Back again to my first job, the small family-run business. To say it was a bit of a dive was an understatement! All the benches were run off 5 amp two-pin sockets and only had two-pin sockets on them, there were no isolation transformers and if a set came in with one of the ‘new’ 13 amp plugs, the adapter consisted of a mains lead with a couple of insulated crock clips fitted. These were also used for 5 amp three pin plugs and 15 amp 3 pin plugs. There were never any accidents though and the only time the fuses went was when one of the mains plug adapter leads lost part of it’s insulation and the crock clips shorted when they were accidentally trodden on. Harry was the unfortunate engineer whose shoe was scorched and the loud bang was accompanied by a strong burning rubber smell. Being a Goon fan he subsequently renamed the adapters ‘boot exploders’.
Well despite the rather ‘Heath Robinson’ workshop, we actually did high quality repairs and rarely had bouncers. One day, a large colour TV was brought in by the manager. He’d been up to Cadogan Square (that’s pronounced ‘Ca DUG an’ by the posh residents) in London SW1. When we’d unwrapped the blankets protecting the polished wood cabinet it revealed itself as a Bush colour TV. I don’t remember the model but it was known as the ‘Burning Bush’. The manager had told us that a large amount of smoke had damaged the flat it came out of which was now being refurbished. The flat was the home of none other than Sir Alexander Maxwell (who)? Sir Alex was at one time the chairman of the Tobacco Advisory Committee sometime back in the 60’s and was dripping with money. He could have bought a dozen colour TV’s and not even missed the money. However he wanted the Bush repaired and so it was down to us to sort out this somewhat high profile customer.
True to form, there was a pungent odour coming from the back of the set and when we looked inside, the line transformer and EHT tower consisting of the EHT rec and shunt stabiliser mountings sitting on top of the transformer were melted along with most of the LOPT. Strings of black goo were hanging down from the insulators and there was a layer of soot over the chassis. Both valves were melted into the insulators but incredibly still intact. The line output, boost diode and frame output valves were all covered in soot and the whole timebase chassis was just a sooty mess.
Bush supplied the complete chassis as a spare part and an order was immediately made for a replacement. The old chassis was removed and sent back to them (so we got a replacement at a fixed price), all the soot was vacuumed out and the rest of the set was cleaned up. I think we had a ‘test’ chassis that we kept for one of these so any other faults could be sorted out whilst waiting for the new timebase chassis.
The new replacement chassis subsequently arrived and was fitted. A gauze cover was also supplied that fitted over the tower (this didn’t stop it from catching fire but contained the flames….)! However we didn’t have any of the new chassis give trouble but I suppose Bush decided that it was better to be safe than sorry. This problem must have cost them a small fortune because some sets were a complete write-off.
Anyway as I recall, the new chassis was installed and set up and the set was ready to deliver to it’s wealthy owner. We had to take the legs off (or was it the complete stand assembly?….I forget now) in order to get it into the Morris Minor van and then we were off to the posh part of London (SW1 Victoria and then Cadogan Square). This was a good half-day out of the workshop.
When we got there at least we could park. There was a barrier gate first with an intercom and you announced who you were and your business and the barrier was raised. There was a parking area for goods vehicles and a goods lift. It wasn’t a very big lift though as we found once we’d got the TV in there. There was no room for us so we set the lift to go to the third floor and ran up the stairs. What we didn’t realise was that if the lift stopped for more than a minute at it’s appointed floor, it would return to ground level……Well of course, the lift beat us to it and we were just in time to see the lift going back down (it was one of those with the inner and outer lattice doors that you can see through). ‘Bugger this’ said Harry. ‘You’re younger than me. You go back down, open the lift and sit on the set then press no. 3 and come back up with it. As soon as it’s back up here, I’ll open the outer door to stop it going back down’. So I did. I got back downstairs and went to the lift, opened the door and managed to squeeze myself onto the top of the TV and press no.3 button. I was ready to open the inner door as it got back to the 3rd floor but I could see Harry waiting and the outer door was open before I’d reached the handle for the inner door. We then had fun and games getting it out of the lift but eventually we managed it and carried it along the hallway to Sir Alex’s flat.
The maid (yes) opened the door and showed us through. Talk about plush! The carpet felt like it was about 3 inches deep! Anyway we then refitted the legs and stood the set in the corner. The picture was a complete mess when it came on! The lift must have been highly magnetised because the purity was all over the place with pinks, blues and greens everywhere. Even a couple of switch on/off cycles didn’t improve things very much so it was another trip down to the van to find the degaussing coil. I decided to bring the tool case as well just in case…..!
Anyway it was during one of the Apollo missions and the pictures from the moon were in black and white which was rather fortuitous because after waving the degauss coil over the front and sides of the set, the picture then returned to normal displaying a good B/W picture. A quick check on BBC2 showed normal colour and a further check with the portable pattern generator showed everything as normal.
At that point, Sir Alex himself came into the room and immediately asked us if we’d like a cigar or cigarette. Neither of us smoked and he said something about the tobacco industry not making as much money as it used to. Anyway after an introduction he invited us into the ‘coffee room’ and we had a thoroughly pleasant half-hour talking to him. He was basically just and ordinary person who’d made a lot of money and was enjoying his retirement, well that’s how he came across anyway.
The set was still running as we left and he commented on how good the picture was, shook our hands and gave us each a £5 tip! Doesn’t sound much now but in 1971 you could easily have a very good evenings entertainment for a fiver!