Joe McHenry recalls his work as a telephonist at Edge Hill station
Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 20th February 2012 by Liam Physick
Joe McHenry recalls how his worked as a telephonist on the switchboards at Edge Hill goods yard: he had to keep a record of the wagons that entered and left the yard, and type invoices. Then he went to night school at Exchange station, and then did his National Service at an unusually early age when he learned of the poor pay prospects on the railway
Interviewee: Joe McHenry
Interviewee Gender: Male
Date of Interview: 1st December 2011
Jodie: Were you born in this area, were you?
Joe: Yes, I was born in Acton Street, which is, which was just off Spekeland Road, but I’m afraid it’s demolished now and there’s only buildings there. I was born in November 1938, a little bit of a time ago, I’m afraid!
Jodie: Yeah! (both laugh)
Joe: I worked at Edge Hill goods station for about a year when I left school. It was only two minutes, a quick walk away from my house, so it was very convenient, depending on the shift I was on. But when I first started, in the autumn of 1955, I had to walk from Acton Street round to a building which was opposite the Botanic, the Botanic pub which again has been demolished, and the building where I worked has been demolished. I had to get in for half past six which was quite a shock, to a schoolboy or a former schoolboy, and I was the only one in. I had to keep the fire going, man the switchboard which was one of those old . . . switchboards with all the holes in it, you might have seen that in a film, an old film . . .
Joe: . . . I had to man that until the telephonists came in at eight o’clock, and then I carried on with my normal work. Then it was a strange job because, when the wagons came into the goods yard, nobody actually knew where they’d gone, sometimes, they come in loaded, and be unloaded, and nobody knew where they were. But they kept a record of, of . . . when I say nobody knew where they were, it was difficult to find out where they were – they kept a record where they’d shunted them off to, and sometimes you’d find them in Leeds and they should have been in Manchester, so it was a good, bit like a, bit of detective work, it was boring in a way, cos you had to look through lists and lists to, to find them.
Joe: The office itself, I had an ordinary desk but, a lot of the clerks there had those old desks that you saw in pictures of Dickens’ novels, you know where they’re on a slant . . .
Joe: . . . and you’ve great big ledges, but I didn’t have to work on one of those. What else can I tell you abut that? But after a while they decided that I really belonged in the fording part of the business as part from the receiving, and I was moved into the front of the building with about, there must have been about four or five other young lads there, and we worked shifts, nine to five, 10 til six or half two to half 10. But the half 10 one was a good one because it was a bit of a nuisance going in in the afternoon but you went home when the work was finished, and what we were doing in the early part and late part of the evening was typing invoices, so there were four or five us young 17 year olds all busy typing away as if we were professional typists . . .
Jodie: Yeah! (laughs)
Joe: . . . so . . . and anyway that was, was towards the end of . . . well, the end of the summer of 1956, that would have been . . . and, I decided . . . oh, and I went to night school as well, they had a night school, in Exchange station, which was in Liverpool, again, that’s a station (coughs), excuse me, it’s a station that’s gone, it’s, they’ve put new buildings, but I used to go down there to, to night school, and – with a pass, supplied by the railway – I used to get on the train at Edge Hill and get off at Lime Street and walk across town. So it’s . . . it was interesting in a way, but then I found out that the maximum wage you, you, you reached the dizzy heights when you were 27, you’d be on your maximum pay, which wasn’t very much, and so I decided it wasn’t really something I wanted to follow as a career, so I was, I’d be . . . coming up to 18 then, not far off 18, and so I registered early for the army to do my National Service, so I left and got a job in the car donor in Dale Street, and worked there for about six months and then went into the army . . .
Jodie: Oh, right!
Joe: . . . so I was in and out of my National Service by the time I was, when I was . . . I came out in the April, and I was 21 in November, which was quite early for being in and out . . .
Joe: . . . cos lots of lads were deferred for some reason, you know, one reason or another (coughs) . . .
Jodie: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Joe: . . . and they were going in at 21, 22, so it was quite a wrench for them to go in it at that age, I would have thought, yeah.
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