I left school in June 1969, having had the benefit of an interview with our newly appointed “Careers advisor” (who was in fact the P.E. teacher in his other role, and not the most intellectual member of staff). The interview involved him outlining the options, which basically consisted of starting at the Steelworks or going down the pit. Well my Dad worked down the pit and it made him cough a lot, so I opted for the Steelworks.
In recognition of the fact that I had actually managed to take all my exams, and was on the “brink” of adulthood, I was allowed a week’s holiday, with friends, and without parents at our caravan in Mablethorpe. Now this may not sound like the most exotic destination for today’s well travelled sixteen year olds but it was a hell an adventure for me and my pals at the time. The holiday was fun, although an incident involving a girl from Mansfield, sand and a stray donkey almost left me traumatised.
Anyway, there were two steel companies in Rotherham at that time Steel Peech and Tozer and Park Gate Iron and Steel. Digressing for a moment, it was generally thought that Sheffield was the city of steel, but its smaller neighbour, Rotherham was the larger volume producer. Deliberating about which was potentially the better employer turned out retrospectively to be a wasted effort as although I chose “Steelo’s”, the almost immediate nationalisation of the Steel Industry resulted in them becoming part of the same organisation and I was transferred to Park Gate!
These were the days of “Apprenticeships”, which were basically a trade-off, you got a job with “training” and the employer got cheap labour. To be fair British Steel Corporation as it had become, did a fair job and we had “day release”, night school and a variety of postings. We still had to make the tea (that’s like witch piss lad), and fetch the sandwiches from the canteen, but we did get to spend time and learn about the steelmaking process (electric arc) all the way from the melting shop through to the final rolling and finishing operations. The first experiences of the melting shop at shop floor level were frightening, it was like something out of Dante’s inferno with the heat, the flames and the noise, but it was something that you quickly adjusted too.
It was two years, until I reached eighteen, during which time I discovered Soul music, Lambretta scooters, and beer, met my future wife and passed my ONC before I was able to take up my first full time post. That was at the Brinsworth Hot Strip mill, and so, over thirty years ago began my life in Steel Strip. More about that another time.