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The Risdene Echo, June 2006
Television Days at Geoff Morgan's - Peter Butler

Following on from the article that I wrote in the June 2004 edition of The Risdene Echo it was suggested that I recall some more of my memories.

We left at the point when I was asked to take on the radio and television servicing side of Geoff’s business.  When I had started going to the “Tech” at Wellingborough for my electrical engineering studies, I had become friendly with another apprentice, from Great Doddington. Roy Bonham was already starting to experiment with electronics and I quickly caught his enthusiasm for this new technology.

Roy’s father had built him a shed at the bottom of the garden where he could do his experiments.  We spent many happy hours in that shed!  Television was, of course, becoming widely available to the public and soon we were beginning to take an active part in this new means of communication.

We both joined a newly formed Radio and Television Club in Wellingborough, as did a certain John Wagstaff!  When John built his own television, it inspired me to do the same.  A design had been published which worked.  In those days electronic circuitry consisted of individual components.  These could either be bought new – mainly from dear old Theo Wheatcroft in Church Street – or salvaged from ex­‑government equipment.  The principal source of this was in Lisle Street in London.  Lisle Street was situated in the Red Light district of Soho, so visiting this area could be misconstrued!  Once the piece of equipment was brought home, the long task of carefully dismantling the components would start.  Slowly my television began to take shape.  The cathode ray tube presented a problem.  John had used an old radar tube for his television and I needed a similar type.  I recall I located one in Carlton and have vivid memories of carrying it back one Sunday afternoon, with the tube wrapped in a blanket, tucked under my arm whilst I cycled home with one hand!

The tube had a green trace which was pleasant on the eye, in fact it could be said that we had the first colour television in the town.  The main disadvantage was it only had a 6‑inch screen!  Thankfully you could buy a special magnifier, a Perspex affair filled with paraffin oil, or something of that nature.  Eventually, after a few hiccups, the set worked and proved to be quite reliable.  By now we were living at No.84 Wellingborough Road in Rushden, one of the three storey houses on the right just past the junction with Purvis Road.  The extra floor meant that the chimney was that much higher with the result that the aerial collected a bit more signal.  The best conditions were on foggy nights when one could guarantee good reception.

So this was the background which led to my getting involved with Geoff’s radio and television side.  We did all our own aerial erections, which could lead to a few “hairy moments”.  I recall two of us up on a roof in Highfield Road when a gust of wind blew the ladder away, leaving us stranded until we could attract the attention of a passer‑by.  Geoff’s original ladder was an old wooden affair, which wasn’t very long.  Consequently one had to be prepared to stretch from the ladder up from the ground onto this somewhat flimsy ladder.  Eventually I prevailed upon Geoff to buy an aluminium roofing ladder with wheels and a much larger overhang.  Thankfully I don’t recall any accidents.  Of course we had to erect aerials in all sorts of weather.  I remember one winter’s morning putting an aerial up for Miss Bird in Robinson Road (now who remembers Miss Bird from the days of North & Scholes, the dentist?)  It had rained and then the temperature had dropped suddenly.  Result, the roof was a sheet of ice.  Ah, happy days!

One of Geoff’s customers was the late Frank George of Wilby.  Frank had several sets around his home but wanted one in the pigeon loft.  It was felt the best solution was to have a piped signal from a single aerial rather than erecting yet another one.  We built a three or four section one out of dexion angle iron and built it at the highest point in Frank’s garden.  We had no special lifting gear to get this tower up.  We just climbed up the side and pulled up the next section, bolted it together, and then climbed up a bit further.  Health and Safety regulations were a long way off.  Mind you, we were happy to visit Frank’s home.  He was always a most generous man to us and I believe to all tradespeople who worked/called at his home.  I remember the first time I met him; he took a bulging wallet out of his pocket, took out a pound note (which in those days was quite a lot of money) and said, “My boy, you look after me and I’ll look after you.”  He was as good as his word.  If there was a call from Frank, we were on our way.

At this time the television business could be somewhat of a closed shop.  Manufacturers would allow one firm in a town to sell their sets.  In Rushden, Clark’s had the sole right to sell Bush products, whilst Horace Wills had the Murphy franchise.  Geoff sold G.E.C. sets and I found them to be a very good design and reliable.  Another dealer in G.E.C. sets in Rushden was Cliff Pack who had a small shop in the front room of his home in York Road.

Another well-known brand was Pye.  Again, they only allowed one dealer in an area, but they used to produce identical sets under the label of Invicta.  These could be bought by any dealer and were cheaper than the Pye range.  One wonders how much extra one paid to have a well-known name on your television.  I suspect this is still true to a certain extent today, when we all know that old established names like Bush are all produced in China.

Although more and more of my time was spent on the servicing side I still did some electrical work.  When we were doing servicing work we tended to wear white coats and I acquired an old Gladstone bag for carrying small tools around.  My trainee and I used to enjoy going to do repairs at Home hospital in the Hayway because invariably we would be mistaken for Doctors.  It was at the Home hospital that I the most embarrassing experience of my life – to date.  I feel it best not to recount it in the pages of this august journal – perhaps on another occasion.

Other memories from Peter:
A Rushden Apprenticeship Distant Memories

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