John Dickinson & Co Ltd

Ted Humphreys

A New Boy

I joined John Dickinson at the age of 15 in1945. I was told that as a new boy I would have to be initiated by the girls in the factory. My trousers would be removed and envelope gum would be poured upon my nether region! Luckily this did not happen but I did walk very quickly through the machine rooms!

The men were returning from the war and I do not recall any problems in them settling back in.

I was an office boy until I qualified to take on a sales’ section in the 1950’s dealing with customers by phone and correspondence.

The Factory

The factory frontage was 1/4 to l/2 a mile in length along the main road from Hemel Hempstead to Watford. That area went back to the canal and the area from the factory to the back road was later built upon to contain the new Stationery Dept.

The canal was most useful as it enabled goods to be delivered to all the mills, particularly at the time of national transport strikes throughout the country.

Pocket Envelope Department

I was in the pocket envelope department (i.e. envelopes with flaps on the short side, as against flaps on the long side). They were dealt with by the Banker Envelope Department.

We used Dictaphones, which had a wax discs to dictate letters. Obviously, when dropped, they shattered and all the letters had to be dictated again!

For the period of time I was in the office there were two Managers:

  • Harry? Toovey. Firm but fair.
  • Dudley Blunt. Big ex-naval man, behind him on the wall was a sign “THINK”! He always kept the top of his desk clear of all papers, on the principle “clear desk, clear head”!

Mr Blunt had an idea so as to improve the quality of staff in his office! A number of boys from Berkhamstead School were persuaded to join the Department but they only lasted a few weeks before they left, never to be seen again!

The colleagues I remember in the Pocket Envelope Department are as follows:-


The noise of the machinery was deafening. No health and safety as we know it to-day. The machines were operated by women. The men were machine mechanics, although a few men were employed at the large heavy paper guillotines cutting machines.

The floor managers were also men – Mr KIng and Mr Rodwell ?

At some time there was a shortage of paper and quantities of envelope orders were cut down to the customers, (100.000 cut to 20.000 etc.). One customer tried to bypass the system by trying to befriend one of the younger staff by sending him a personal cheque in the hope that he would increase the quantity of their cut down orders. The young man (Colin Walker?) immediately informed the management of the situation who rewarded him for his honesty.

The typing pool of ladies sat in parallel lines facing the lady who was in charge. If a lady wished to go to the toilet, she had to raise her hand and ask for permission. My wife Joan worked in this section for one week only, before deciding this was not for her!

One last thought reminded me that management had a cunning plan by asking us staff to fill in and return to any manufacture under our home address who were trying to sell us their product. In this way the pocket department would know if the returned envelope was made by JD and if it was not we would try to convert them to our products.

In 1948 I served my National Service in the RAF Police, and was demobbed in 1950. My National Service was a happy time. Most of us JD lads had to attend National Service at that time and the Company had to take us back on completion of our service in the forces.

I married Joan in 1957 and we produced three lovely children they in turn produced 6 lovely grandchildren.

A JD Representative

I always wanted to be a Representative for John Dickinson’s and part of my training was to work out of the London Office in New Bridge Street. There were four of us and we were allocated parts of London to visit all small printers etc, to see if they were still operating and not bombed out!

My area was Soho out to Greenford by bus and train. This was very boring so we enjoyed having Fridays in the London Office.

Mr Hudson was the Manager. A most pleasant man.

On one occasion I was talking on the telephone to a department stressing that a customer was let down and that it was our fault and that they had us “by the short and curly”. Unfortunately Mr Bick a senior Manager reported me to Mr Hudson who, with a twinkle in his eye stated that this was not the kind of language expected of a John Dickinson Representative!

I was then sent to Belfast Office to train a young man for their showroom. I trained him and he then went to America! The Americans at that time were asking for our young men for more money!

I then went back to train someone else. I do not know if he stayed or not!

I was sent to the John Dickinson Liverpool Office to help them to deal with a problem over a broken promise on Christmas Wrapping paper a product that had to be delivered well before Christmas. Hopefully I was able to pacify most people by telephone.

The time came when I was issued a car and was sent to Peterborough to take on an area of approximately 40/50 mile radius. My Sales Managers were Cecil Adams and Charles Mearing.

I was to sell to shop and printers etc, from our 1OO’s of products.

I took over the Leicester Office but in the 1980’s the Representatives were called down to Apsley Mills. We were given a sheet of paper that showed two lists of names. One list of men who were staying to lunch and the other list who not staying to lunch, was of redundancies. I was in that list and Manager Mr Crouch had the job of dealing with the chore!


This page was added on 08/08/2018.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *