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T. Elvins & Sons Ltd

tim eborn

master brummie
Hi Me again and surprised to have found yet another link to start the old memory box spinning into space like The Tardis.
My problem is recalling names so please don't be offended if you don't get a mention I remember your faces.(If you are still in the land of the living).
I left Handsworth Tech and started work at Elvins within a couple of days at Easter 1954.
I was given the job by Mr Clissold, the Office Manager at the grand salary of 30 shillings, which was the going rate and about 29 more than I was worth!

I was to be the new office boy with the promise of better things if I proved my worth.
I was stationed in the corner of the Reception Office where I was under the eyes of the lady (name forgotten) who was the Receptionist and Telephonist. What I do remember is that she was very patient and protective of me. Her husband and she had a BSA Bantam and went to just about every motorcycling event ,including The Isle of Man and they were Geoff Duke fans.
As far as I remember my duties were to relieve this lady during tea, toilet and lunchbreaks on the switchboard and the little window when the bell rang. I was also responsible for drawing the Red Line under the signing in book, which I delayed as long as possible to allow my tardy co-workers to avoid action from those above.
I was to assist the tea/cleaning lady during the "Rush Hour" and deliver the cups of tea to the various Depts. and make a fresh pot for the Surveyors when they returned to base or any one else above me. From this little haggard lady I learnt to scatter damp tea leaves when sweeping the floors to keep the dust down.
I was also in charge of the mail book into which I had to enter all letters mailed and balance my 30/- float. I once lost the stamps and money orders on my way back from Hockley Brook (?) Post Office and was docked their value from my pay. The sum was more than my wages, but that wonderful Receptionist organised a collection which was about 5/- more than the lost monies and I was allowed to keep this to offset the days of anxiety.
My first job of the day was to go to the letterbox behind the great wooden gate, sort it and get it to right parties. Then between 9 am and 10am I did the filing for Mr Hughes and his mousey assistant of the Invoicing Dept. they were always telling me how slow I was compared with my predecessor, then it came to light that said filing was blowing about on the roof as he had filed them out a window. That really made me feel good and I had no more complaints, that I remember!
The best bit of my other jobs was when armed with "The Key" and a cracked cup I went to all the top floor offices and bled the radiators of the trapped stale air and blackened water which made quite a stink, but no one could refuse access to me and" The Key"!!
To enter Elvins was like going back to Dickensian times. The business was family controlled. The main power lay in the hands of Mr.Tom Elvins who was a bit of a martinet ,the seasons even were stated by him, when he wore his linen jacket to the office it became summer. The next in line was Mr John( only Christian names were used). He was mainly out of the office attending the several building sites and was quite a power house. He drove a Rover 90 which he had installed a reel to reel recorder in the boot, he recorded his notes driving between the different sites and these were typed up upon his return.
There was a board in the passage which we in the Reception Office could see and the important people were expected to slide their names from "Out" to "In' on their return, or vice versa so that we were aware of their availability for phone calls or personal callers.
There was another Mr Elvins whose name I forget, he had joined the firm when India gained freedom and he was longer required in the Indian Army. He sat in his office scanning the daily newspapers for possible Tenders and had some sort of business with the Surveyors. If any tea was slopped into his saucer on delivery it was to be taken away and a new cup presented, he was not my favourite.
Then there was Mr Harry Elvins, senior partner in name. I think he was in his 90's and only appeared for a few hours each week. He drove his car (a beautiful Alvis ) into the main yard, left his car and went to his 2nd story office where he would write one or two letters in beautiful copperplate. Whilst he did this the Yard Manager would turn the abandoned car around and park it out of the way but with a good position for Mr Harry to drive out.
My only problem with this gentleman was that any old files were transferred into the loft area and access was by a ladder through the trap door in the ceiling in his office. If I was in the loft I either had to come down and return later, or stay where I was until he had finished his correspondence.
Another big job was to index the order books. I would leave the main office area, cross the road, and had to call at the Site office where the several foremen would meet in the Site Office where the Site Manager held sway and while they were planning supplies for the morrow, over mugs of tea, I would find and index their books. The one time I could not locate a specific book and had the cheek to ask where it was. The Manager said in a snotty manner, "Seek and ye shall find". Though I was dressed a bit like a Teddy Boy I was a regular church goer, alter boy etc. anything to get into the Youth Club and amongst the girls of the choir. I'd had enough of Mr Smart Ar--e and was able to retort "Ask and it shall be given unto thee" and quote chapter and verse (I was also assistant Sunday School Teacher to be nearer my current crush Barbara Berry). The foremen thought this was great and made suitable comments to said Manager and I never had any further trouble, the books were always waiting for me.
Elvin's did quite a lot of church restoration work and had a special section for the elderly stone mason and his off sider. they were in my opinion the elite tradesmen in the yard and worked just the same way as in the Middle Ages.

The vehicle maintenance area was a bit of a problem as their office was a sort of basement area and their writing not so good as their workmanship. I would have to climb back out of the office and find the boss who was either under a vehicle or in the "PIT" and he didn't take kindly to the fact that I couldn't read the name on the order. His pride and joy was a little Austin 7 which he lavished his time and money on, he had put in a sun roof, replaced the old semaphore indicators with the new flashing ones, new seats etc. it just looked so funny to me but I never said nowt!!
I was only there for 15/18 months but I have a lot of memories and looking back it was a great start in a working life.
Maybe more later if I find the time!
 

Jules65

master brummie
Tim Eborn - you have brought back a memory with your post of the dreaded book and the red line that was drawn through at 9.00 AM and I started working there in 1982!! I had completely forgotten all about that. Yes it was a Dickensian company even then. I was office junior and also had to cover switchboard (the old golf ball sit up and beg type) when the receptionist had her break.
 

Jules65

master brummie
I'd also forgotten about having to record all the letters sent in the post book and postage costs and making it all balance, I also remember the walk to Hockley Post Office to buy stamps. Mr. Hughes was still working there in the Accounts Office!!!
 

hodkinsonpr

New Member
Hi Brian , Just a sort note to say Sad news that My Dad Fred Hodkinson passed away last Sunday at 94 years old. We lost Mom last year just before their 70th wedding anniversary.

Peter Hodkinson
 

oldplumber

master brummie
Hi Peter.
I,m very sorry to hear about your dad Fred,I worked with him when I left school at 15yrs old so your dad Fred would have only been 27yrs old then & he was a right B then,he has the first guy to get me drunk one Christmas & I still remember it as if was yesterday as my dad was furious with me as he had to come & take home from where we were working at the time in Nechells & it was Christmas eve, I have lots of happy memories of your dad from those far of times.
Best wishes to you & your family at this sad time.
Brian Harding
 

Fingers

New Member
Hi Julie, I worked at T Elvins and sons from 1976 until 1989 as a wood machinist, working in the joinery workshop, until I was made redundant, and have fond memories of yourself and many other people who worked there.
 

Fingers

New Member
Hi Fingers. Welcome to the Forum. Hopefully Julie will see your post. Enjoy the Forum. Viv.
thanks viv, i posted a reply to this thread some months ago but it seems to have dissappeared, and im sure julie replied to it. could you look into it for me?
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
Hi Fingers. A few months ago the site lost a few posts because of a technical problem. The problem was resolved but postings from approx one month before were lost. So I expect your post was lost because of that. Unfortunately it isn't possible to recover those. It's a pity I know, but hope Julie sees this and responds. Viv.
 

Paul Lowry

New Member
Hi Me again and surprised to have found yet another link to start the old memory box spinning into space like The Tardis.
My problem is recalling names so please don't be offended if you don't get a mention I remember your faces.(If you are still in the land of the living).
I left Handsworth Tech and started work at Elvins within a couple of days at Easter 1954.
I was given the job by Mr Clissold, the Office Manager at the grand salary of 30 shillings, which was the going rate and about 29 more than I was worth!

I was to be the new office boy with the promise of better things if I proved my worth.
I was stationed in the corner of the Reception Office where I was under the eyes of the lady (name forgotten) who was the Receptionist and Telephonist. What I do remember is that she was very patient and protective of me. Her husband and she had a BSA Bantam and went to just about every motorcycling event ,including The Isle of Man and they were Geoff Duke fans.
As far as I remember my duties were to relieve this lady during tea, toilet and lunchbreaks on the switchboard and the little window when the bell rang. I was also responsible for drawing the Red Line under the signing in book, which I delayed as long as possible to allow my tardy co-workers to avoid action from those above.
I was to assist the tea/cleaning lady during the "Rush Hour" and deliver the cups of tea to the various Depts. and make a fresh pot for the Surveyors when they returned to base or any one else above me. From this little haggard lady I learnt to scatter damp tea leaves when sweeping the floors to keep the dust down.
I was also in charge of the mail book into which I had to enter all letters mailed and balance my 30/- float. I once lost the stamps and money orders on my way back from Hockley Brook (?) Post Office and was docked their value from my pay. The sum was more than my wages, but that wonderful Receptionist organised a collection which was about 5/- more than the lost monies and I was allowed to keep this to offset the days of anxiety.
My first job of the day was to go to the letterbox behind the great wooden gate, sort it and get it to right parties. Then between 9 am and 10am I did the filing for Mr Hughes and his mousey assistant of the Invoicing Dept. they were always telling me how slow I was compared with my predecessor, then it came to light that said filing was blowing about on the roof as he had filed them out a window. That really made me feel good and I had no more complaints, that I remember!
The best bit of my other jobs was when armed with "The Key" and a cracked cup I went to all the top floor offices and bled the radiators of the trapped stale air and blackened water which made quite a stink, but no one could refuse access to me and" The Key"!!
To enter Elvins was like going back to Dickensian times. The business was family controlled. The main power lay in the hands of Mr.Tom Elvins who was a bit of a martinet ,the seasons even were stated by him, when he wore his linen jacket to the office it became summer. The next in line was Mr John( only Christian names were used). He was mainly out of the office attending the several building sites and was quite a power house. He drove a Rover 90 which he had installed a reel to reel recorder in the boot, he recorded his notes driving between the different sites and these were typed up upon his return.
There was a board in the passage which we in the Reception Office could see and the important people were expected to slide their names from "Out" to "In' on their return, or vice versa so that we were aware of their availability for phone calls or personal callers.
There was another Mr Elvins whose name I forget, he had joined the firm when India gained freedom and he was longer required in the Indian Army. He sat in his office scanning the daily newspapers for possible Tenders and had some sort of business with the Surveyors. If any tea was slopped into his saucer on delivery it was to be taken away and a new cup presented, he was not my favourite.
Then there was Mr Harry Elvins, senior partner in name. I think he was in his 90's and only appeared for a few hours each week. He drove his car (a beautiful Alvis ) into the main yard, left his car and went to his 2nd story office where he would write one or two letters in beautiful copperplate. Whilst he did this the Yard Manager would turn the abandoned car around and park it out of the way but with a good position for Mr Harry to drive out.
My only problem with this gentleman was that any old files were transferred into the loft area and access was by a ladder through the trap door in the ceiling in his office. If I was in the loft I either had to come down and return later, or stay where I was until he had finished his correspondence.
Another big job was to index the order books. I would leave the main office area, cross the road, and had to call at the Site office where the several foremen would meet in the Site Office where the Site Manager held sway and while they were planning supplies for the morrow, over mugs of tea, I would find and index their books. The one time I could not locate a specific book and had the cheek to ask where it was. The Manager said in a snotty manner, "Seek and ye shall find". Though I was dressed a bit like a Teddy Boy I was a regular church goer, alter boy etc. anything to get into the Youth Club and amongst the girls of the choir. I'd had enough of Mr Smart Ar--e and was able to retort "Ask and it shall be given unto thee" and quote chapter and verse (I was also assistant Sunday School Teacher to be nearer my current crush Barbara Berry). The foremen thought this was great and made suitable comments to said Manager and I never had any further trouble, the books were always waiting for me.
Elvin's did quite a lot of church restoration work and had a special section for the elderly stone mason and his off sider. they were in my opinion the elite tradesmen in the yard and worked just the same way as in the Middle Ages.

The vehicle maintenance area was a bit of a problem as their office was a sort of basement area and their writing not so good as their workmanship. I would have to climb back out of the office and find the boss who was either under a vehicle or in the "PIT" and he didn't take kindly to the fact that I couldn't read the name on the order. His pride and joy was a little Austin 7 which he lavished his time and money on, he had put in a sun roof, replaced the old semaphore indicators with the new flashing ones, new seats etc. it just looked so funny to me but I never said nowt!!
I was only there for 15/18 months but I have a lot of memories and looking back it was a great start in a working life.
Maybe more later if I find the time!
I worked for Elvins as a trainee quantity surveyor from 1960 to 1967 when I went to Bermuda. Most of the names you mentioned are familiar to me and the name that you could not recall was Lt. Col. George F. Elvins, as you say ex Indian Army, who was extremely dictatorial with his wishes for various things. He could be kind, though, and did give me some pointers about various things.

What I recall most vividly that while I was there Elvins celebrated their centenary and there was a big spread in the Birmingham Post. Among other things mentioned was that around the turn of the previous century (around 1900) Elvins built many if not all of the Ocean and Gaumont cinemas throughout Britain. Another reason I know about this is that when some of these cinemas were converted into bowling alleys or other uses I used to be sent to the attic to retrieve the original architectural drawings of these cinemas which were drawn on linen.

The quantity surveyors were divided into small works and large works, the former under Mr. Kenneth Baker, and the latter under Messrs Clissold and Askew (I think). In my final year getting my H.N.C. at South Birmingham Technical College (O.N.C. was at Brooklyn Farm) Mr. Tom Elvins was made a Board Member or Trustee of the school. When it was pointed out to him that I was currently doing night school there for five nights a week, he was shamed into changing my studies into a Day Release and one evening and that was, as you can imagine, much easier as I lived Erdington at the northern boundary of Birmingham.

I remember all the various departments: stonemasonry, joinery, scaffold, painting (Mr Brown), ready mix, etc. and also Harvey Ironworks for which I drew the plans. Will be happy to share other memories with people who were there at the same time as I was.
 

Leslie Beardon

New Member
Tim Eborn - you have brought back a memory with your post of the dreaded book and the red line that was drawn through at 9.00 AM and I started working there in 1982!! I had completely forgotten all about that. Yes it was a Dickensian company even then. I was office junior and also had to cover switchboard (the old golf ball sit up and beg type) when the receptionist had her break.
Hi Jules, do I remember correctly that you had a sister Janet?working in the wages department. I was the QS on Stoneleigh Abbey and have attached the group photo which shows me as a young man on the right in the black anorak, job was run by colonel Cashmore, painters were John Stedefords new company with Arthur Grice on site
 

Attachments

Jules65

master brummie
Hi Jules, do I remember correctly that you had a sister Janet?working in the wages department. I was the QS on Stoneleigh Abbey and have attached the group photo which shows me as a young man on the right in the black anorak, job was run by colonel Cashmore, painters were John Stedefords new company with Arthur Grice on site
Leslie no Janet in the wages department was Julia Nicholls sister. Julia worked as the receptionist/switchboard. I was a secretary and worked mainly for John Whitfield but I'm sure I did typing for most of the surveyors or contracts managers. Do you remember Roger Underhill and Bob Scrivener also John Ireland and John Davis ? That a great photo by the way
 

tim eborn

master brummie
Love it when there is a comment made that brings these older forums back to life and sets the old memories spinning again.
The more I recall about Elvins the more it seems to be the setting for one of those Carry On films. There was a fellow office boy named Tom who introduced me to Stan Kenton and Peanut Vendor (saw the band at The Town Hall ) and warned me when Mr Clissold was looking for someone to come in to man the Reception and switchboard on Saturday morning for 7/6 .
Remember the snotty way Mr Tom spoke to me when I told him I was leaving to take a job at £5 a week running a hardware shop " Some people will do anything for money ". Whoops time for bed must go. Cheers Tim
 

oldMohawk

master brummie
An example of T.Elvins work according to a notice board fixed to the building see photo in an earlier post in another thread.
I had posted this pic of Digbeth Police Station in the 'Clocks' thread but it has gone. I was looking at the clock and admiring the fine building work by T.Elvins & Sons when I noticed a little lad sitting all alone on the street corner kerb. I bet his mom didn't know that he would be caught in one of the old street pics !

From Shoothill collection.
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
Hi Jules, do I remember correctly that you had a sister Janet?working in the wages department. I was the QS on Stoneleigh Abbey and have attached the group photo which shows me as a young man on the right in the black anorak, job was run by colonel Cashmore, painters were John Stedefords new company with Arthur Grice on site
hi les welcome to the forum...what a great photo..am i correct in thinking that it shows people who worked for elvins and the building behind is stoneleigh abbey..

thanks for sharing

lyn
 

podgie

proper brummie kid
I worked for Elvins from 1981 to 1993 and have very fond memories of the place. They were originally in Naden Road which is just off Hunters Road. I don't suppose anyone has any pictures or memories they would be kind enough to share.
I worked for Elvins in 1971, I was a wages clerk, used to have to get the money from the bank in hockley with a minder.
 

Leslie Beardon

New Member
Hi Lyn, Yes the building was Stoneleigh Abbey and most of the guys were working for Elvins at the time. Can anyone recall the Masonic temple built by Elvins on the Hagley Road and Ken Phipps?
 
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