Sam Harris looks back at days gone by
Some time ago Big Al wrote a series of articles about the early
days of ODRTS with particular emphasis on the Board Members of that time. He was not, of
course, to know about the subscribers or the jobs they did. So, as one of the first 70 or
so, it might prove interesting, and perhaps amusing to talk about those times. This time
it will be the turn of the drivers.
ALFIE GREEN, ALFIE GREEN, RIDING THROUGH THE GLEN
Now, can you imagine the triangle at the bottom of Sussex
Gardens being two way and at the Westbourne Terrace end, a coffee stall to boot? Well, it
was so, and that is where many of the early morning men gathered at about 6a.m.
Charlies was the name of this August establishment and Charlie himself was the
Chef Chevalier who specialised in sandwiches, sausages, eggs, bacon, cheese,
and all together if required. Charlies hands and fingers always seemed to be covered in
calluses and warts, etc, but we pretended not to notice, a consensus of opinion being that
they may have flavoured the food somewhat.
So who attended this eatery par excellence? Well,
unfortunately most of the clientele have been putting onto that great rank in the
sky for some years now, but please remember that the call signs I quote are the
originals so that if, dear reader, you are now the possessor of one of them, hold your
head high because you are following a great person (sometimes!).
Alfie Green, Apple 35, big, burly, bald
headed man from North London who at the early AGMs held at the old Knowledge school by the
Oval, demanded at the beginning of each meeting that the proceedings cease prompt at
5p.m.as it took him 30 minutes to get home and Robin Hood commenced at 5.30p.m. on ITV and
no way was he going to miss it. The Chairman and the members acquiesced!
Bernie Lyons, Black 45 and perhaps the
greatest radio man of all, later became a Board member and occasionally despatched. His
favourite saying on the rare times when we were busy was "Come on Gents, you
cant bank Derv!" Bernie died at the early age of 51, spending 4years of his
life in a German POW camp having been captured before the 8th Army attack in the Egyptian
After his death, as a sign of remembrance and
respect, his call sign would not be used again. This decision was made by the then Board
of Management under the able Chairmanship of Jack Russell. I was, and still am, proud
of being a member of that B.O.M. This decision was, of course, rescinded in later years.
COMPLAINTS? WHAT ABOUT EATING ON THE M40?
Big Ron Watts, Black 44 , one of the early
Complaints Officers was ideally suited for the job having served a number of years in the
Met. Nevertheless, he was good company at Charlies and later at Weighouse
Street, another favourite after the demise of Charlies who, when the one way system at the
bottom of the gardens was introduced, was moved on to Raneleigh Bridge, thats the
bridge you enter the M40 on!
Maxie Fischell, who fortunately is still
with us today, is now a full time youth leader.
Now its not generally known that a former
Chairman of Mountview started his radio journey with ODRTS. I refer to Freddie
Franks, Apple 49, he was to meet a most untimely and tragic death in south London a
few years ago.
Then there was the Decent family (honest,
that was their name) Apple 39, Black 3, or was it 4? There were about 7 of them,
shepherded by the father-in-law of Bernie Decent, Apple 44. The in law in
question was Morry Kirshner, Apple 7, who retired a couple of years ago in his 80s,
and as far as I know is still with us. Now, whilst we were at Charleys, somebody had to
keep a look out just in case a job was called! This task fell to a man who we only knew as
Gleem 41 (actually his call sign was Black 41) because he had a most
beautiful set of false choppers and as soon as he opened his mouth, you were dazzled!
Actually Gleem was a toothpaste being advertised on the new commercial channel. He retired
very early and went to live in the country, an extremely nice gent. Incidentally, apart
from his falsies he was also easily recognisable by his open the
door hat - for the uninitiated, a Chauffeur's cap!
GOING FOR A PINT (OF DUCKHAMS)
Better not forget Apple 41, Mo Freedman, who, when
coming in for a radio job, used to call out Apple Fooooooor-One thus drowning out his
mates who had an agreement with each other NOT to oppose the
first cab in, so guess who nearly always got the job? In those days a fervent Socialist.
At about 7.30. a.m. out came the
others, Trixie Solomons, Black 34, Sailor Papier, Black 38, Joe
Assenheim, (Barbara's Dad), Henry Defries, etc etc.
I well remember one particular afternoon when
Henry was despatching and the heavens opened up. Then, as now, we were at a premium in
those conditions and our dear old Control Room Manager Florrie Culverwell was up to
her eyeballs. In those early days the control room and offices were at 172 Pentonville Rd
in the rear of the building whilst the front part was used to sell brake pads and Duckhams
oil to the subscribers.
Henry was having a hard time
covering the work when a call sign came in. "Which job?" asked Henry "Oh
no" said the subscriber "I want to know the price of a Gallon of Duckhams
oil!". I have heard over the years so many variations as to what happened next, but
no work was called for the next couple of minutes and some say that for safety's sake the
driver pulled off soon after. I do know that he didnt stay much longer!
GONE WITH THE WIND
Some of us used to gather in the old Lyons cafe at the
top of Great Portland St at about 4 pm prior to going home (in those days we had to do
long uns). Sitting with us was a radio non-believer who always had a go at us.
"Waste of money" or "waste of time" were some of his more flattering
remarks. "I can get my work off the streets", he would always say.
One particular afternoon as we left
Lyons, the wind started whipping and our ariels were swaying like mad. "Look at our
ariels" said Trixie to the non believer, "it always goes like that when there is
lots of work". All the other ariels were behaving in exactly the same way. We all
leaped in our cabs and drove off, whilst the non believer jumped into his cab and went
like the clappers to Pentonville Rd , got a fitting the next day and thus Bert
Frankfurt became the first Dan 50. I'm sure he wouldnt mind me telling
that story as sadly, he passed away nearly 30 years ago.
I hope the Editor will allow me in another issue
to tell you about some of the jobs we had in those far off days. They ranged from a
Barrister to a blind lady who sold matches in Oxford Street, from a world famous composer
to a nutty food heir. We also had all the Medium class hotels lined up - for a