by John Simpson
I was 15 years old when I started work. My first wage was £2.16s (£2.80!) per week - the labour rate was 19s (95p) per hour. Unbelievable, but true.
Every morning I would sweep the workshop floor before being given another task. One such job was greasing the wheel bearings on Mr R's boat trailer, a straightforward enough but messy job. He used to keep his boat in the back of the showroom; a Parker 505 I think it was.
Eventually I was 'allocated' to a mechanic, Mick who was about 25 years old. He taught me a lot in my first year. My job usually involved changing oil and greasing. I remember one incident when greasing a Citroen DS using a power greaser, the customer was watching me working when the gun slipped off the nipple and hit him, covering his jacket and trousers! Whoops - another telling off!!
It was quite common for customers to come into the workshop (Health and Safety?) and watch us working on their cars. This is something that's missing today, because we'd build up a good rapport with our customers and it helped to talk to them to find exactly what their problems were. Today’s service receptionists don't understand and are unable to communicate it to the technicians.
In 1969 I was signed up to a 4 year apprenticeship and I started day release at my local technical college. Now I wasn't the best student at school, but excelled at college due to being interested in the subject. Once a month my boss used to quiz me about what I'd learned. He expected a lot but when I got my exam results his expectations were realised with me gaining distinctions in my exams and gaining my City & Guilds certificates.
We were a Citroen main dealer, selling new and used Citroens, one of my messy jobs was removing the wax off new cars using a rag soaked in petrol - no steam cleaners back then - it was a terrible job.
After a while as well as dewaxing new cars I was allowed to help with pre delivery inspections. This involved well, checking everything really, all nuts, bolts etc. As well as fitting seat belts, number plates and radios, fitting roof mounted radios aerials to the Citroen GS's involved removing the windscreen! Doing a P.D.I. correctly could take all day!
Keep looking, more to come.
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