Smash and Grab


There was a long tradition where I grew up of people bringing stuff home from work.

On the street I lived on in the 70s, most of my friends dads worked at the Ford plant at Halewood. That meant a lot of my friends had unauthorised copies of the Cadbury’s Smash Martians that starred in the TV commercial for instant mashed potato. They were made from car parts by workers at the factory.

My dad didn’t work at Ford (or Fords as it was referred to locally), he was a construction foreman on petrochemical plants. At various times he worked for contractors that were doing work at Stanlow oil refinery at Ellesmere Port. The stuff he’d bring home was a lot more varied than hand made Smash Martians.

From the age of 15, I used to go to school in steel toe capped work boots. I’m guessing were part of a safety clothing issue. Other stuff’s origins other than being from Stanlow are a lot more vague. For instance, one birthday I got a divers watch that dad said he’d bought at work. Another time he arrived home with a gallon of a concentrated industrial strength detergent called ‘Teepol’. The label said it was a specialist cleaning detergent that can be mixed with seawater, removes grease from ships and is especially suited to laboratory usage. Well, we washed our dishes with it for months! Something else that lasted a while was the case of Canadian pink salmon he brought home. This was in gold coloured tins that didn’t have any labels on. We carried on eating salmon sandwiches even after an item on the local TV news warned you to be on the lookout for gold tins of salmon with no labels on that had been stolen from some warehouse it had been taken to because it was contaminated with botulism.

I don’t remember anyone in our house being the slightest bit bothered about where this eclectic mix of products came from but I do remember being at the Penketh Baths disco one night when a girl I’d never met before walked up to me and said, “Does your dad work at Stanlow?” When I said “Yes” and asked her how she knew, she said, “My brother’s got a shirt exactly the same as that!”

Craic on!

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