He’s still about, he’s over eighty, he’s down there by Pattisson Close. Smally used to come up the racks where all the windows were, along the packing bay. And he’d come up like this and look at the windows and see if anybody was messing about. And come like that, like and he’d dip again and look again. Old Horry, he ‘d take the mick. He’d go along and look round, taking old Smally off. [laughing] Go like that and then like that and all of a sudden he’s turned round and Smally stood behind him! Poor old Horry, he didn’t know where to look! Oh that was really comical! That was really comical.
Q: I wonder what happened to him then?
Mr W: I don’t think Smally quite twigged – or perhaps he looked the other way, or something like that. I know one day – the old man, F H Crittall, you know, the man who invented Crittall windows, this particular bloke who I had a scrap with, when we were young, he said ‘Ooh, look at that old man up there’ – he didn’t know it was Crittall, F H Crittall the boss. We looked up there and then we got on with our work. And old F H Crittall, he come down there and he stood with us and stared at us like that, you know, [laughing] and we were getting on with our work. [Laughing] He must have known we were talking about him! That was the old man! He was a fierce old boy. My old chap [father] used to say – old Dan Crittall, his son, was coming round there. And Dan said to him ‘Good morning Father!’ And the old man said ‘Don’t you bloody well talk to me!’ [laughs] Because old Dan was the black sheep. He eventually went to Canada, married a Canadian girl, I think. He was the black sheep, he was, old Dan. I know he was over the factory, he was the assistant manager over Silver End factory when I was there. One of the girls told me they were pushing a barrow and old Dan come along and they didn’t know who he was. [laughing] He came along and they said ‘Come on, give us a bloody push!’ Old Dan looked at them and he got behind the load and give them a push! Oh dear, it was very comical at times.
Q: What did F H do that made you say he was fierce? What did the old man do that made you say he was fierce?
Mr W: He always looked fierce! Of course, in the old days, he used to get boozed up. You’ve heard of Sergeant Haggar? My father told me, because he more or less knew everything, old Haggar picked him up one day, boozed. They tell me, so my father told me, picked him up boozed and got a taxi and anyhow got him so he took him home. I forget where he lived, I think he lived at Silver End eventually. And of course, the old boy was grateful like, and when Sergeant Haggar retired, they give him a job on the gate, looking after the gate. [laughs]. He was a funny blighter, old Sergeant Haggar. My young brother used to make me laugh. Because we used to go in there by Cut Throat Lane, round the back of the railway, we used to go in that way. And my young brother was always late. And he used to get there just when old Sergeant Haggar – they used to close the gates at seven thirty. Just as he was closing the gates my young brother used to come along and burst through the gates at the last minute. [laughs] He was a young blighter! Anyhow, he was such a nuisance they give the ‘poke’ – give him the sack in the end. Of course, he went back eventually. Finished his time there after the War. Oh yes, we used to have some laughs. Quite a scream, really. Anyhow you got it all?
Q: I think so. Did you used to wake up in the morning and think ‘Blimey, I’ve got to go to work!’ Or did you not mind too much.
Mr W: Oh, you used to detest it! Yes, you used to detest it. It was such a slog. You daren’t stand about, you had to keep going all the time. No stopping, you had to keep going. They used to chase you, come round, the boss used to come round and chase you. Oh, it was murder! Honestly! Yes, people would never believe it today. Even, in recent years, before I retired, you were all on piecework. If you didn’t – they had what they called ‘Bands’, one, two, three, four, five, six, and if you didn’t keep going, you couldn’t get on the top band of money. Say that you lost one band, say you come from Band 6 down to Band 5, you’d lose about a couple of pounds, you see. It was all slog – the job was timed so that you didn’t have no slack time, you had to keep going all the time. Oh yes, if you worked in Crittall’s, you earned your money. Oh it was a real slog.
Q: Was Fred Cook there when you were there? Because he had something to do with the time …
Mr W: He was assistant manager the last …
Q: Was he?
Mr W: Mmm. – he worked in the office and he used to do mostly the timing.
Q: That’s what I was thinking. That can’t have been a very popular job, if he was setting all these times.
Mr W: No, he was a bit cock-eyed, too. They used to say ‘Look, Fred, the timing’s not right. We want more for that window, we want a bit more time, we’d like a bit more time’ the blokes used to say. He said ‘All right then, we’ll give you a bit more time on that window and take a bit off that one!’ [laughing] So you wasn’t any better off! [laughs] That’s the sort of chap he used – that’s the sort of thing he used to work out because he used to do it to me! We’d say ‘Oh, we can’t make it pay, can’t make this job pay.’ He said Well, I’ll tell you want we’ll do. We’ll put more time on there and we’ll take a little bit off there’. So you wasn’t any better off! What he put on this one he took off the other one! He was a funny old blighter. He lives near you, in fact I went to his house to enquire where you lived, ‘cos I didn’t know where you lived. I see his wife, you know. He was a funny old blighter.
I worked with him, I was in the office for a start, for a while, when I first started there, he was in my office, I know all about Fred. But now he’s as right as nine-pence.
[Talks of FC’s present health, not noted]
Q: I know it must have been a very unpopular job, I’ve often thought when he told me what he did. You couldn’t really have any friends if you were doing that, could you?
Mr W: No but he was a chap, he lived in the past, I think, in my opinion. He’d been in Crittall’s all his life, he never travelled at all. You know what I mean, never been around the world and I notice when he – when I spoke to him, because he was sort of in charge of me, I was put in the aluminium shop for a while and he was in charge there. He was sort of assistant manager and the way he spoke and referred to things, you could tell he was still in the old world, as it was years ago. He was like that. I was in the aluminium shop – that was the highest paid job in the works. On my line another chap pushed me off my job on the reversible line – and I don’t know whether I told you. He’d had a heart attack and he come back and he wanted to come back on this line. He’d been on there previous. So he see Gip and he come on the line and of course there wasn’t enough work for us. So when we run out of a job – when I run out of a job, I was the first to run out, they pushed me over to the aluminium line, with another chap, making the aluminium greenhouses and so on. Anyhow, this chap was the highest paid chap in the works. We had more money than the office people.
Q: What, you had more?
Mr W: Oh yes, in the factory. Production. Anyhow, we went on this job and I think it worked out about ten pound a week more! He was the highest paid chap in the works and I worked with him so I got the same as him. So I done all right out of that. [laughs] But eventually, it got a bit slack on there and old Fred Cook sent me back to my old line.
Q: Was that when he was assistant manager? (Mr W: Yes.) Was that the sort of thing he had to do, move people around in different places?
Mr W: Yes, assistant manager – we had two assistant managers then, one called Smith, and Fred. Fred would be in charge of the aluminium shop and, say, perhaps the packing side. He would be over the foreman. And the foreman had to refer to him first. And the assistant manager would be with the manager. And the manager would dish his orders out and Fred would carry them on to the foremen. They would have one assistant manager in charge of one part of the factory and the other assistant manager in another part of the factory. That’s how it was run.
Q: So he got on quite well in the end, didn’t he?
Mr W: He was only an office chap when he – I was in the office with him a little while.
Q: What did you do when you were in the office?
Mr W: I was only a boy, but I used to print the labels.
Q: Oh I see, that was an office job, was it?
Mr W: Yes. When they wanted a new handle or a new tool, I used to have to write it out and get the foreman to sign it. And I used to print these metal labels in the office. I had a machine, I had to put these labels in and print the number of the job. Oh, they kept me at it! I could never get on top. Anyhow, eventually I went into the factory, there was more money.
Q: I’m surprised you say there was more money in the factory, because people tend to think of office jobs as being better, but …
Mr W: Oh no! They were well behind us. It was always ‘production’ got the most money.
Q: Well, rightly so by the sound of it, if it was that hard work.
Mr W: Yes, but they had a better Pension Scheme (Q: What, the office people?) Yes, they were all on the Staff and now they retire with darn good pensions, they retired with good pensions, you know. And we never – our new Pension Scheme never started till 1978. And they said I was over sixty-odd or I’d only got two more years to do and I couldn’t go in it. But that was on par with the office Pension Scheme. That’s how it worked out.
[chat about time passing, not noted]
Q: There’s one of those little trucks there [photo P67/29]. What is that for?
Mr W: Carrying the windows – old-fashioned, really old fashioned, what they had in the old days. You can see the weight of the darn thing!
Q: They were not very big, and quite low.
[Checking through photos, not noted]
Mr W: They always had different bits and pieces, you didn’t know what they were really, unless you were in that section.
[Checking through photos, not noted]
Q: Did you have those drinking fountains? That was somewhere in the main shop, I think.
Mr W: Yes, that’s right, they had those all over the works. Or in the toilets.
Q: I’m surprised you had time to stop and drink anything there. Were you allowed to stop?
Mr W: Oh yes, you could go to the toilet and there was no bother about that. But in the old days, they used to have a half hour for smoking. Half hour for smoking. So they banned smoking you see, only a half hour in the morning and half hour in the afternoon. [laughing] Because the blokes used to go up the toilet, the top toilet, I don’t know whether you see it when you were in there, the top toilet near the galve. They used to go in there and the old assistant manager, it was Andrews then, he used to go in there and they used to be in the actual toilet, smoking. [laughing] He’d look up and see all the smoke going up! ‘Come out, there! Come out!’ and take all the names and them the sack! (Q: Really?) Sack them! Yes! I’ll tell you who was one, old Fred Bell. You know the Bells, Jean Bell over here? (Q: No.) Her husband was one of them. He had a nice job at Crittall’s and then he had to go all the way to Crompton’s, he got a job at Crompton’s.
Q: When was that?
Mr W: That was before the War. They caught them – if there was ten or twelve there smoking – sack! Give them the sack on the spot.
Q: So what breaks did you have officially?
Mr W: In the old days, I think we had about five minutes in the morning, I’m not certain. But five minutes in the morning. But in the later days it was ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the afternoon.
Q: What did you used to do then? You didn’t have time to …
Mr W: Have a cup of tea! Have a cup of tea and a sandwich.
Q: Did you have a lunch break?
Mr W: Yes, used to have an hour for dinner. I hope that’s been some help to you.
[Discussion on photos, goodbyes etc., not noted]