Mr Fred Cook was born c 1908. I can’t find the details for Mrs Cook at the moment. They were interviewed on 25 April 1983, when they lived at Floreat, Chalks Road, Witham.
For more information about them, see Cook, Fred, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
[chat about school photo out of newspaper, and about his son Keith who lives in Coventry who may have other photos that Mr C can’t find, not noted]
Mr C: Well the point is I was there you see when that, soon after this place [Crittall’s factory] opened. And I saw it built, wing by wing till, well, I say what it is today, it ain’t, it’s deteriorated, hasn’t it. They let all these other firms come about here with double glazing and one thing and another, they ought to have done something about that. Even in this road, windows from other firms. [???]
Q: Presumably that’s quite a new thing the double glazing is it?
Mr C: Well no, they were the first ones who started up on it. We used to call it ‘Winter[?] Sash’, not double glazing. That was double glazing, but we called it ‘Winter[?] Sash’. And I was in on that, cos I was on work study then, and I had to go more or less with the people and we sat round the table discussing it, and one of them said the way that they would do the operation, and one thing and another, and I had to put a rate on each job you see, as we sat there. That’s how that started. And of course that grew till that got taken round Colchester Road. As I say all these other firms they got into it now, [???]
Q: So was that quite some time ago that Crittall’s started.
Mr C: When they started on that? (Q: Yes.) Yes, I’ve been left ten years, and I was eleven years assistant Works Manager, and previous to that I had about seven[?] years on work study, but that didn’t start as work study, work study was a posh name for it. That used to be time study when I started. Well it hadn’t got a name when it started. They give me a watch and said here you are, you go and time them people in the shop [???]. And I’d got no idea of [???] you know, the speed any man was working at, cos you’ve got to with time study.
Q: That was a new thing then, was it? When they started you off doing it?
Mr C: Well it was about fifty years ago. Yes.
Q: That’s what I was thinking, that’s interesting, yes. You started in the dispatch office you said, is that right? (Mr C: That’s right.) And what were you doing then?
Mr C: Well writing out labels to start with. Addressing the labels. And then that got so they got me on writing out dispatch notes. That was only a matter of copying from one, the order onto another advice[?] note you see. I was made to do that because there was a bloke there named Hubbard, he [???] and Johnny Wilkins, when they were playing about outside in the siding, they made me do this and they got [???] [???]. (Q: Do their job for them you mean?) Yes.[???] I more or less learnt a lot by it you know, speed of writing for one thing. ‘Cos I picked it up a lot, you know, and I wrote fairly fast. And then I went from there into the foreman’s office, as office boy, writing out tickets to do the work with.
Q: Who was the foreman at that time, then?
Mr C: Foremen? I think Hammond, [???] Scott. They were the foremen to start with but oh there were scores and scores after them.
Q: Those three, were they people who had started off in the factory, or did they come in?
Mr C: They were transferred from Braintree to Witham. Well Braintree then were making casement windows. Which is a heavier type of window from what Witham made. Because they only made more or less cottage windows at the time, to start with. That method altered during the time I was there, because very slow, that used to be all gas welding, hand cleaning off, that got so eventually they welded window frames by electricity. Welded the corner in a machine. and, I happened to be the first ones to go on those machines, because they were in a tight, at the time, and I tranferred from there into the works. And I always remember the first flash welder was an old [???] then they had an old upright one, I nearly had my fingers off in that. Then they had twelve machines come in from Germany, and they sent a German with them, and I had to go along this line of twelve and try and mess them up, work them as hard as you could, just to find out what was actually wrong with the machines. And this bloke was there and designing other things to put in them [???]. But eventually Crittall’s built their own in the machine shop at Braintree.
Q: When would that be about, that this German came?
Mr C: Well I reckon I must have been about sixteen, seventeen.
Q: Oh so it’s quite a long time ago then, yes. So would you say Crittall’s were fairly advanced, were they the first people to be …
Mr C: In windows. Yes. There was only one or two small firms about. There was Hope in Birmingham, well we bought them out at the finish. Another small one at Colchester. But they never got any bigger than what we were when we started, you know. [???]
Q: So when they were doing the gas welding, it was just a matter of holding the thing there.
Mr C: Yes, from then, they started up the wood shop. Wood surrounds for all the steel watsernames. They made me book keeper, keeping the stocks of all the stock. Going round the shop, and keeping a record, you know as they came off. And analysing it, what went out and ended up from that. I had a lot of that and then … (Q: And that was for the wood shop?) That was the wood shop, yes. They sold that in the finish to somebody at Ruislip. (Q: So they don’t do that any more?) No. That eventually Carr, John Carr at Silver End, they bought that out in the finish. They had a factory built at Silver End, didn’t they. I don’t suppose you know it, did you? (Q: I don’t think I did, no.) Well it’s on the road between Silver End and Cressing.
Q: So you’ve done a bit of everything then, haven’t you really?
Mr C: Well then I come back, I was in the shop again for … I done all the operations in there, you know. On the benches and the machines. Then I started, I come back on this studying each man in the shop. Which I now know as work study. With a watch, and keeping a record of what they done, and how many they done in a certain time. And that went on from there.
Q: When would that be about, would you say, that you started doing this with the watch? I mean were you still quite a young fellow then?
Mr C: No, I’ve [???] a mix up there. Cos I went from office to shop three or four times. [???] But then I eventually got back on this work study again, and that must have been somewhere about 1930 I suppose. And I went on from there, I was doing that and rate fixing at the same time. Till that got so big, and then they give me another bloke named Bill Messent, I don’t whether you know him? (Q: Oh, Glebe Crescent is he?) Yes. Then I had another fellow name of Cloughton. By the time I got so I was promoted to assistant Works Manager, I’d got about ten or twelve people under me. They were doing all the whatsername and I was more or less the boss of them.
Q: They were doing this sort of timing and rate fixing, were they?
Mr C: [???] They were employing at the time about eight or nine hundred men. But now I don’t suppose there’s two hundred up there now. (Q: Really?)
Q: So when you were assistant Works Manager you were more or less keeping track of what they were all doing, were you?
Mr C: Actually no, that was nothing to do with us. Work study was a separate department. My job was assistant Works Manager, that meant to say you was in the shop practically all the time. (Q: I see.) Watching the foremen. Well I had twenty-one foremen there when I left. Two assistant managers, that was Dennis[?] Smith and me. And the works manager then was Harold Frost, he’s Silver End. He’s retired now. But I was I reckon under at least twelve managers in the time, that’s a long time isn’t it, 51 years service.
Q: How long were you assistant Works Manager?
Mr C: Eleven.
Q: You did all right then didn’t you? Did you, cos you spent a lot of time either timing people or watching them, did that, I should think that wasn’t always very popular, was it? How did that work out?
Mr C: They wanted to shoot you! (Q: Did they really?) Yes [laughs] Oh no, you weren’t liked at all. But I’ve heard since, that, you know, since I went on the other job they said, ‘Well, he must have been all right, come to that’, you know.
Q: Really? Which was the worst for that? Which job did they hate you for the most?
Mr C: Well standing over them giving them the rate for the job. They’d always come round and say that ain’t enough. You’ve got to stand by what you say. Q: You had to decide that yourself did you? I decided, yes.
Q: Cor, yes I can imagine. Presumably when you just started off with your watch, you were telling somebody else what to do?
Mr C: Yes, they were doing the certain things and working out … We used to work in money one time of the day. But the rates kept going up, they were one and fourpence an hour, then they went one and fourpence halfpenny. An hour, I’m talking about, old money. Then one and five. They used to go on strike for a halfpenny an hour. Then you’d work it out, and you’d see the shop steward then, and tell him what the rate would be. Cos we got onto minutes then, time and minutes, that was easier to convert into money than it was to keep changing money prices, you see. That was a big improvement.
Q: So you’d say a certain job was worth so many minutes.
Mr C: Yes. But there was only really one major strike up there over it.
Q: Was there really? When was that, I mean was that while you were doing that?
Mr C: Yes, I should say that was more or less soon after I started on it. 1930.
Q: How did that come about? Can you remember anything about it?
Mr C: Prices were too tight. They didn’t agree with them. Well they were getting about three pound a week then. And when these new prices went in they dropped them to two pounds fourteen[?]. They went on strike [???]
Q: That was after you’d done this ?
Mr C: Yes.
Q: So that was really as a result of what you’d done was it?
Mr C: Yes, well eventually they got the Managing Director, they wouldn’t listen to him. They wanted V G Crittall. And he was in London at the time and he had to come down and he promised them he’d give them fifteen per cent for a fortnight, on the rates, then he’d give them ten per cent for another fortnight, and then five per cent for another fortnight. And after then they were on their own. But in that time, which ran into two months, they more or less got back to the three pound again on the same rates. On the rates I put in. So the firm saved money over it. They had more work for the same money.
Q: In the first place you’d be timing how long it took them, but afterwards you’d have to say how much you thought it should take them presumably, did you? (Mr C: Yes.) So you could have always said, presumably it was open to you to say a longer time, was it? (Mr C: Oh yes.) So it was really all your fault was it [laughter]. No I was just wondering who, that was quite a responsibility, wasn’t it?
Mr C: Well it was, come to that, now you come to think of it, but you made[?] yourself[?] at the time, you know.
Q: So how did, you, did you go, if you knew it normally took them so long, did you sometimes think ‘Well that should be quicker’, when you were doing the rate.
Mr C: If you could find a way of improving the job, you’d say so, and they’d have to do it that way.
Q: I see. And did you have to get that sort of confirmed by the people above you, or did you just say that yourself?
Mr C: Well, no, you’d more or less have a big boss above you, to more or less back you up, you know. They always would.
Q: That would be the manager would it?
Mr C: Well you’d got to see somebody else because you might want an improvement in the machine or something. Or the layout made different. And you couldn’t do that on your own. Well actually that was an interesting job come to that, because if ever anything new come into the works, you’d got to be on the job. Find out how it worked and put a rate on it. So eventually you knew the factory inside out.
Q: Going back to how you did it, you said you consulted the shop steward, I mean did he sometimes argue there and then, or what happened?
Mr C: No, he might and he might not. I give him the rate for the job. He’d go down and see the operator. The operator might agree to it, he might not. Then if he didn’t, the steward would stand and watch the job himself, and he’d make his mind up whether they’d accept the price or not.
[Mrs C comes in with coffee, chat not noted]
Q: If you couldn’t agree, then, with, if the shop steward didn’t agree with you then what happened after that?
Mr C: Well I’d go down again and have another look at it, if I made up my mind I’d still say it was. And then they’d have to, if they still didn’t agree, they’d have to take it on two months trial. [???]
Q: So what particular thing did the strike, what caused the strike exactly? Do you think that was when you first started the new rates?
Mr C: Yes. They’d all got new rates. (Q: That was for everything was it?) The whole factory that was. Because we were months on it. And then they introduced them all at once. Not one at a time.
Q: So if you were just doing them one at a time that was really just you and a few people I suppose?
Mr C: I can’t think when it was come to that, I don’t think we’d be married[?] was it? When they had a strike. They all come out.
Mrs C: I don’t remember anything about it, I’m terrible. I mean I remember the Depression and all that sort of thing but I don’t remember a strike. If it doesn’t sort of affect you personally I don’t think you do.
Mr C: [???] [???]
Mrs C: I believe that was after we were married now I come to think of it, because you went to work, didn’t you? And the people over the road didn’t ‘cos they were in the works. (Mr C: That’s right.) And I can I can remember now them coming, yes I do remember. I didn’t think I remembered a thing about it but I do remember, yes.
Q: You carried on working? (Mr C: That was about 1930.) You carried on working yourself, though?
Mr C: Oh yes, you’ve got to haven’t you, I work for the firm. They don’t. They work for the Union.
Q: It wasn’t just the Union officials that came out on strike? (Mr C: No they all did.) You weren’t in the Union at all yourself. Was there a different Union?
Mr C: No, we come under staff, and they were the works you see. [???] [???]
Q: So did none of the staff join in?
Mr C: No.
Mrs C: [???] these days.
Q: So you think they were happy after they’d seen Crittall about it?
Mr C: Well yes, he told them they wouldn’t get no more, only what he told them, fifteen per cent down to five per cent for a certain time. That was for three pound a week, that was. Now they want two hundred.
Mrs C: Yes, but coal was half a crown a hundredweight, for one thing, I can’t remember what bread and stuff was. But coal was half a crown a hundredweight.
Q: Did you actually see Mr Crittall much? Apart from that, special occasions like that?
Mr C: Oh he’d often come and walk round but I don’t remember coming into contact with him. Not that one. I did John, the one who’s just died. [???] I reckon he used to come about once a month.
Q: So really the people that were sort of in charge, that was the managers I suppose?
Mr C: Yes.
Q: Were any of them local people?
Mr C: What, the managers? Well they more or less come from the shop floor, most of them.
Q: I’m sure somebody’s told me about someone that was brought in. A Scotsman or something? Small. Mr Small. I can’t remember what they said about him now.
Mr C: Yes, there was Robert Small, he was a director, he was Managing Director, Robert Small. And his brother was manager at Witham. And he got transferred up to Paisley. Cos they had a factory up there.
Q: And he came in from somewhere else, did he?
Mr C: Well they come from Scotland. [???] That was the Depression then. And he worked for some financial firm, Robert, and he was put in here to look after the money they lent the firm to carry on with. They were very strict them two. But eventually I got on all right with them.
Q: They would actually go round the works, would they, a fair bit? (Mr C: Mm) [???] I mean you’d have felt a bit different being on the staff from what you were in the works? (Mr C: Yes.) Were your friends mostly from the staff?
Mr C: Yes, you wouldn’t get no friends in the works. [laugh] (Q: Really?) No.
Mrs C: Well he did have friends in the works because I mean, like [???] and people who you’d been to school and all that with. You weren’t what shall I say intimate friends but you were friends.
Mr C: I don’t remember [???] [???]. What the hell did they do then? It’s something I didn’t come in contact with, I reckon.
Q: Like you said, you’d grow up together with all of them, it must have been difficult was it?
Mrs C: You couldn’t just stop them because they were in the works and you were in the staff.
Q: That must have been a change for you? Cos you were saying, you also said about the band and that, the band and all these other things that you were in. You got your friends that way.
Mr C: I remember that, Witham Town Band. There’s only two alive now that used to be in that. There’s George Hayes opposite you. Did he mention that?
Q: It rings a bell, yes, I remember he said something about his uniform. Would that be the band, did you have a uniform?
Mr C: Yes. Blue with a green and red whatsername down the side there. I always remember that. I never had a suit of it because, well I was only young and growing up, you see. I suppose I’d have wanted one every year, see, so I never got one.
Mrs C: Who’s the other one who’s still alive? You said there were two.
Mr C: Champ. He lives the top of Avenue Road. (Mrs C: Lost his wife not very long ago. Ethel.) And the funny thing, all of us were cornet players.
Q: Really? It must be good for you then. [laugh] That was when you were quite a lad was it?
Mr C: Oh, I weren’t about fourteen or fifteen when that broke up. I don’t suppose I was in it about twelve months.
Q: Was it quite hard work then, was it?
Mr C: We only had one practice a week, that was Thursday nights. And very often I never used to go to that.
Q: So what did you used to do in your, well of course you had the garden, I was going to say what did you do in your spare time? (Mr C: Silver End?) (Mrs C: You mean before we married?) Well, when you were married then. (Mrs C: Didn’t have any spare time.) You didn’t have any spare time.
Mrs C: Can’t remember now. Well, I remember when we first married, I suppose we’d been married perhaps about a month, and we used to go to Silver End dances before we married and all that you know, and there was a dance, and we went, but we couldn’t afford to buy any refreshments, you had to buy your refreshments separately you see, and we hadn’t got any more money, we’d just got enough for the ticket. (Mr C: I don’t remember that.) (Q: It’s funny how everybody remembers different things, isn’t it.) I don’t know really what we used to do, because we started the family over there, that took up …
Mr C: We used to go for long walks on a Sunday afternoon, with some neighbours.
Mrs C: Yes, we did after we got here, we used to go lovely walks. Well we used to walk to Witham from Silver End and things like that, and think nothing of it you know. Well we used to go to Mill Beach, didn’t we, Sundays, that was with the children, didn’t we? (Mr C: Go where?) Mill Beach, in the summer. (Mr C: We never took them.) We did, you know, on the back of the bikes. We used to go with Len and Eileen and they had Don and whatever her name was, and we had Gill and Keith on the back.
Q: That’s down Maldon way is it?
Mrs C: From Silver End, we used to go out there from Silver End.
Mr C: Course they’ve built up all the walls, concrete walls and that. When we went there was nothing, only like mud. Wasn’t there?
Mrs C: Mm. It was lovely there, I used to love it. I can’t think what we used to do, I don’t think we did anything. (Q: As you say with a family you’d got plenty ..) Yes. Well I mean, I used to have to sort of cook when he came home and course that all takes up time, doesn’t it. I can’t remember doing anything.
Mr C: I know when we first come here I got myself a piece, twenty rod of allotment.
Mrs C: Oh yes, after you got here.
Mr C: There’s one thing I didn’t mention in here, that come to me You asked what we used to do in the road down there. I said play football. Do you remember? (Q: Yes.) Well there was another game we played and I never heard of it. Not to this day, not now. Woggle woggle. Have you ever heard of that? (Q: No.) Yes we used to play that in front of those houses down there. You know a round circle like that, I suppose two foot in diameter, and you’d have a rough old stick standing like a batsman and somebody’d throw this woggle at you, that was a stick, like, you know what a button is, (Q: I know, at toggle.) Yes. About four inches long. If that, if you hit it you’ve got to run, like you do with cricket. But if that stopped in that whatsername you was out. Never heard of it. [???] (Q: I suppose it was like cricket, but you could do it more where you wanted to, couldn’t you.) [???] full sized ball.
Q: You mentioned about, was it the YMCA, there’s a page here [looking at FC’s notes]. Yes, that was opposite the Labour Club that used to be. (Q: I haven’t heard of that one.) Was that where the Church Hall, that’s right, that was the side of that. [Collingwood Road] There’s the Conservative place one side, that wasn’t then, that was a gateway to the Avenue. (Mrs C: The lodge gate.) The lodge. That was the other side, there used to be an old army hut, 1914-18 War army hut.
Q: Did you used to go in it at all?
Mr C: Oh yes, I remember that, I can’t remember what they used to, they had two billiard tables, they had like a little shop where they sold fizzy drinks and chocolate and things like that, biscuits.
Q: Who was in charge of that?
Mr C: I don’t know, I only remember the caretakers. There was a one-armed man when I was there.
Q: That was before you were married was it?
Mr C: Yes. I was about one of the youngest ones there was there. [???] I won the billiard cup there one year. (Q: Really?) I only held it for one year. I beat all those old stagers.
Q: They called it the YMCA I suppose that means young, does it.
Mr C: Yes, Young Men’s Christian Association.
Q: Did you have to leave when you were a certain age or …
Mr C: I don’t know. I think I left that to belong to the Labour Club, cos I went to the Labour Club down near the Crotchet.
Q: You’ve got that too, I was going to ask you about that too.
Mr C: That’s there now isn’t it? (Q: Possibly. Is that where Shelleys …? [bottom of Mill Lane] Yes. I reckon that must have been the [???] that, in the Crotchet yard. [???]
Mrs C: Are you talking about the one that is now, there’s Shelleys’s and there is that other, sort of second hand shop. That’s what he’s talking about. Where we used to have meetings and everything down there at one time. That’s where you mean. (Mr C: You went up the yard to get into it. No. (Q: There’s different ones isn’t there, there’s one right out on Mill Lane.) (Mr C: This was set up in the yard, an army hut.) The one I’m talking about was sort of army hut. (Q: On the front, yes. There’s a lot of sheds up there.)
Q: Was that better was it, the Labour one, or did you just fancy a change?
Mr C: I don’t know, I think that was when more or less the Labour Party started. (Q: Was it, yes.) They[?] weren’t in the Party but they went to the Club.
Q: Cos I suppose that was quite a change, that was quite a new thing then, when the Labour Party started. That would be …
Mr C: Yes. I was going to … [to Mrs C] That’s where I first met you, wasn’t it?
Q: I was going to ask you about that.
Mrs C: Yes, well that is the shed place I’m talking about. That was Sonny Butler’s birthday party wasn’t it. (Mr C: That’s right.) And that is what I thought you meant, [???] the Labour Club thing, in that one, that was the one I’m talking about. (Q: So you met at a birthday party?) This Sonny Butler was brother to this Effie Butler that we talked about.. Well he isn’t now cos he’s died. But he had this birthday party, and he used to [???] several of the Witham blokes used to come over, cos I lived at Hatfield Peverel then. Used to come to Church Sunday nights, and to our little dos at Hatfield and when he had this birthday party he asked three or four of us girls, us Hatfield girls if we’d go, which we did, and he was there. Pity. [laughter]. He[?] used to walk over to Hatfield Peverel to church, Sunday nights. (Q: Funny, people walked so much more.) Wouldn’t do it nowadays, would they.
Q: Were you actually in the Labour Party or just the club, was the club separate?
Mr C: If you belonged to the club you didn’t belong to the Labour Party. (Q: No quite, it’s the same now, yes.) (Mrs C: That was separate.) Well it is today, isn’t it. (Q: So there were a separate lot of people.)
Q: So really you’d just go over the road [???] entertainment, did you? (Mr C: Yes.) Oh there was quite a lot going on really wasn’t there.
[Starts fading after this}