I was born on 19th November 1936 at 20 Bata Avenue. My family then moved to 22 Queen Elizabeth Avenue. I started my schooling at the Bata Primary School, then to Mrs Arnold of Scratton Road, Stanford-le-Hope and finally to Westcliff Collegiate School. Whilst at School in Stanford-le-Hope we had to get up early to get to the railway station to catch the train and then walk up the hill past the Church to get to Mrs Arnold’s School for 9a.m. and then the return trip in the afternoon.
As for the memory of the good and happy days of our youth on the Bata Estate, there were also sad times, like during the War Years. We spent nights in the underground Air Raid Shelters and could hear the guns firing at the German Planes, as they flew over London and then hear the bombing. Although sad we used to enjoy getting up early and waving to the British Bombers flying low on their return from bombing raids on Germany. They flew so low we could see the pilots! They waved to us and we all cheered and waved back.
One sight I will never forget is when I saw the belly gunner’s canopy on the plane glass shot out and an arm hanging out and blood all over what was left of the canopy. There were holes on the sides of the plane, on parts of the wings and the tail missing off some planes, but the pilots laughed and waved, this was war and young as we were we accepted it and went to school and did what all children do.
The children on the Bata Estate grew up as brothers and sisters of one big family. There was great interaction between the parents and us children, some of the Czech women used to bake a lot and we could smell the cookies, biscuits, they made and gave to us.
The summer months were great as we had the central playground with the big slide, round-about as well as swings and see-saw. Then there was the Swimming Pool where on weekends the parents and children alike had great fun. To enter the pool area you had to walk through a shallow pool of running water to make sure you didn’t carry dirt into the pool. One of the joyous moments was when the Lyons Ice Cream cold box was brought to the pool, we could get a wrapped bar. I have never seen this again - a round stick of ice cream wrapped, it was about 2 feel long with was then cut into pieces about 2 inches thick.
We also used to go scrumping on Farmer Osborne’s orchard for apples and pears, luckily we never got caught. Some summers we went swimming in the River Thames, built into the seawall was a concrete bunker where we played hide and seek. When the tide was out the mud flats were exposed and we would run into the mud and then dive forward on our belly to see who could slide the furthest. In hindsight we were lucky there was no shrapnel or bits of steel in the mud which could have cut our bellies open. These are just a few of the highlights from my childhood that still come back to memory.
As the War was over and we started thinking of what we wanted to be - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Policeman - whatever we all drifted apart and went on our way, but I know there are many who remember those happy days, especially the Saturday nights dancing at the School near the Daneholes and Barking Palais where there were a few punch ups over whose girlfriend was whose!
My engineering apprenticeship was from 1952 to 1957 with the Bata Engineers who trained me in the use of lathes, milling machines, grinding machines, steel welding and fabrication, plumbing, electrical installation,, how to harden and temper steel machined parts, maintenance and repair of sewing machines and other machines to make shoes and water boots.
During all of this there was always a strong standard of Discipline and time keeping which has influenced my life to this day.
After my Bata Apprenticeship I did my National Service in the British Army and attained the rank of Corporal in the first year and instructor in the motor vehicle repair and maintenance department. The training Bata gave me stood me in good stead and especially the acceptance of discipline and time keeping which in the first months of army life was very strict and hard for some to adhere to. To me it was not a problem as it was how the Bata System worked and was accepted by the workforce; from the factory worker to top management. At the end of my National Service I returned to British Bata Engineering Department.
I was sent to France on a course of training in frequency conversion motors 40 cycle to 50 cycle (HZ) and also on Hipak rotary plastic injection machines to put plastic soles on shoes.
Jamaica at that time was newly independent of Britain and the manufacturing and construction business was expanding. I decided I would go into that field and left Bata and went into construction. The Company that employed my realised my potential and made a Plant Manager.
The workforce under my control accepted the disciplinary and time keeping standards I insisted on. Like Bata I worked with the employees helping when needed, giving them the opportunity to improve on their skills and as a team. Together we organised community activities and included their families - as I had learned from my youth in the British Bata Community.
I have managed several construction and metal fabrication plants and at present I am still working with one such Company as the Maintenance Manager Co-ordinator.
I attribute my success in life to how I was brought up in Bata and the Bata Community with its discipline and family relationships with one another.