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Two Rooms And A View: 109 - To The South On Itchy Feet

...During these years our versatile and cheap-to-run Lambretta scooter continued to be our main mode of transport. That was until the horrendous winter of 1963. This, with a growing family, convinced us of the need for a car. When I started working south of the river at Wright's Biscuits, this became possible. So, saving mostly Angela's hard earned part-time teaching money, the following year we bought a new car. We chose a Ford Anglia with its unique forward sloping rear window. It cost 514 and we had to pay extra for a heater, which then was classed as an optional extra but was already fitted. While driving home I recall thinking, what would our socialist and mining grandparents have thought about their grandchildren owning a car and buying a house?...

Robert Owen buys a new car and decides to move south to work in Manchester.

To read earlier chapters of Robert's story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/two_rooms_and_a_view/

By the autumn of 1963 my part-time study had started to pay off. I had obtained a Certificate in Work Study and was well on my way studying for a Diploma in Management Studies. After nearly three years' good and varied experience with Geo Angus, my feet were itchy again. Throwing caution to the wind, I applied for a lecturer's job in further education and got my first interview. This was in Nottingham and although I didn't get the job, I got some much-appreciated advice. This was to get a City and Guilds Part-time Teacher's Certificate and some wider industrial experience. I did both during the next two years.

In late 1963 I got two jobs and had difficulty in deciding which to accept. The first was working with a firm of Management Consultants at Wright's Biscuits, a local company at the top of Stanhope Road. The second was with Rank, Bush, Murphy, the well-known radio and TV manufacturers, who were to open a new factory on land where houses had been demolished at High Shields. The only problem with this post was that the company wanted me to work at their factory in Plymouth, prior to their factory opening in Shields. After much deliberation, I chose the former.

During these years our versatile and cheap-to-run Lambretta scooter continued to be our main mode of transport. That was until the horrendous winter of 1963. This, with a growing family, convinced us of the need for a car. When I started working south of the river at Wright's Biscuits, this became possible. So, saving mostly Angela's hard earned part-time teaching money, the following year we bought a new car. We chose a Ford Anglia with its unique forward sloping rear window. It cost 514 and we had to pay extra for a heater, which then was classed as an optional extra but was already fitted. While driving home I recall thinking, what would our socialist and mining grandparents have thought about their grandchildren owning a car and buying a house?

The nineteen sixties were still the age when, if you owned a motor car, you were expected to keep it in a garage. Indeed, during previous years, if a car was parked on the road after lighting up time, it had to display a red parking light. Prosecutions were frequent, so we had our back yard converted into a garage before purchasing the Ford Anglia. At the same time, with the aid of a local authority grant, an old air raid shelter in the yard was converted into a bathroom and toilet, with a linking passage to the house.

Workwise, I got some varied experience at Wright's Biscuits but, like a lot of companies, they were not prepared to fully endorse the 'Consultant's recommendations, so we parted company after about nine months. I then moved on to another company, S Newman, who had a lingerie factory in Commercial Road.

I enjoyed working at Newman's. There were about one hundred women, a dozen men and some interesting products. Continuous pop music was played in the factory and the 'hit' at the time was Petula Clarke's 'Downtown'. Every time I hear it now, I think of Newman's. I also recall going to the firm's dinner at the Majestic when there was a major power cut just as the main course was being served!

However, my interest in obtaining a lecturing post in further education was never far away. After passing my Diploma in Management exams and qualifying for Associate Member of the British Institute of Management - later the Chartered Institute of Management - in 1965, I applied for a number of such posts.

I soon learnt that it was standard practice, for prospective employers to ask applicants for two referees, when applying for a job in further education. This was not a problem until a college in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, stipulated that one of these referees, had to be the applicant's present employer. In my innocence, I politely asked the local authority not to contact Newman's until I had accepted the post.

With the name of Owen and it being a Welsh college, I soon got an interview. Unfortunately, the first I knew about it was when one of the Directors at Newman's said, "What's this about you applying for a teacher's post in Wales?" I confirmed it was true and he replied, "Well if that's what you want to do, you had better leave at the end of the month."

I didn't get the job at Merthyr Tydfil, but fortunately was successful with a similar post at Salford College of Technology the following week. I was over the moon at getting such an opportunity, even if it meant moving away and a drop in salary.

However, my enthusiasm was not shared by everyone. Some members of my family said that I was betraying my 'Geordie' heritage by moving away and, "Why can't you get a teaching job here?"

My cousin Ethel Chapman was particularly hostile. She had been to teacher training college for two years full time and now frowned on me obtaining a full-time lecturer's post with only a part-time lecturer's qualification. I had to remind her that in 1965, over 50% of lecturers in further education had no teaching qualification whatsoever!

Angela's parents were just the opposite. While not wanting us to move away, her mother commented in traditional style, "You have got to move where your man goes."

A coincidence I was not aware of at the time was, that by working in Salford, I was unconsciously returning to the domain of my great grandparents Edward and Ellen Owen, who about a century earlier had lived a few miles away in London Road, Manchester.

If the family were surprised by our move to the Manchester area they were more than shocked a few years later when my nephew Malcolm (Jenny and Leslie's son) announced he and his family were emigrating to Australia. They made a success of the move and are still there over thirty years later.

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