Sunday 22nd January, 1961

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you very much for comprehensive letter with all the latest dope. I am not surprised you had to read my last several times to sort out all the bits and pieces. We certainly had variety all right and there is more to come later in this letter.

Firstly let me say that June’s foot is much better now, and can almost be trodden on with safety. Most of the old skin has now gone, and only the hardened edges of the scald are left. The new skin tender and red is toughening up satisfactorily and there is no sign of any part turning septic. For all practical purposes the case book there is now closed, with relief and luck.

The episode of the car is quite amusing to look back on and I agree that good job doors were closed. I take no steps to lock car doors in garage as the girls are not supposed to be let in. There is usually a saw or two, or bottle of some slug killer or liquinure floating about, and it would make hard and unnecessary work hoisting all the lethal objects up out of the way, so easiest way is to keep them out.

Susan has produced another nice drawing this week, in fact the place is covered with them. I am not sure which one is intended for you, will have to find out.

Yes I started the new job on Monday last but not very much to report yet. The Motive Power chap is not very happy – he comes from Newport and as his equivalent job in Cardiff has become vacant already he is after a transfer. The Commercial man is not far off retirement ( less than ten years). He is a big N.U.R. man having started on the deck at Paddington Goods and stayed there all his working life to date. He came to us at Reading for his training. He told me then that he went to Moscow with Jim Figgins* and met Stalin or who ever was the big shot then. Quite a nice chap but has a somewhat limited scope.

So far the drill has been indoctrinate into Commercial Department methods. McDonald has the reins in his hands and insists that everything be standardised on Commercial lines. Remember the three Work Study Assistants so far appointed in the Divisions are all Commercial? My staff have been put with existing commercial assignments to learn their methods. I gather that my first job will be to supervise the Paddington Parcels job which has already started. Applications have been received for us to prepare schemes for the signalmen at Old Oak Common (about six boxes ) Yard Staff at Acton, Parcels staff at Acton, and the Area Board Chairman (who lives at Oxford ) wants Oxford station re-appraised. Can see a merry time ahead. McDonald started off by lunching the three of us plus head of his admin. section.

I am sorry Mum had got ahead with preparations for my visit, but as you appreciate I cannot look very far ahead in planning these trips. Visits are out now for a while I am afraid. Yes Easter will not be long now will it? I have not looked up the date but gather it is in March this year. With February a short month we shall have to start preparations for your visit.

You certainly have got some bother with your electric lighting. I should imagine Bell’s best bet ( and cheapest ) will be to disconnect the existing wiring altogether, put in a 30 amp. fuse box and put you in two separate ring mains ( 13 amp. sockets) one downstairs and one upstairs. At a guess I would say that the 30 amp. box would be about £1 plus say £3 for wire, apart from labour charge of installation. To this should be added the cost per socket outlet which would be say 12/- ea. excluding labour charge. I think your cooker which comes off a separate fuse box would not be affected. Of course by this method you would not have centre or wall lights in rooms, or unsightly switches by the door. Wall lighting could be provided by running a short length of conduit up from the junction box. By the system described, the fuse box, two ring mains, with outlets ( two in Dining Boom, and Front Boom, and in kitchen, and one each in hall, landing, three bedrooms and bathroom) would come to about £ 11 excluding labour charge ( which is anyones guess ). All additional points could be put in by yourself, and this would also give some scope for standard lamp making. It would appear from the evidence of burning that you have been very lucky – that is how Mr Baker’s cinema at Southend burned down.**

Note you will be coming round with the hat and no doubt an advance on car just now would be helpful, but I am afraid I shall have to say I am sending you £5 but not this week. Seriously, I have not forgotten the subject, and have to say the outstanding will be cleared off this year.

I note your request about Norman Allen. So far as he is concerned, I do not think he need worry. As he says not many want to rough it and do much travelling about. My advice to him is to show the maximum of enthusiasm for the work, say that only by Work Study can the present mess be sorted out, and believe it himself. Persons applying for Class Twos are not expected to know much about Work Study, that can be taught. What is necessary is to decide if the man is the right type.*** He should at some stage of the interview mention that he has applied before, is still anxious to take up this work, and has made enquiries from staff as to the nature of the work etc. If he has any sense he will not mention George Welch’s name in this connection unless he is asked point blank. He can mention my name if he likes.

Mann is in the Bristol Area all next week until Friday, so I can not get hold of him but Stevens is at Transom House on Monday and will see Mann that evening so if Norman wants to he can contact him and express his enthusiasm for the work. ( Sorry I realise that this letter will arrive too late to do any good for this Monday ). I should certainly tell him to get in tough with Mann or Stevens on the side and explain the position.

Nothing further to report on the Yiewsley Housing situation. Seems to be a lack of funds on the part of the prospective purchasers, linked with the refusal of their plans by the council etc. Everyone there is as well as can be expected although not exactly bursting with health.

Sorry to hear of the Kenn Rd accident. How we avoided a similar incident I do not know, June took Susan and Carol to the party on Saturday while I went off to the match. I got back about five past five and was just putting the car away when June came round from next door. It appears that only a few moments before, a knock came at the front door, and there was Carol with no hat or coat. She had slipped out of the party and found her way back in the dark across two roads. Of course June nearly passed out when she saw her and was just dumping her on the Benns to go to look for Susan in case she was out anywhere. When I got to the party Susan was there right enough and no one had noticed that Carol was gone. Was able to pass on the shock to the Sunday School Teachers there. No one will ever know what traffic was on the roads that she crossed and I suppose it is better not to think about it. It appears she had lead them a bit of a dance by asking to go to toilet and then not doing anything. Who opened the door for her no one knows. I am pretty satisfied that Susan did not do it.

Not much point in giving you a report on the match. The result was no more than just. I was surprised to see that the team as a whole played as if it did not matter awfully much one way or the other. I saw Doug Hand after the game and he was greatly disappointed. He says he is working in Portishead ( ? in or near the Gas Co. or Works ) right opposite to the Electricity concern and sees Frank Hessel frequently.

Sorry your gardening endeavours upset pencil holding. Why not try one of these? [ i.e. a typewriter]

Note Mum’s remarks on the scald treatment but our book says the same. Dr. said not to cover it at all or put anything on it and ordered bathing in pint of tepid water to which one teaspoon of salt had been added.

Yes the lights in the garage must have been nuts for them. They pulled all the knobs in sight, and it must have been like playing a harmonium.

I must tall you what Susan told me about the party. She said “I tried to get some of the boys to dance with me” and then said ( like an angler who has fished all day and only caught one) “one did for about half an hour”.

Bad luck on your entry in the competition, but your outings sound good also the film. Talking about Madeira, I had a taste of my latest concoction yesterday and it is progressing very well. Shall have to make some more soon – I see some dates left over from Xmas lurking around doing nothing.

By the way please let us have George Hunt’s correct address when you get a chance. We keep sending card c/o Mr P.

Well there it is for this week again. Hope you are well. Won’t be long to better weather now. Love from us all.

[*General Secretary of the N.U.R. 1948-1953]

[**Okay, this is a bit bewildering. Frank Baker ran both the Strand and the Mascot cinemas in Southend/Westcliff. You would think, from the way Alec expresses himself, that the cinema in question had been destroyed by fire, as indeed the Mascot was – but not until 1964. The Strand closed in 1960 and was subsequently demolished to allow for the extension of a nearby department store; I have been unable to find any mention of a fire there. In fact it looks as if Frank might have left the Strand when it was bought by the Essoldo chain in 1955 and taken on the sweetshop/tobacconist in West Drayton/Yiewsley at that point. At any rate the ‘Picture Palaces’ page on the ‘Southend Timeline’ (see Mascot link above) only lists one cinema as having been completely destroyed by fire and that was much later and as a result of boys throwing fireworks, apparently, not electrical failure. If either cinema – or indeed a different one – was damaged but not destroyed by fire at another time, I have yet to locate any information about it.]

[***Naturally, no women were expected to apply.]