Early memories by Anthony Arthur Edge
My name is Tony I was born during a very hot August 1944 in war time Britain. Two months before the 300,000 allied troops landed at Normandy.
My dad was on active service with the Royal Army Service Corps.
Going back to some of my earliest recollections of my Dads Soft drink factory.
At about the age of four being taken to the works and riding by tram along Stockport Road Longsight on the very last journey before the trams were retired to make way for the trolley buses.
The tram was very noisy. A man with a wooden pole had to get out every so often and adjust the boom under the overhead live wires.
I was amazed to see no steering wheel, just a brass bar with a vertical handle. The driver moved the lever 90 degrees to drive tram.
Often being taken for lunch at the Ardwick Cinema.
a very special visit having photographs taken at a Kendal Mills Manchester with my sister Christine. The restaurant was very elegant a small band played music for the diners. Most photographs in those days were black and white my Mum asked to have one of the photographs hand painted with coloured ink.
The factory seemed to me at that age quite frightening. Similar to Quartermast Science fiction film. With strange noises pipes leaking steam all sorts of smells and towering boxes of bottles like skyscrapers. Machinery clanking hissing.
Staff talked about the Ghost of Mr Sykes they were frightened when alone and talked about Sykes ghost they could hear someone walking on the floorboards above. Tales were escalated to some of the poor juniors.
The works ceiling looked like something out of a mill with layshafts large flywheels with 6inch flat belts driving the machinery below. A huge 50hp motor on the floor above drove everything.
To stop a machine it was a matter of pushing the belt sideways and running the belt of the pulley. Sometimes the belts would break repairs could be made without stopping the motor by hammering claws into the belt and fitting a new clevis pin.
Upstairs seemed friendlier. The floor was about 60ft by 200ft and stacked with hundreds of 1cwt bags of sugar in brown Hessian bags. At the far end was my dads L shaped office which had a coal fire, a large mahogany desk with a green top.An old fashioned black bakelite Dog and Bone telephone took pride of place upon the desk with the telephone number Ardwick 2045.
All telephone business was taken on this one phone. A great big bell rang down stairs.
A large Chubb safe with a central ornate brass knob stood on a wooden stand a huge brass key was needed to open the heavy safe door.
The adjacent office had a large bay window looking out to Plymouth Avenue. Around the window and wall was a high desk with sloping mahogany worktops.
On the other wall was a massive detailed canvas map of Manchester. I was fascinated by all the detail.
A door opened to the outside veranda and wooden stairs led down to the filter sheds Stables and the large cobbled yard huge great wooden pallets held stocks of new Redfern bottles from Barnsley. The toilets were outside, no lights, newspaper torn and placed on a 6 inch nail.
The cobbled courtyard opened to Plymouth Avenue. By late afternoon the driver salesmen would reverse into the yard unload the empty bottles and cases. t
These would be carried into the stables for counting My Payne or Bill Lockett who would also check unsold minerals and stock.
Mr. Payne was in charge of the syrup room. To the left hand side of the long narrow room was a long wooden bench.
Set into the bench were round white enameled round vats holding about 10 gallons of syrup.
To the right was another long bench with rows of large beautifully coloured bottles full of essence several stainless steel buckets on the floor. The smells were very powerful. The aroma of fruit essence the sweet smells of all the concentrated ingredients.
Mr. Payne had a surprise for me. Come over to the syrup room I am going to make you something very special?
He went into the dark room at the far end and came out with his hand written menu book. Several coloured bottles and a large stainless steel mixing bowl.
With a mortar and pestle he started grinding the sugar mixing all sorts of powders colouring flavoring into the mixture. He let the mixture stand for a short while went back into the darkroom and came out with some brown paper and some wooden roots.
He made some paper cones and added the fruity rainbow powder to the cone.
Sweets were still on ration I had never seen sherbet or liquorices root.
Mr. Payne said dip the liquorice stick into the sherbet and see what you think. The sherbet it's tasted delicious he filled one of those old fashioned sweet jars with the rainbowed coloured mixture to take home.
“Do you want some soldiers?”
Of course I did. He shouted over to Allan “Show Tony how to make soldiers”.
Allan took me over to the canteen he found a big ladle like a massive spoon he put some old broken syphon tops some bits of old lead pipe into the ladle. He put the ladle on the roaring coke fire.
He picked up the steel molds and removed the steel clips.
The mold separated into two haves. Alan then lit a candle held the molds over candle to coat them in black soot and he then clipped them back together. By this time the ladle was shimmering with the molten bright silver.
He poured a small amount of liquid into the mold after a few moments released the clips and out dropped a bright shiny soldier.
The syphon tops are made with pure tin and the metal is quite hard the lead helps to allow the hot alloy flow into the mold.
I was able to explore anywhere upstairs away from the machinery I spent many hours looking in a massive cabinet full of pre-war labels with prices on half an old pence pop at 1/2d a bottle.
Nothing had been thrown away. There must have been thousands with every soft drink you could think of.
The small staff canteen near the syrup room had a large fireplace and at the other end a large wooden table with mugs milk and sugar.
Under the table in the canteen was a box of old workmen's clogs.
A black iron kettle was kept on the coke fire.
When the kettle was boiling one of the girls would tip in tea milk and sugar into the kettle. One of the juniors would take over a cup of the brew to my dad's office.
It was bitterly cold in the winter the girls used to wrap their feet in newspaper before putting on their Wellington's.
There was no heating in the factory apart from a stove downstairs in the storeroom. This was needed to prevent stop the bottles from freezing in Winter.
If my dad was away, the early morning tea break was often taken huddled around the cast iron coke stove. The trusty iron kettle was heated on the stove.
Mum and Dad were fortunate in buying two cottages in the Goyt Valley Derbyshire after the death of Mums elderly relative. for £500.
At the start of school summer holidays we would often travel with Dad to the Works.
leaving at 7.30am in the morning. Dad was kept very busy during the Summer.
On arrival in Manchester. We would wait for a bus to take us to Fernilee.
We must have looked quite a site Mum and my older sister Christine. Timmy our pet dog, A budgerigar in a cage, A Tortoise, a goldfish in a bowl, food, toys.
Dad would join us all late in the evening. Even in those days the A6 was quite busy the journey would take about one hour.
We spent many happy carefree days at Fernilee the small hamlet had many children.
The Broklehurst Farm adjacent was always buzzing with activity. With free horse rides
playing on the haystacks. Christine was very friendly with Margaret Brokelhurst..
I played with Christopher Townsend.
My cousins Wendy and Barbara Frankish would stay in the end cottage with my Grandad Horsfield and Grandma Horsfield. A good time was had by all.
My Uncle Alan Collier a teacher from Timperley made good friends with Alan Brocklehurst. During the early summer my Uncle would help with the sheep shearing he thoroughly enjoyed the different way of life on a farm.
My mum and loved the cottage.
We are fortunate Christine and myself still have the two cottages.
Dad made good friends with the locals free boxes of pop was always well received.