Just Getting On With It
by Michael Bourke
For a time in the early 1960s I worked at Maypole Branch when it was a wooden hut with Ken Whittaker (Manager) and Geoff Butler. In those days it was a small branch, Manager, cashier and junior and that was it. We went in after the Christmas break to find everything frozen and in the mess-room the pipes had actually split. We turned off the water and lit all the gas fires to get some heat in, including defrosting the inkwells. Ken was not a DIYer by any standard but Geoff and I were quite used to make do and mend. Thank goodness for the fact that all the joints in the water-pipes were compression joints. Using Geoff’s tool kit out of his car, we stripped all the damaged pipework down in about fifteen minutes and sent Ken out to the local hardware store to get a couple of 6’ lengths of ½" pipe, some compression olives and, importantly, pipe insulation. Geoff and I started to re-fit the system until Geoff had to get the cash checked into his till. The system was back together and working by 10.00 a.m., when the first customers walked into the branch. All part of a day’s work for a junior at the BMB.
I was only sent to Spring Hill for odd days on relief, and got to know that the Manager, Lew Instone, was a strange character. I reported there for duty one Saturday morning and was somewhat nonplussed to find Lew in full Army uniform complete with medals and swagger stick. None of the other staff said anything and just got on with their work. I took the hint and did the same. It was certainly odd because he had cycled to the branch.
Sometime later I mentioned it to Howard Powell, another Manager who had served in the Forces during the Second World War, and he told me that Lew had joined up at the outbreak of the War and had risen to the rank of Lt. Colonel by 1945. Apparently, he had found great difficulty in re-adjusting to civilian life and this was his way of coping.
It may be that if this had happened in today's climate he would have been diagnosed with PTSD or similar. In those days you just got on with life and worked through it.
My experiences at the Bank made every day an enjoyable experience – like the Longbridge customer who, every day, would withdraw five shillings from his account and demand it all in pennies. He would then pay it back in next day (in the same blue copper bag) with every penny gleaming, having been beautifully polished. Odd perhaps but he clearly saw it as his life’s work to polish copper coins and it brightened a cashier’s day to help him achieve his ambition.
Looking back after some sixty plus years I wouldn’t have missed the experience of working at BMB with such great colleagues for anything.