From 1983 to 1985 I was fully occupied changing and improving the working habits of the employees of Production Operators Inc. That had grown naturally under the lax management of the company’s founder, Paul Piqué. This eventually required changing some department managers and operation super-intendants that was difficult with Paul protecting some of his original and loyal long-time employees.
As an example, I was faced with an alcoholic construction shop manager. This was a very competent man who ran the entire assembly shop and its scheduling so very well except that he disappeared for days at a time on occasion. I recognized that he was far too good an employee to lose so I counseled with him and got him to go to alcoholics anonymous. I went to several meetings with him as support and I gradually got him to feel an obligation to avoid letting Paul and me down and we were able to operate in this way for several years.
Carl Knoblauch, the chairman of the board of Unicapital Corporation, the major shareholder of POI, was kept in touch with the operation of POI by his Executive VP, Rahl George who made regular trips to Houston from Atlanta for that purpose. Carl gradually became much more interested in what we did in the “oil patch” and he added two new directors from the oil and gas field to his board.
He openly admitted to me over dinner on one of his trips to Houston that he enjoyed our business much more than that of the other subsidiaries that they held for many years before selling them all in the early eighties. He enjoyed being an “oil man” in his contacts with members of the Atlanta City Club and at the Piedmont Driving Club because it made him an oilfield expert in the eyes of Atlanta executives from Atlanta’s many other industries. He also confided that he was beginning to invest more in petroleum, oil and gas companies as well as drilling and other oil service companies such as POI.
In July of 1985, Doris and I flew to London for our second trip back to England, the first being in 1976 our 25th anniversary year. (See memory number thirty.) We were met by Dick and Mary Carrington with whom we stayed for most of the first week.
We spent time visiting Professor Roger Sargent and his wife, Shirley. I shared a basement flat in World’s End, Chelsea for four years with Roger and we had a memorable three week trip in 1950 with our respective girl- friends both of whom later became our wives, driving in France, Italy and Switzerland reaching as far as Rome and Naples. Roger later became the head of the Chemical Engineering Department at Imperial College where we both studied. (I heard recently from Roger that he just solved one of the eight remaining unsolved mathematical problems, for which he was awarded one million pounds.)
We were shown around college and had a real English tea in their garden not far from where Doris and I were married near Putney Bridge. We also were driven around the sights of London by Frank Shardalow, Doris’ London taxi-driver cousin. Frank is now ninety as I write, and he was a perfect example of the cockney-talking London taxi drivers that all visitors to London experience and remember.
Our tour included Windsor Castle, Eton School and Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 to stop the feudal barons being punished by King John.
He also gave us a tour of the south side of the Thames that has changed much over the years, and we had lunch at the old Thames-side pirates haunt, The Prospect Of Whitby
pub. This pub claims to be on the site of the oldest river-side tavern in London, dating from 1520.
I remember it from 1945 when the ladies room had a full sized Scotsman in national costume including a kilt and sporran. If ladies were tempted to lift the kilt to see if the stories were true they were embarrassed on leaving, to find that her action had triggered a bell in the bar and everyone present greeted her byall wagging a finger of shame at her. My wife told me it was no longer there.
After seeing more of Doris’ relatives and her co-worker friends, we headed up to my home country of Cambridgeshire. (When I lived there, it was Northamptonshire.) We stayed at the Haycock Inn in Wansford, a village about three miles west of Ailsworth, where I was born. Wansford, on the River Nene, is about 8 or 9 miles west of Peterborough and the Haycock was an old coaching inn right on the great north road originally named by the romans in 70 AD and now called less romantically the M-1.
We had arranged with my cousin Joyce, my mother’s sister Annie’s second daughter, to have a gathering of her family for a dinner in Nassington where she lived and she had arranged it all in a local pub’s private room. I don’t remember how many were there with husbands and boy-friends but eventually Joyce had five girls, eight grand-children and five great grand-children.
We spent most of a day looking around Kings Cliffe where my mother’s family, the Wadds lived in the water mill there. Cousin Joyce’s parents also lived in Kings Cliffe and her mother, Annie ran a small grocery shop. After my friend Alan Francia’s wedding in Northampton in 1951, Doris and I stayed with Aunt Annie and while we were there, still thinking about Alan’s wedding, I proposed to Doris. It was interesting to see that the grocery store was still there as was the bakery where Annie’s husband Frank worked.
It was nostalgic for me visiting Sutton where my father and his nine brothers and one sister were born and to look at the church records of the entire Glover family’s births, marriages and some of the deaths that were listed. I had the same experience visiting Ailsworth after being gone from there for 41 years. The school where I and my father’s entire family went was still standing but was no longer a school. We had lunch in the adjacent pub, the Fitzwilliam Arms, and then went into the church where I was christened in 1927.
Our visit to Peterborough was not so nostalgic since my old school, Deacon’s School, had been torn down and the only thing I remembered was the beautiful Cathedral. We drove back to London via Cambridge and spent our last night going to a theater and late dinner with the Carrintons who drove us to the airport the next day. We were happy to find things at home and in my office were all just as we had left them and sliding back into our routine was easy, but that’s another memory for another day.