A few years ago I worked with an English guy who had migrated to New Zealand many, many years ago. Let’s call him Kiwi Dave.
One day over morning tea, we got talking about “the good old days” and he told me a bit about his early days.
In his words …
It was 1957 when I entered the Shipyard as a young Engineer. Fresh from school, enthusiastic and full of dreams. I would have been at Rolls Royce, but in those days, the apprentice paid the company for the privilege of being taught and that sum of money was way beyond my fathers means. So there I was – In the shipyard – and a few memories immediately come to mind —
I can remember that the Workshop foremen wore a bowler hat, and 3 piece suit to work , complete with fob watch – such was his esteem and authority in the workplace
I can remember fitters and machinists wearing starched collars and ties to work and their labourers cleaning and preparing the jobs for them to work on
I can remember being taught the art of drawing with ink on linen
I can remember spending hours practicing hand printing skills on a drawing board and my printing is still pretty good
I can remember the Chief Draughtsman would come around and measure the thickness of our lines using a feeler gauge. Such was the attention to detail. At the time, I hated him with a vengeance because if it was the wrong thickness – it was erase and start again.
I can remember an enormous machine shop with every machine being driven by belts from a central shaft arrangement. Quite an imposing sight
I can remember that as indentured apprentices, we could never addressed our journeyman by first name – it was always Mr. Or it was the wroth of his tongue followed by a swift clip across the back of the head
Try telling that to the young Engineers today and they would never believe you !!!
Happy days indeed – very character forming
1. When you can vividly remember your love affair with “Beam Analysis by Moment Integration”.
2. When you can remember the room of clerks with flying fingers tapping away on the “adding machines with handles”.
3. When you can remember your first encounter with the Union rep. You were keen, eager and enthusiastic on your first project. The Union rep was the sour faced old guy who had been around forever and seen it all – including plenty of young engineers just like you and he saw it as his job to “put you in your place” – so that you knew who really ran the job. It was a test of wills, which got the heart pumping. But when you stood your ground – you knew that you had passed your first real test.
4. When you can remember that your first thought train for the design of control and feedback of machinery was by levers and cables.
5. When you can remember Pneumatic Logic being the height of machine control and intelligence – way before plc’s took over.
6. When you can remember your first Transistor radio.
7. When you can remember the only Robots you ever saw were in the science fiction comic books.
8. When you can remember automobiles without synchromesh gear boxes and needing to master the art of double de clutching.
9. When you can remember all of your key engineering data being on slide charts and you always kept your favourite one in your top pocket.
⁃ When you can remember tuning the carburetor on your car
⁃ You still have your first (and only) set of drawing instruments and they are in pristine condition
⁃ You still use these drawing instruments
⁃ You can remember when there was more waste product on the factory floor than good product in the machine and the company (you worked for) was happy to throw labour at cleaning up the mess, but not to assign an Engineering resource to design out the problems
⁃ You can remember reading about some guy called Demming who had some radical ideas on quality and production techniques and you knew that they would never take off
⁃ You can remember when your best Engineering Designs were formulated on the back of a drink coaster/cigarette packet/napkin – in the bar after work – the designs always got better as the evening went on
⁃ You can remember when all trains where big and shiny, gave off lots of smoke and were driven by steam
⁃ You can remember the old style earth moving excavators which had jibs and buckets activated by wire rope. (I know that because I worked on them)
⁃ You can remember when SNAFU was the favorite saying
⁃ You can remember when there was an office full of (predominantly) females sitting in front of loud, manual, mechanical typewriters and they had to manually hit the return at the end of each line
1. When you can remember using a hole template for drafting work
2. When you can remember using a sanding board to produce chisel points which were “works of art” As was the Calligraphy you produced on each drawing !!!
3. When you can remember asbestos being widely used in all sorts of engineering applications
4. When you CAN NOT remember any hazardous stuff (at all) being used in the workplace !!!!
5. When you can remember when a Steam Roller was actually driven by steam
6. When you can remember British motor cycles dominating on the roads
7. When you can remember either owning a British motor cycle or wanting to own one
8. When you can remember always carrying a full tool kit in your car – just in case it would break down
9. When you can remember always carrying a Swiss army knife type tool kit with you – just in case something else would break down and need to be repaired
10. When you can remember when almost everyone rode bicycles to work and the bicycle racks far outnumbered car parking spaces
You Know That You’re An Old Engineer – Number 4
• When you can remember marveling at the very first fax machine you ever saw and now the young guys tell you that the fax is dead – nobody uses that old technology these days
• When you can remember seeing your first mobile phone. It was the size of a large toolbox and weighed as much. Plus it had a very limited battery life and range
• When you can remember taking grainy Polaroid pictures which could barely be understood and boasting of the technology. Whilst paying exorbitant prices for the film
• When you can remember the teletext machines being “state of the art” for instant communication & you were under strict instruction to use the minimum words in your messages
• When you can remember a hacksaw being the common method used to cut steel (and not an angle grinder) – and as a junior Engineer you practiced and practiced (until your arm felt as though it would drop off ) attempting to get that straight cut. Without breaking the blade
• When you can remember using a cold chisel to cut a chamfer on steel and the pain of a misdirected hammer blow, – How many bruises and broken bones did this task produce ?
• When you can remember (as a young Engineer) being sent for a long wait
• When you can remember (as a young Engineer) being sent to get a glass hammer
• When you can remember watching a skilled tradesman bed a bearing with a scraper
• When you can remember that your clutch pencil was your most prized possession – together with a full range of leads and colours
You Know That You’re An Old Engineer – Number 3
1. When you can remember the crane dog man putting his foot in the hook and getting hoisted up by the crane and it was a perfectly acceptable practice
2. When you can remember an Erasing Shield not being a Star Wars Protective Device to Erase Missiles fired by the enemy
3. When you can remember – when that concrete slab (or similar) would be physically broken up, loaded and carted away by a team of workers in about a 5 day time span. Today the whole job takes 1 man with an excavator and truck about half a day
4. When you can remember rivets being the standard method of joining metal
5. When you can then remember stick welding being the “new way” to join metal
6. When you can remember your car having a starting handle and you can remember needing to use it
7. When you can remember your new car had a side valve engine
8. When you can remember de coking your 2 stroke motor cycle
9. When you can remember that the Drawing Numbering system has changed many times over the years and you are the only one left at the company who knows each system – intimately
10. When you can remember seeing a cad system for the very first time and thinking – “this will never catch on”
You Know That You’re An Old Engineer – Number 2
- When you can remember the first Engineering Office calculator being a valve set and needing a 10 minute warm up before it could be used
- When you can remember that the (above) calculator could – add, subtract, multiply and divide and if you were very clever you could find a square root by multiple approximations
- When you can remember charts with square and cube roots and all types of other useful data being readily available
- When you can remember working in an Engineering office where ”everyone” smoked and the air was so thick with smoke that you could not see from one side of the office to the other
- When you can remember that there where always pipe smokers in the office and you can still smell the aromas of the pipe and cigarette smoke
- When you can remember using tools and implements which were marked with the last 2 digits of the year of manufacture and the whole year started with 18 eg 96 was 1896
- When you can remember watching that rusty old piece of machinery being carted off to the scrap yard and remembering when it was new and just being installed
- When you can remember using drawing boards with machines using the parallelogram counterweight systems that where never square
- When you can remember Project Managing jobs without JSA’s, Hazard Studies Work Method Statements or the like
- When you can remember being able to climb a ladder without a “Work At Heights Permit”