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Man at Work


by Reg Aston

Man at Work

5.  Social Life at the Company

The 1950s and 1960s were the days when employers encouraged the social side of their business and James Wilkes Ltd was no exception. The unsung heroes were, of course, the social club secretaries who dedicated so much time and energy for the benefit of their members. In 1948 the "Team Work" magazine was first published and the secretary at that time was M.Harper, followed in 1949 by J.S.Bate. In 1951 the reins were then taken up by Murray Winmill, before handing over to Les Evans in 1955. I am sure many other people must have helped, people like Les Gooding and Joan Causer are two that come readily to mind.

Canteen & Social Club

The Canteen and Social Club in 1953

The Restaurant and Social Centre was opened on December 13th 1948 by Will Nally, MP. The activities were varied although not always a success. Some failed because of lack of support but the club was never afraid to try. There was a Horticultural Society, a Photographic Society, a Drama Society, a Swimming Club, a Cycling Club, a Fishing Club, table tennis matches, netball, cricket and, of course, football. There were also excursions to theatres and outings both at the weekends and evenings. In 1951 the club ran a trip to the Festival of Britain at a total cost of 23/6d - and this included the 5/- entrance fee. A concert and talent show was held in the canteen and the compare on the night was the well known local compere and comedian Arthur (Oscar) Legg.

New Canteen being built

In 1962 a new canteen was built on the same site as the old one.  To keep the canteen services going the new building was erected round the old one, which was only demolished at the last moment.

The highlight of every year was the annual social club dance. This was originally held at Bilston Town Hall around Christmas but in later years transferred to the Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton. No expense was spared with the booking of local bands. In 1948 it was Arthur Rowberry and his full broadcasting orchestra. Other bands booked over the years were the Reg Bartlam Orchestra, the Jack Bradney Orchestra, (this outfit was the resident band at Darlaston Town Hall), the Harris Powell Players (the resident band at the Gala Baths, West Bromwich), Bob Gough and his Orchestra, John Matthews and his Orchestra, Jack Jones and his Band, Fred Newey and his Orchestra, the Wilf Haywell Dance Band and the Stan Fielding Band (which included my planning office colleague, Peter Legg, on drums).

There was always the customary Christmas party for members children. This was usually held in the canteen.

Inside rebuilt canteen

The interior of the rebuilt canteen.  I remember that the jam roly-poly was particularly good.

The football team for ever seemed to be "improving". However the 11 - 0 away defeat to Lea United on December 12th 1960 was quite rightly put down to the fact that Wilkes could only field seven players. Other annual events were the Works v Staff football and cricket matches. They were always hard fought and provided great sport and entertainment. On 11th May 1957 Harry Gardner took 3 wickets for 0 runs when the Staff defeated the Works by 62 runs to 26. This result was sweet revenge for the Staff's defeat when the two teams had met a month earlier in a football match at the Great Bridge Road ground.

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