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THE BLACK COUNTRY MEMORIES CLUB

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The British Heat Resisting Glass Company

"Phoenix"

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In the "Bugle" for 6th December 2001 Alec Wilfort records his life in the glass industry. His father was in the trade and in 1917 set up a glass factory in Birmingham with his brother. Following a row Alec's father left the firm and went to work with Halewood and Ackroyd in Leeds. Eventually he was put on short time, so he left and went to Sunderland where he got a job with Pyrex where Alec, in due course, joined him. In 1941 Alec left to take up a job at Walsh and Walsh in Birmingham but, getting wind of a job at Phoenix, he applied there. The manager, Mr. Brown, looked at what he could do and gave him a job straightaway.

Alec had had disputes with Pyrex, mainly about their treatment of his father when his father suffered an injury at work. When Alec left Pyrex they had threatened to make sure that he never worked in the industry again - a threat which could have been effective because the glass industry at the time ran a kind of cartel, one member of which would not employ someone who left another member under a cloud. But this seems not to have concerned Phoenix. It may be that as a newcomer to the industry, and an obvious rival to a leading member of it, they took no part in the cartel and were happy to take on a good glass worker who was prepared to work in Bilston.
Bowl

Bowl with blue rose

Casserole with Yellow rose

Casserole with Yellow rose

Casserole with spray of yellow roses

Casserole with spray of yellow roses

Mixing Bowl

Mixing bowl with spray of red roses

Casserole

Casserole with strawberry design

The rest of Alec's story throws an interesting light on Phoenix at the time:

"I have to be grateful for two things whilst working at Phoenix: having a great boss in Mr. Brown and meeting my future wife, Kathleen, who worked in the offices. It would be her job to bring the "Comforts Box" round the works and I always made sure I was present when she did. We got married in 1946. I left Phoenix in 1955 after an unfortunate set of circumstances that lead to a new rule being introduced. If a piece of glass had a flaw in it, it was adjudged to be "bad metal". This could be caused by any manner of means but the glass-blowers were now being blamed and it meant a possible loss of £5.00 a week in their pay packets, which I don't have to tell you was a lot of money in those days. I volunteered to question the foreman over this and was promptly told to "sling your hook". All the blokes decided to hand their written notice in next day but only one ever did and that was me. 

They all backed out which left me to see the Managing Director, Doctor Gibson, on my own. For some reason people were frightened of him; more like frightened of losing their job and not getting another. But my cavalier type of attitude had held me in good stead so far in my working career, so I felt I had nothing to lose. Doctor Gibson was an amicable boss so, after discovering my complaint, threw my notice in the bin and gave me an extra £1.00 bonus,. because I'd had the nerve to stand up to him - something he respected.
I was the only one to receive this special bonus and enjoyed its benefits for six months until the boss went away on holiday and the foreman, a man with an unforgiving nature, cancelled the payment, using some inane reason which resulted in my notice being once again written out and this time accepted".

 

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