Kent Meters

A Memory of Luton.

I attended the Luton technical College during the years 1952/55 and elected to take the "engineering" route not really giving much thought as to where I might eventually apply my newly acquired skills.
To assist with our journey we were encouraged to write to local companies to view their manufacturing facilities in order that we may learn a little of the outside world before venturing into this unknow territory. I scanned the list of engineering company's in the local paper purposely avoiding English Electric and Percival aircraft manufacturers and Vauxhall Motors as they were renowned to be very selective, requiring high pass marks that unfortunately I did not possess. As this was to be a day out and away from schooling I had not paid very much attention to my choice and wrote a letter to Kent Meters who were the leading manufacturer of water meters. My letter was favourably received and an appointment for a tour of their manufacturing facility was offered.
This turned out to be an eye opener as on the day I was guided through numerous buildings each producing and then assembling the numerous parts of this complex product. The mass engineering shop was a maze of machinery operating under a cloud of vaporized cutting fluid as lines and lines of capstan lathes churned out component parts with a deafening sound only partly camouflaged by the BBC "Workers Playtime" music played over the tannoy address system.
The operatives working in zombie fashion with hand and arm movements working in unison as they produced yet another hot messy component. At the end of the visit and when walking home I clearly remember thinking "this is most certainly not for me".
Twelve months later at 7.30am on a cold January Monday morning I attended m first day at work at, would you believe, "Kent Meters".
My working week was for 44 hours at a weekly wage of £1 17s 6d or £1-87.5/week in todays money, 4p/hour! I stayed with the company for a year before successfully applying for and accepted as an toolmakers apprentice with Britannia Engineering Company with a weekly wage of £3 3s 0d, still working a 44hour week but this time in virtual silence. During my five year apprenticeship I was often subjected to the usual scams, ask to go to the stores for "a long stand" as an example, but believed that I was ahead of the game when working my training term in the drawing office I was asked to go the the engineering department and to warm up an old domestic flat iron and return to the office and iron out the creases in technical drawings. I ignored the instruction and instead wasted an hour wandering around the press shop returning only to be told that it wasn't a scam and this was in fact the way they traditionally delt with the linen paper creasing problem. oops!!!
John Russell

Added 09 May 2023


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