Friday, March 30, 2012

Sepia Saturday 119 : Orange Creams Of The World Unite


Coming from a family of mechanics and engineers I have always had a kind of ambivalent attitude towards work. Work was something you did wearing a pair of overalls, something that dripped oil over the back of your hands and required you to walk around with a ruler in your top pocket. By such definitions I have never been a worker, for me, oil was something you cooked your chips in and a ruler was something that lived in a pencil case. For a short time I was a bus conductor and wore a uniform and that was about as close to real work as I ever managed to get. For the rest of the time I wore a suit and shuffled papers about on a desk which, although it meets the old Marxist description of "workers by hand and by brain", never seemed to produce anything.

So for Sepia Saturday this week - where the theme is WORK - I turn to my father, Albert (most of you will recognise him by now, seated just left of centre), who was a worker by any definition of the term. Here he sits in front of one of the machines he will have helped to build and install, and what a wonderful machine it is : a real machine. It has levers and dials, buttons and switches and looks set to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile into orbit. However, the only thing it would launch into orbit was an Hazelnut Cracknell or a Strawberry Delight, for my father worked for the sweet and chocolate manufacturer, John Mackintosh, makers of Quality Street.

The photograph perfectly illustrates a pride in work and workmanship. Here was a body of men (ah, in those distant and unenlightened days, the men built the machines and the women operated them) who had collectively created something; something which they no doubt thought would last for a hundred years. It didn't : the firm is gone, the factory is gone and the machine will be long gone. But the photograph has survived, so I am going to reach over and select an Orange Cream from the tin on my desk and pay homage to the world of work and workers.


To see the work of other Sepia Saturday contributors, visit the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

40 comments:

  1. Looks like the thing they used to crack the ENIGMA code.

    Pity you're not an engineer - just got a Mountford petrol mower on Freecycle which needs nothing more that a new thrutch sprogget (or somesuch) to make it serviceable. Was going to ask you to give me a hand.

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    1. Phil : I will design you one and send you the drawings next week.

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  2. Those blokes in the photo are really all Cambridge boffins from Bletchley Park, aren't they? I can spot wossisface there - Alan Turing.

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    1. Alan Turing - The inventor of the Mark 1 caramel computer (in the bright purple wrapper)

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  3. Hmmmm... All those guys needed just to make the candy on your desk possible. Who would have thought that humanity's inherent sweet tooth could ensure employment?

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  4. Three cheers for those who built the pleasure machine!

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  5. Alan, there is so much to enjoy here. I counted only four smiles and one tentative curl of the lip, which may or may not have been a smile. Was it not a happy place to work? Could the absence of ladies account for this? Perhaps this also accounts for the firm’s demise. There were female engineers around at the time and one wonders why none was working here; after all, who knows most about chocolate - men, or women? I rest my case.

    I am reminded, for some reason, of the Smothers Brothers’ wonderful story about falling into a vat of chocolate. It’s on YouTube but Blogger won’t let me put the link on here. Do, google it, it’s funny.

    We have chocolate manufacture in common then - remember my story about my grandmother in ‘She Did Her Bit’? She worked for a chocolatier before WW1.

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  6. So who makes the Quality Street we see in the shops these days? Must be another bunch of quality chaps and chapesses somewhere. The thing that fascinated me about your photo was the age range of the men involved.

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  7. I worked at some temporary jobs once at some places that packaged snacks. The guy who kept the machines running had a real job.

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  8. That's a treasure of a photo. To think it took that many people to design a machine to make sweets. And I'm sure there were lots of other machines in the plant. Lots to keep engineers busy.
    It seems we had lots in common this week with our engineer fathers, but yours wasn't wearing a pin!
    Nancy

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  9. They look proud of a job well done. I would never have suspected it was a candy making machine.

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  10. Your dad looks happy and proud of his work. As he should be. This machine must have made a lot of people happy.
    Alan, Thanks for your always wonderful comments. I always look forward to them.
    Barbara

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  11. You've reminded me of the 18 months I spent working for the British American Tobacco Co. They offered to train me to be a mechanic, but it just wasn't my thing. I remember the noise of the machinery well. Luckily we had two tea-rooms on each production floor, staffed with kindly ladies who demonstrated great urn management skills. This was a peaceful haven away from the dust and clatter.

    p.s. Got any of those triangles left? You know, the ones in the green foil wrappers. My favourites.

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  12. Hi Alan, a wonderful picture, we think it lasts forever and it never does, it seems it now lasts if we are lucky a year. My husband worked with electronics, and when he started in the sixties, seventies, it needed a huge room to house the computers, and then they shrank until all fitted into a matchbox. And now they are barley visible!

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  13. Wonderful picture. I can't see the folks where I work looking quite so proud of what they do.. pushing paper around may not be so strenuous but sometimes it's hard to see what you've achieved.

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  14. If I remember rightly, Quality Street now says Nestle on the packaging. Shame :(

    If I were to select a 'toffee', it would be a coffee cream :)

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  15. I spotted your father right away, which made me think about how we get to know people we've never met on blogs.

    Now I'm off to look at the Smothers Brothers video that Little Nell recommended.

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  16. Wonderful picture and thank you to the builders of candy machine and the women who worked on them.

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  17. Nice post! That's what I call a proper machine - lots of dials, buttons and levers :o)

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  18. ah candy, I too would not have guessed that such a machine was for that purpose. So interesting this week to see the folks at what I descendant of working people thought to be real work--like you, I never was into what I thought was real work other than my own garden. I was a bureaucrat, a fine one too but glad those days are over and I can sit and toast real workers like this AM with a good coffee and cinnamon roll, likely made in some bakery using a well built machine.

    No matter how early I think I am on Saturdays--there across the big pond, folks beat me to posting and reading.

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  19. I can see several examples of dripped oil in the photo! He couldn't have worked at a better place. I hope there were plenty of free samples.

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  20. How lucky that they made something that makes so many people happy!

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  21. Ah! I Close My Eyes & I Can Smell The Scent of Mackintosh's Wafting Across The Halifax Skyline!

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  22. My mom adore MAckintosh!

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  23. I'm still around, and as always, ready to put my brother to rights. So as an engineer, let me add...

    The picture dates from when my father's worked as an engineer at Fields (Packaging)Bradford. That was before his time at Mackintoshes. The factory was housed in a "state of the art" 1930′s Art Deco building. It closed down last year. Ali, it might be worth a photo if they haven't already demolished it. It's located at the bottom side of the park across the road from Southmere Drive.

    It's worth noting that in those days enginners wore ties - my father did right up to retirement.

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    1. Now just as I was wondering where on earth you were, back you come to let the truth get in the way of a good story. Mind you, with the change of workplace location, most of the post stays the same except the end product changes from caramels and butterscotch to Park Drives and Capstan as I seem to recall that Fields made machines for the cigarette industry! I will try and get to see the Fields building before it is swept away.

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  24. Elder brothers, eh!

    Alan - my sympathies. I also have one of these elder brother things.

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    1. You are so right. You don't hear from the old bugger for three months and then back he comes to contradict you.

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  25. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Great post Alan. Ah, before the computer age, people all worked together and formed a team. I know this is being done nowadays, but, it is over the "net", no opportunity to take a group picture like this one. Rosie.

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  26. Yes, I recognised your Dad - he looks like he's having a bit of a chuckle. Can you pass me one of the purple-wrapped quality street please? I'll give the Capstans a miss :-) Jo

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  27. Yes, I recognised your Dad - he looks like he's having a bit of a chuckle. Can you pass me one of the purple-wrapped quality street please? I'll give the Capstans a miss :-) Jo

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  28. All I keep thinking is did he bring samples home? Lots and lots of samples. Did you have a golden ticket?

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    1. Hi Alan, that is a wonderful picture. Quite a sturdy machine for sure. And so big! It is fun to see your Dad at work too.

      Kathy

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  29. You would have claimed this was a special project for NASA
    that I would have believed you. I am THAT naive after all!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  30. I don't know if it is true, but they look as if they are glad to be part of a team. I think that people now miss the chance to be part of a larger unit, with all the outsourcing and contract work and downsizing.
    I don't think Quality Street as as good as they used to be! but personally I'll have the caramel thing with the nut in it :)

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  31. Sweet work..I would never have guessed that it was a candy making machine:)

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  32. Great photo! My father also was a machinist at some points in his work life--in addition to being cook, carpenter, stone mason, millwright, chief in the Navy & a few other things I probably never have heard about! That is work in the old sense.

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  33. Yep, recognized Albert immediately, like seeing an old friend.

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