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A Shout From The Attic: Albert And The Plank

...Albert was one of those rare souls that seemed to be untroubled by anything. He had forged his niche in life in earlier years, was in a good and stable marriage, was valued as a friend, and appreciated as an employee...

Ronnie Bray continues his engaging life story.

It wasn’t really a plank as planks go, but it was bigger than a piece of wood, and so plank is the closest to whatever name it deserves. Albert, on the other hand, was really an Albert, as you will discover.

Albert was the man whose job I took when I went to work at Peabody-Holmes in Turnbridge, Huddersfield. They did not discharge him in favour of employing me. Albert was close to his retirement date and I was his replacement. In the couple of moths before his expiry date he was to show me the works and fit me for the position he had occupied for more than twenty years, a task he undertook with elan, and well laid back good humour.

Albert was one of those rare souls that seemed to be untroubled by anything. He had forged his niche in life in earlier years, was in a good and stable marriage, was valued as a friend, and appreciated as an employee. He patiently explained the internal logic to the chaos that typified the pattern stores where giant patterns were kept until they were needed for the moulding shop to be used in the manufacturing processes that were the mainstay of the company.

Coupled with the post of pattern storekeeper was the job of cleaning and tidying the joiners’ shop and labouring for the joiners as occasion arose. Pattern makers made no demands on us, except to sweep the floor around their benches, but the joiners kept us busy as we went to various parts of the industrial complex to set up shelves, tables, partitions, and any other thing that they had to erect, fit, fix, or replace.

The joiners shop produced a fair amount of scrap wood, and although it was forbidden to remove the scrap for personal use, by dint of established custom and his ever-present rain mac Albert transported selected pieces of lumber from the scrap pile to his home, sometimes as kindling for his fire, but mostly for use on his spread where he ran a couple of dozen Rhode Island Reds, and a couple of White Leghorns, strictly for the eggs.

Whether he had a particular project on his spread or not, I did not learn, but one day Albert was seized by the necessity of removing a piece of wood of greater proportions than was his customary want. Since he had no car, his transport was the bus, and that meant he had to walk from the factory site across the Turnbridge and up town to the bus stop, hiding his plank in the ample folds of his well worn coat.

On this fateful night, as Albert was leaving through the factory gates, he encountered Mr Cowley, the Managing Director, entering. The pair had long and pleasant association in the workplace and so shared the customary end-of-day salutation. Each then continued on his allotted way.

However, that was not the end of the matter of Albert and the Plank. Next day their paths crossed again. Mr Cowley, a generous spirited and avuncular man, drew Albert to one side, and in a confidential tone advised, “Albert. You need to get a shorter piece of wood or a longer coat!” Each smiled broadly at the other and then continued about their individual businesses. The plank was not mentioned again, and Albert took the lesson to heart. Whether he helped himself to further stock of lumber for his undertakings I know not, but if he did he was careful to follow the MD’s good advice.

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