Well I never thought that I was the only one over 35 out there, Calcium carbide lamps and my introduction to them was to be remembered for the rest of my days, a firm imprint photographed forever in the back of the brain. Here we are, it's 1960' off with the short trousers, on with starched stiff brand new overhauls, no spark/corrosion/jointing compound here and Monday no more school, it's work time. Report for work, new boy on the block. Toolbox full up with Mr Whitworth and Mr BSF spanners, lived by the sea so had a boat and already done head gaskets etc on Mr Perkins etc but nothing could prepare me for the next 5 years. Down in the enginerooms of a steam turbine ship, am put with an apprentice and taken to the top end of a scotch boiler. Pass I that knocking stick was the command and so I passed him the 14 pound sledge. Now pass I the spanner and over went the flogging spanner. The strong back securing the manhole cover was flogged off and into the boiler we went , me, him,and our two carbide lights. I was told to make sure the light was full up and not likely to run out. On top of the tubes we crawled over to the purifier plates and proceeded to strip all the stainless plates out, take them into a hold and wear out a few wire brushes. After a while I was left on my own, now a fully trusted employee! Bit scary in there on your own but determined to put on a good show I proceeded to wear out several wire brushes. Now anyone who has ever done this job will be aware of the talcum powder deposits and how it gets in your skin, despite 20 gallons drums of soap and sawdust treatment every night gazing at them Saturday night in the pub you could actually see the dust come up through the skin. This went on for days after the job was done. Anyway, back to the boiler. Now fully on my own and in top gear still I am stripping the purifier strum box nearest to the bulkhead stop valve and at the further most point from the manhole cover when I am aware of strong back centre nut being flogged back up. The noise is deafening and then the silence thereafter is worst. Now I am thinking perhaps school was'nt so bad, me alone with a hissing carbide light and the characteristic smell (never smelt anything near to it to date) securely sealed up in a scotch boiler. Time goes by, have no watch and the old panic sets in. What if another apprentice does'nt know I am in there and starts refilling the boiler ready to start flashing up? Start banging on the tubes and strum box to no avail. Time goes by, don't know to this day how long I was in there, start thinking about lack of oxygen, lamp going out and getting really wound up. Eventually hear the sledge flogging again with a :we've saved his life, he really owes us speech: heads appear through the manhole aperture with threats of beer to be donated the following Saturday night (by me) We were all on the gangplank when I said we have'nt see the boy for a while, it was only when we saw the manhole cover flogged up that we realised that someone must have thought ah, let's close it up ready for a fill and flash up next day. Now a point of interest here, mum says well, how did your first day at work go? Any apprentice who complained or whose parents were seen anywhere near works premises was in for a life of hell. In UK at that time the most feared people were without doubt the quiff and brillcreem boys, the dreaded Teddy Boys of which several of our apprentices were prominent members.Seem to remember Fortes Cafes figured greatly in this era. So although I have many other stories about carbide lamps this was the first and most horrific incident and certainly one to be carried to ones grave.
Remembering The Good Old days, when Chiefs stood watches and all Torque settings were F.T.