Just after WW2 my Dad (pictured in 1951) decided to buy a defunct company which had made curling stones in Ayrshire, Scotland. He bought the old machines (big brutal capstan-lathes and equally brutal polishing machines) and moved the whole thing lock-stock and barrel to near where we lived in Lanarkshire, Scotland. I was about six years of age and from then until I left school with a HOOVER Student Apprenticeship, the factory was my second home. From an early age we were given a lot of responsibility regarding work … I say ‘we’ because I had two big sisters and all three of us had to earn our keep doing something to help make the business feed us. My mother’s job was to look after the family so she was the home-maker.
My Dad was a practical engineer who could turn his hand to anything. He always sat with his office (very small) door open and would stop our conversation mid-sentence to say one of the machines was needing attention and set off without more ado to get whatever tools were necessary. Each machine had its own ‘music’ and my Dad could tell if one was going off-tune. He would remind me not to watch as he would put on his welding mask and strike a huge blue arc as he would repair a fracture in a casting … no fancy health and safety … just ‘don’t watch’ and I would know, even at 8 or 9, to stand with my back to the work and watch my silhouette on the opposite wall as huge blue flashes lit up the factory interior. This is where I loved to be. Not at school. Here, where men worked hard, where rough tough pieces of hard granite, dull and grey would be transformed. First by hammer and chisel, then on some rough-cutting lathes and then turned at high speed on polishers until the inside colours of the granite would appear as if by magic and would take on a polish of great beauty.
So, for me, work and home life were inextricably linked. My Saturday job was to sweep the factory floor … repeated filling of a kettle with water which I would sprinkle over the dusty floor by waving the spout from side to side. Then, with a brush twice my size I would attempt to sweep the granite dust into a pile before shovelling it into a bucket! Not much science, not much skill but it did earn me my pocket money which, on a good day, could be 10 Bob (£0.50).
Most of our curling stones were sold into Canada. As a family we would sit around the kitchen table with a big pile of advertising leaflets, envelopes, stamps and, most importantly a huge map of Canada. My Dad would find a town somewhere and call it out ‘XYZ’ , or whatever, whereupon my biggest-big sister, Maureen, would type the envelope:
The Secretary, XYZ Curling Club, Winnipeg, Canada.
We had no idea if there was a curling club there, let alone a ‘Secretary’ … but one after the other the typewriter would clatter away. My job was folding the leaflets with big sister Elizabeth placing them carefully in the addressed envelope. Mum would seal and stick on the stamp. A domestic production line. Soon a bundle of beautifully sealed envelopes would emerge at the end of the line … a box on the settee, or some sort of arrangement. Domestic bliss. Even to this day I love to see finished product systematically reach the end of the production line … I know how much time, skill, love and affection is required to do this and never forget my first clerical job title, Leaflet Folder.
So, almost 60 years on I am still dedicated to ‘making things’, addressing leaflets (emails now!) and seeking new and exciting places to sell into. It’s been a long journey from Curling Stones to Contact Lenses but much remains the same … finding new customers and looking after them.