The worst job I ever had – working in the factory
The worst job ever was factory work. It is soul destroying.
The day started at 8.00 am. sharp. You had to punch your card into a machine. If you were more than three minutes late they docked you quarter of an hour. If you were more than five minutes it was half an hour. I hated getting up so I was invariably late which meant I had to sit there doing the job for free for half an hour.
The factory made loudspeaker cones for Marconi.
My job was to man a machine that trimmed the edges off the cones.
I had to learn a routine. I was supplied with a pile of speaker cones. Mine were oval six inch speaker cones. I picked one up with my left hand and placed it on the mould on the machine. If you did not get it perfectly aligned it was trimmed wrongly and had to be discarded. I pulled the lever with my right hand. The machine punched down with great force and trimmed the edges off. I picked the trimmed cone and put it on a stick with my right hand while picking another up from the other heap with my left and repeating the process. Once you achieved a rhythm it was fast and easy. It was getting that rhythm that was hard.
I was the second in line. The first guy had a machine that punched a hole in the centre. The third guy fitted it in a metal frame. The fourth guy screwed a few screws in to hold it in place.
It was piece-work. We had a rate of pay that related to the numbers of speakers produced. There were long lines of us. Each line worked on a different size or shape of speaker.
At the first break it was explained to me, with a few punches, knees and kicks, that everyone’s pay depended on the slowest in the line. I was the slowest. I speeded up quickly.
I sat mindlessly at my machine going through the rhythm and singing every song I could remember. By the end of the second week I was going out of my mind with boredom.
I was working the summer – just six weeks. I drew a chart up on the wall with every hour marked up on it. Every break I’d go along and cross the hours off so I could see my progress.
One of the guys came along and asked what I was doing. I told him what it was. He was angry and tore it down.
One guy was coming up to retirement. He was sixty five years old and had started work in the place as an eleven year old sweeping floors! He had the most skilled job in the place. He operated the suction machine. There was a huge vat of liquid papery pulp. He had a suction machine with a mould the shape of the speaker. He dipped it in the pulp and sucked the pulp on to the mould. When it was the right thickness he withdrew the suction machine and plopped the cone on to a pile by reversing the suction. His was skilled because he had to regulate the consistency of the pulp in the vat and judge the length of suction to get exactly the right thickness.
He had been working in the place for fifty four years. I was in doubt as to whether I was going to manage six weeks. It was purgatory.
The only job worth having in the place was the dope room. Once the speakers had been trimmed they were sent to be lacquered. They were passed through a trough of lacquer and then put to one side to dry.
The dope room was a long sealed room. One guy worked in there all day, dipping speaker cones and drying them. If you were in the room for longer than two minutes you were so woozy that you could hardly stand. I walked through it every shift.
The dope guy told me that he loved his job. He did all the over-time he could get and even worked his holidays.
I do not think health and safety had been thought of in that factory.