War heroes who did battle with Derby Telegraph's delivery vans
THE transport department picture featured in the Derby Telegraph of August 7 would have been taken in the mid-to-late 1960s.
The Derby Telegraph garage in Bourne Street, off Osmaston Road, was something to behold. The single petrol pump wasn't connected to mains electricity; instead, the drivers had to pump the fuel out by hand.
The atmosphere in there was always entertaining, however, and it was a good idea to call in first thing in the morning because each day there began with a rather long tea break.
The department was run by Reg Warner, who was against any form of "featherbedding" his staff, as he called it.
Reg had all the heaters removed from the delivery vans in case the drivers "get too comfortable and fall asleep".
Neither were the vehicles equipped with windscreen washers. I often scrounged a lift to places like Albert Village and Overseal, in the heart of the South Derbyshire coalfield, when the job took me there, and it was a nerve-racking experience to be perched beside the driver (there was no passenger seat and, obviously, no seatbelt) as he lent out to squirt water from a Fairy Liquid bottle in an attempt to remove coal dust from the windscreen of a van travelling at 40mph.
The newspaper wasn't doing anything illegal. In the mid-1960s, road regulations didn't regard things like passenger seats and windscreen washers as essential.
The drivers were a pleasant bunch and I enjoyed listening to their stories: Tommy Hatton was landed on the Normandy coast a full 24 hours before D-Day, to help prepare for the Allied invasion of Europe; Les Rhodes had spent two years in North Africa, driving ammunition trucks along 'Messerschmitt Alley'; Jim Blackshaw and Tommy Skinner also had plenty of good war stories to tell; and Gordon Longdon was good company on a long journey.
One of my favourite characters, though, was Arthur Hawksworth, who had served as a Bevin Boy down the pit.
Arthur, who resembled a tall Arthur Askey and whose slightly high-pitched voice had earned him the nickname of Squeak, had a fund of home-spun homilies, chief among which was: "A man who works for nothing and a woman who makes love for nothing are never out of a job." Or words to that effect. Happy days!
Derby Telegraph columnist