I now had my first real job with salary of £10 a week. Wow!
The job basically consisted of setting up the sound studios and recording various artists or radio advertisements. It was interesting stuff and not too taxing. The main feature was money for pints. What more could a lad want?
During my first week I got a letter from Pye. They liked my letter I had written and could I call in for an interview? I made my appointment for the Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately the previous day/night had been a long recording session and I had had no sleep for about thirty hours. I nodded off outside the manager’s office in Pye, filthy dirty and with my crash helmet on my lap. The manager was a very decent chap and was impressed with my dedication. He offered me a job at £23 a week.
Back at the studios I was called into the manager’s office. They fired me! I never found out the reason. He said it was because I lacked experience, but he had interviewed me and I had told him at the time I had no experience whatsoever. When I pointed this out he said he thought I was being modest! Anyway, being sacked meant I didn’t have to resign and there was a certain sense of pride at being sacked after only one week in my very first job. Not many can claim that honour?
I started in Pye the following Monday.
Initially my job was testing television chassis as they came off the production line. The bench contained its own fixed screen and tuner and I would connect the chassis up to make sure it worked. Any problems and the chassis would be rejected and passed to a fault technician. After a week I got a strip torn off me by the supervisor – I was fixing too many of the faults myself and was putting the fault technician out of work. Word spread to management and I got promoted.
Factory work was great. It was very noisy and in Winter we froze while in Summer we baked. It used to get so hot that people were regularly carted out only semi-conscious. The craic was mighty particularly among the girls on the production lines. Practical jokes were the norm, such as wiring someone’s chair to a high voltage feed. My favourite was running a rubber pipe from my desk to someone else’s and then blowing cigarette smoke through it. The unfortunate recipient would then go frantic trying to find what part of his chassis was burning. Yes – nearly everyone smoked in those happy days.
When I started in Pye the sets they manufactured were dual-standard. A dirty great switch on the circuit board switched from 405 to 625. Naturally they were all valve driven. However during the Summer holiday [the factory shut for the first two weeks in August] they made some changes. We came back to find new assembly lines and a solder bath at the end of the lines that pumped out heavy fumes to add to the heat and noise. We were to produce a new television which was 625 line only. The new set also had some interesting components I hadn’t seen before – integrated chips. I should add that my college course had all been about valves with little mention of transistors and no mention at all about integrated circuits.
There was a new section in the factory – just one room and it was hallowed ground. Very few were allowed in for some reason. It was in there they tested a new innovation – colour television! Enormous beasts that created more heat than light.
Colour televisions were still very much a luxury item particularly because reception was so bad that an enormous aerial was required. So a common site around Dublin was a pub with COLOUR TV emblazoned across the windows and a massive pole on the roof reaching to the heavens. Of course the publicans wanted their money’s worth so the level of colour was set high so that the picture flared off the screen in primary colours.
I worked in that factory for the best part of two years and loved it. However I then received a latter from RTE saying that they had found my original letter and that there was a vacancy in their Relays division and would I like to go in for an interview? The Holy Grail! I hadn’t a clue what Relays was or did and assumed it was something to do with relaying signals between transmitters.
I arranged a time for the interview.