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Memoirs from John Cross - Hyders - Plaxtol -1960

John Cross Hyders - Plaxtol - 1962 -1968

Hyders Plaxtol LogoMy name is John Cross and I worked at Hyders in Plaxtol from 1962 for 6 years.
One of the teachers at school got me an interview at Hyders to be a welder, not only had I not heard of Hyders or Plaxtol I did not know what a welder was.
I had to catch the van at Tonbridge Library at 7 in the morning. This is were I met an old school friend Chris Brotherwood who worked in the Blacksmiths shop. The van was driven by Joe (pictured in your photo in the paint shop), on the drive there we picked up more people, mostly builders. At that time Hyders still had a thriving building company.
My first job in the welding shop was drilling holes in the sides of brass tubes, at the end of 6 months I was very good at this and sharpening drills. The people in the welding shop were, Bob Barden (foreman), Dave Parsons (lived in Bournevale) Pete Wise and his brother Barry Trevor Burley and John (Paddy)..........?
I was next taught to weld using an oxy acetylene torch (this may have something to do with the football story).
I do remember most of the people that you recall (I had a date with Irene Fox).

Home made acetylene gas

Hyders used to make there own acetylene gas and pipe it around the workshops (before my time there), but in the welding shop there was a large metal urn much like a milk churn, this contained carbide (You my have heard of carbide lamps used on old cars)
If you add water it gives of the gas acetylene We would put it in old thinners tins add a little water screw the top back on and run, the gas expanded blowing the tin to bits with a large explosion .We put some in Charlie Kings water trough, when he put red hot metal in the water his trough caught light, he was not very happy.
We did make a gun once more like a cannon really, we used a 2 inch diameter pipe placed in the vice by Charlie’s forge pointing out the door and up into the air (we thought) .The barrel was loaded with nuts, bolts gunpowder and any thing we could find we lit the blue touch paper and left, The whole thing then exploded splitting the tubes end sending the nuts, and bolts every where but mostly through the packing departments roof which nobody found out about till it rained.
One lunch time we decided to dam the small stream that ran through the lawn in the garden at Plaxtol. We used a sheet of metal and hammered it in to the ground, this worked a treat but we could not remove it so we went back to work. Dave Hyder came back from lunch and found a lake he didn't know he had. He clocked all the culprits out ( how did he know who?) and marched us out to the lake we had to remove the dam which took hours. A friend Paul Hill was standing down stream when we finally removed the dam and he was swept away with the rush of water, even Dave Hyder laughed. Dave Hyder asked Chris “why had we done this” and Chris replied that we were bored and could he (Dave Hyder) buy us a football .Not really a good time to ask but the next day we had a football .A good bloke that Dave, he even wanted us to join the Sunday league.

Life as an apprentice

As an apprentice I was not allowed to do overtime so one day I decided to catch the bus home .The bus took a long and tedious route from Plaxtol to Tonbridge, and I arrived home a lot later than if I had gone on the van, so in future I did the overtime.
Some how we got an old motorcycle, a Rudge with gear change on side of the tank, not until a lot later in life did I find out how rare and valuable these were. All the boys had a go riding around the field behind Hyders. Having never ridden a motor bike I was reluctant to have a go, but peer pressure being what it is I tried .Setting off I managed to find one of the many holes in the field which made me lose what little control I had. I ended up going through the hedge that ran around the field and this gave me many cuts and bruises, all that afternoon I looked like an extra in a horror movie, my short love affair with motorcycles ended that day and has never been rekindled.
Christmas time we would all go to The Kentish Rifleman in Dunks Green mainly because Reeds paper mill was down the road and they employed lots of young ladies. Pete Wise who owned a BSA Rocket Gold Star was a little worse for drink and fell off a few times. We thought that it might help to focus his mind on the ride home if we tied his feet to the foot rests. How he got off at home is still a mystery.
When Chris and I got our first cars we would take his one week and then mine. One day, coming in to Dunks Green we met the bus which needed to be avoided, Chris stood on the brakes and all was well until what we thought was smoke filled the car. It wasn’t, we had just broken our tea flasks which filled the car with steam.
Chris left about a month before me and he got a job at EJ Bakers in Tonbridge, he told me about a job there and one rainy cold day with no football and bored I made the phone call that ended my time in Plaxtol.
The Rudge Motorcycle suffered a nasty end, taken apart by a Blacksmith with a sledge hammer, but it did have one last song to sing as one of the valve springs came out and cut the guy above his eyes.