Joyce’s column: a Black sense of humour!
Over the past 2 months we have seen an insight to Alan Black and Sound Leisure, now for the final chapter in this report we are about to read some humorous stories involving Alan and also some nice tributes paid to him.
Tony Garlick ia part of the fixtures and fittings with Alan Black and has many stories in his memory and shares some of them with us.
1968 was the year that Alan Black interviewed Tony for a position with Headingley Properties, and the interviews was successful and Tony started to work for the company whose operation in those days went as far north as Morpeth and the southwards to Birmingham.
Alan Black was nicknamed Tintin and Tony Garlick was nicknamed Snowy and they experienced quite a few adventures together between 1968 and 1974, here are a few of them:-
A service call was received from the Great Northern at Castleford to attend to a Seeburg jukebox in the disco, the only lights in this room being the back light tubes from the jukebox. Tintin (Alan) unscrewed the back plate off the jukebox to get to the mech and asked Snowy (Tony) to strike a match for more light, the match ignited and so did all the vinyl records and Tintin’s hair.
They were in the kitchens at the 4 star Golden Fleece Hotel, Chesterfield running a volume control cable, Snowy was around 15 feet up the ladder complete with staple gun when Tintin pointed out to him that he needed to stretch out to get the last clip in a very tight corner. It was at that moment the ladders, staple gun and Snowy started to travel backwards, taking with them trolleys laden with cut glass bowls, fresh cream trifles and sponge cakes. Surprisingly enough the staple gun still functioned after this incident, but the chef didn’t!!
Attending another service call on an NSM jukebox in the saloon bar of The Aston Hotel, Birmingham, Tintin lifted the title glass off and slides up the wooden front and laid it on the seating, and the last item that needed removing was a 3ft fluorescent tube, so Tintin decided to go to the bar for a couple of pints before the removal of this tube. Snowy looked inside the jukebox leaning over the fluorescent tube to find the problem, the tube explodes taking out the pub lights. When the lights were restored the only persons left in the bar were the barman, Tintin and Snowy and 17 pints and about 10 halves of bitter on deserted tables.
At the Brougham Arms, Leeds, Tintin and Snowy were tasked with installing the AMI Music Merchant video jukebox, this jukebox had over 100 vinyl records in the base unit and 28 films in a housing unit above the jukebox. The contents of the films all involved scantily clad girls dancing around and hopefully near the end of the song they would take their tops off. The installation of this unit took 2 days (now I wonder why?) and on the opening night the pub was packed with customers and brewery personnel waiting with baited breath for the video jukebox to be shown, and at 9pm the 1st video came on. This was The Hollies singing Carrie Anne the film content was a girl asleep in a haystack disturbed by the farmer with a pitchfork that deftly took her top off, the customers and brewery personnel went wild.
9.05pm saw the 2nd video The Turtles singing She’d Rather Be With Me, the film content of this was 2 girls in a fairground wind tunnel and yes you’ve guessed it their tops came off, by this time nobody was at the bar they were all glued to the video jukebox.
9.10pm was the time for the next video and it was Millie singing My Boy Lollipop, and this film content was about 12 girls sitting around a high table with their boobs jiggling in time to the music, but halfway through the song 2 things happened inside the video unit, the film jammed and the projector bulb burnt through the film, well the pub just erupted.
At 9.15pm a full bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale went through the video screen and at 9.17pm Tintin and Snowy were hidden in a side street!!
The nicknames of Tintin and Snowy are quite the opposite from the original characters, Tintin had one tuft of hair and Alan of course has a good head of hair, and Snowy had white hair, and Tony being of Italian descent had jet black hair.
Phil Patterson is certainly a stalwart with Sound Leisure and was happy to contribute to the article.
Alan and Phil were in the process of developing a small electric device that included potting into a resin compound, and they had been working on this all day and decided that enough was enough and that the pub beckoned for a few pints, then after the pub they were going home. When they were leaving the pub Alan said that they ought to go back to the factory just to check things, it was just as well they did, as they had put too much resin in the compound and left any longer it could have started a fire. Talk about a near miss, and just imagine what could have happened if they’d had an extra pint and stayed in the pub.
Many years ago entertainment in pubs was a pianist and a drummer playing and customers getting up to sing a song or two, and it was in one of these such pubs in Birmingham that Alan and Phil wheeled a jukebox in, and the pianist and drummer were there. When they plugged in the jukebox to trial it, the pianist and drummer looked at each other then both asked the pub landlord, how did this effect them, and his response was after that night’s playing they were finished. During the week Alan and Phil took 2 other jukeboxes to 2 other pubs in Birmingham, and lo and behold the same pianist and drummer where in both of these pubs, and both Alan and Phil could feel the daggers in there backs, so they sorted the jukebox and bid a hasty retreat.
Apparently when Alan travels abroad long haul, long haul is just what it means!!
Alan and Phil were returning from an exhibition in Las Vegas to the UK, and they had to change flights at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. On their first flight there was a huge amount or turbulence and this caused them to be very delayed, so just before they landed the staff made an announcement asking passengers to stay in their seats until the English passengers had disembarked due to the fact that they had only a short time to get their connecting flight. Once they had disembarked Alan and Phil were met by a rather athletic looking lady who cleared a path through the airport for them, Phil recalls it was ok for him to be going at her speed as he was of similar height to the lady and could stride out like her, but poor Alan being of a much smaller stature found it hard going and was virtually running alongside her. They just about made the flight and had fastened their seat belts, the engines started, then only to come to a stop, the pilot then announced that 2 lights had come on the flight deck equipment and there was no way he could fly the plane, it would not be safe. He then stated that all was not lost as there was another Boeing 747 in the next bay that was due to fly to Houston but they were changing this and it was going to fly to the UK so it appeared all would be ok, but how wrong can you be? Some 8 hours later they were still at O’Hare Airport as the 2nd flight had a problem, but this was an easier problem to sort, this was only catering problems, due to the fact that the flight was originally going to Houston it only had snack food on board and it had to be equipped with meals for long haul, by the time they got on board none of the passengers really cared about the meals all they wanted was to get up and away and hopefully get some sleep.
Phil finds working with Alan a pleasure, he feels Alan’s a person who’s fair, he appreciates what you do and also thanks you for doing something, in fact he searches you out at times to thank you, and Phil confirms this with a new employee that joined the company.
Two years ago Sound Leisure took over Dawsons Pattern Works and all except one of their staff retired, and the one remaining staff member David joined Sound Leisure.
Some months later Phil asked David how he was settling in, and he said everything was fine and he was enjoying working with them, and there was something that was totally new to him about working at Sound Leisure. People including Alan actually said ‘Thank You’ to him for things he’s done, this was something he’s never experienced in 40 years with the other company.
Janet Brown has been Alan’s PA and right hand for the past 20 years and during her time has enjoyed a good relationship with Alan, she says it’s a joy to go to work each day.
Janet understands that computers are alien to Alan and is some old fashioned ways
And is used to him either dictating letters to her or scrawling them in long hand for her to decipher then type up. She says he’s a great boss, a man with understanding, he treats everybody as a human being and always has a good word to say about people, she hopes she can stay at Sound Leisure until she retires (now we all know that is a long while off Janet, you’re such a young lady) after all why should she look elsewhere, when she’s already got the best employer, boss and friend ever.
Janet recalls a couple of humorous stories, both around the London exhibitions, after a long day at Earls Court the Sound Leisure staff were walking back to their hotel, and at that time Clive Birdsall was a member of the staff, and he was having great difficulty walking and 2 members of the staff were holding him up. Not far from the hotel a ‘Lady of the night’ came out of a doorway and went across to Clive and asked him if he wanted her to give him a good time. You can imagine what happened, all the staff were in hysterics including the 2 holding Clive, and they laughed that much that Clive virtually ended up on the ground – minus the lady of the night I might add!!
They were on the stand at the exhibition when an American chap went onto it and asked Alan if he was interested in a new blow football game he’d invented, and Alan being Alan always on the look-out for something new, agreed to go to this chap’s hotel to view the game. Needless to say Alan took his right hand Janet with him and the hotel appeared to be in a seedy location, and the hotel itself was even seedier!! Imagine the scene only a bed in the room to sit on no chair, so there was Janet perched on the edge of the bed notebook and pen in hand ready for all the notes to take, and Alan was full of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of the new game. The game itself appeared to be fine but it was the size of the equipment needed to ensure the air generating facility, it was so huge and this was actually in the bathroom, and all you could see in the bathroom was this equipment no bath or toilet!!
Alan was at a loss as to how this chap had managed to get this over to the UK from the USA, and needless to say it was a no deal on the new game. On leaving the hotel they encountered some strange characters and were so relieved when they managed to get into a taxi and return to a decent area.
Joanne Jordan has been at Sound Leisure from leaving school 23 years ago and can’t envisage ever working elsewhere and she says when you work for Alan you are not just a number on the payroll you are more of an extended family member, and every day without fail Alan will ask Jo if she’s ok as he does with all his staff and he’s not just asking for asking sake, he genuinely cares about his staff, and if you’re not ok he will do his utmost to ensure you are and sort out the reason why you are not ok. He knows each member of staff personally and he takes an interest not just in their working lives but in their personal lives too. Jo firmly believes that Alan is the reason why Sound Leisure has a lot of loyal and long serving members of staff, it’s a family business and you are treated as a member of that family. Always honest and open, and when things have not been at their best he’s always informed the staff, and likewise when things have been good he has rewarded them for their loyalty and hard work, and he always says those 2 important words to his staff ‘thank you.’ Alan has his own little corner in the factory where he builds his speakers, and he enjoys the fact that he actually works with the factory staff, not many chairmen if any, would deem to do this, but Alan Black does and he’s proud of the fact. A few years ago Alan said the Monty Python song ‘ Always Look On The Bight Side Of Life’ should be Sound Leisure’s anthem, and Jo couldn’t agree with him more, as Alan always does.
The final tribute to Alan comes from Eddie Moss his partner for many years, Eddie commenced in the vending industry in 1957 this then led to his long and operative stay in the amusement industry, and he’s still very much involved at Sound Leisure.
Eddie had known Alan had a great reputation for repairing jukeboxes and in his own mind he felt that Alan was the only man that could be trusted to do any repairs 100%. 1977 saw Eddie and Alan form a friendship one that is still as strong if not stronger today as it was in 1977, in fact Eddie looks on Alan and his family as another branch of his own family. The amusement industry has given Eddie an eventful and enjoyable life, and he attributes that Alan has played a huge role in the making of this for him, and even after all their years together they have never had an argument. Eddie’s summing up words about Alan are that he’s a great family man, an astute businessman, an honest and fair employer, and he’s got a heart as big as himself, and Eddie is truly proud of his friendship and business relationship with Alan and his family, and hope it continues for many years to come.
With all these lovely tributes and humorous stories about Alan, I think one could safely say, it’s a pity there aren’t more people like him around, it would be a much nicer and kinder world. Thank you Alan you are one of life’s gems, and a very polished one at that.
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