Reminiscences of John Bell ex - Rediffusion Hull 1966 - 1975
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I left Riley High School in 1966, after taking my A levels. Instead of going straight to university, I applied for an engineering apprenticeship at Rediffusion Hull. Although they had many apprentices, apparently they only took on one engineering apprentice each year so I was very proud to have been chosen. Frank Hague interviewed me and offered me a position starting in 1966 at £6 or so a week! My father had to come to the interview and sign the apprenticeship papers, which I still have somewhere.
Over the next few years they got me to work in just about every department. That included cable laying, network wiring
installation, TV servicing, equipment engineering, wayleave, mapping and so on.
One of the first things I did was learn to drive and took 4 lessons with Quick Pass in Hull at a cost of around £5. I was a fast learner so they booked my test quickly. At that time I was placed with TV servicing (in people's homes) so the company let me put L plates on to get experience. Luckily for me, the man I was working with (name forgotten) was an ex driving school instructor so I got a full week's driving with him in a Rediffusion Minivan before my test. Passed first time when only 17 and to celebrate I took a TV service van back to Riley High and parked outside the headmaster's office!
My time in engineering was the most rewarding. Les Brown was in charge and taught me a lot. He used to watch off air transmissions like a hawk and if there was a problem such as ghosting on the test card, he would ring up the BBC transmission centre to report it. They would deny any such problems of course but we then watched the off air transmission to witness them correct the problem!
I remember the delivery of the first colour TV and also the red E Type Jaguar that belonged to one of the engineers, Keith Hunter,with his personalised plate KH1 (or 1KH). I also remember the transmitter mast falling down one day (Emley Moor?) and the temporary mast arriving in Hull docks before driving it through the town en route to West Yorkshire.
The cable repeater stations scattered around Hull were often visited to check the performance of the enormous valve audio amplifiers.
One day, my teaching engineer had his head in the bottom cabinet when one of the huge capacitors broke down and went BANG! It could be heard outside and deafened him for a day or so. Made me nervous about going in there again.
Part of the training called for me to work in the control room for a week, which was situated behind the showroom and had a large window so that visitors could see what went on. One very early morning I was entrusted with starting up the transmissions (or something similar), only to receive a radio call from one of the engineers asking why there was no sound on one channel. Guess who had forgotten to raise the fader level...
Hessle Road showroom was a regular call and I used to be a keen record collector (still am but that's another story). I always remember placing orders for new Beatles albums in advance and collecting from there on the day of release. The company decided to stop selling records and brought the stock back to Beverley Road where staff could buy them cheap. I still have a couple of Cream albums bought there for a pittance, as well at the Beatles albums.
Working with the TV engineers taught me a thing or too. Every morning they got going quickly and often found that the early calls were still in bed so, with a fixed no of calls each day they finished early and went to a local cafe. Around that time, dual standard conversionscame in (405 to 625) so anyone with a bit of knowledge was pressed in to help so I was out on my own for a few weeks,
doing a few service calls too. I always remember one call. "Can you tell me the problem madam?"... "Yes, the 9 o'clock news is coming
on at the wrong time and I keep missing it"...."Did you change your clock last weekend by one hour?"...Oh..
Every Christmas in the late 60's, each office had it's own party and all the girls used to go to a pub on Beverley Road, near to the level crossing, before going back to their office parties. It was the job of the younger guys to get invites to those parties which were always great fun!!!!
3 times, in the summer, I was sent to Poulton Le Fylde to the training centre. What a hoot. I genuinely did learn a lot there but the evenings were a riot. Out on the town in Blackpool with a load of like minded lads. I will keep the details to myself though. One funny bit. We used to go into Poulton village occasionally. One day I was walking to the cafe and saw a car slowly turning the corner....without a driver behind the wheel. I needn't have worried as it was a local driving school car with 2 steering wheels and the instructor was testing it out using the second wheel. Kinda scary for a few seconds. I found some old course training notes last year but fear that I may have thrown them away.
Towards the end of my apprenticeship, I worked in the mapping and planning department which I enjoyed. Robin, the manager, offered
me a job there but I had plans to move on, even though it was such a happy department. There were a couple of really nice girls in there, as well as a wayleave officer with a limp. Sorry, can't remember any names but he always had his annual holiday on the Scilly Isles. I fancied one of the girls like mad. She is shown in the netball team photo on the left, dark hair and gorgeous eyes! Eventually I plucked up courage to invite her, with others, to a party and she did come but I was too scared to ask her out on a date!!!! I will never know what might have been.....
Rediffusion was kind enough to offer to sponsor me on an electronics degree course at Leeds Polytechnic (now a real uni) which meant
me leaving the branch to live in Leeds for the duration of the course. It was great fun and each summer I had to work for my supper,
so to speak. The first one was spent driving back and forwards, every day, from Leeds to Shipley (before the M62 remember) to assess
their TV network performance and improve pictures. This meant opening up god knows how many roadside cabinets and using a van full
of expensive gear to set everything up. As well as that, I had to make adjustments at the local aerial site that was situated in the middle of a field, miles from anywhere. Every lunchtime I stopped for an hour or so and watched the England cricket test matches over a sandwich......in the middle of the field!
For the next couple of summers, I was sent to Coombe, near Kingston Upon Thames, to work at Rediffusion Research in the idyllic manor
house. what a beautiful place. Lot's of fantastic work done there and I didn't want to leave. Such friendly people too. A couple were Polish who stopped in the UK after WW2 service. One had a rare Jaguar sports car that he tried to sell me, cheaply. The trouble was, the doors used to fall off when he went around a corner.
The company provided me with a room in Wimbledon....at the YMCA where I struck up a great friendship with a fellow lodger. Both of us
were into music and built, from scratch, our own hifi systems there. Sadly, Coombe is now a select housing estate these days but every
time I pass it, the memories come back.
After finishing my degree course I went back to Hull, only to be told that they didn't have a suitable vacancy. To be honest, that suited
me as I had the summer off on full pay before moving South to join ITT Television at one of their manufacturing sites where I quickly climbed the ranks to be one of three managers running a 100,000 sq ft colour TV manufacturing factory. Sadly, that was closed by ITT in
1975 and I ended up starting and running my own business, something I still do today and am eternally grateful for the start in life given to me by those great guys and gals at Rediffusion Hull.
151/157 Beverley Road
Kingston-on-Hull, Yorks HU3 1UA Tel: 0482 28691