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A new generation of Fentimans.

I STARTED working at Fentimans mineral factory in King Street, Gateshead, in 1949 on the half-gallon bottlewashing machine. A week or so later I was to carry these bottles to the nearby bays where they were left until the wagon drivers loaded their wagons on the night before delivery.

For one driver, Billy Bell, I had an extra job when I had finished my shift, filling crates with ginger beer, hops and mineral bottles and small bottles called splits.

For this I received two shillings (10p) off Billy which got me to Coatsworth Road Snooker Hall for a couple of games every other night - it was only a stone's throw from my home in Leopold Street.

The chap upstairs was the boss, Tommy Fentiman, who filled the vats in the morning with ginger beer which I believe was 500 gallons, and hops in the afternoon, a smaller vat of 250 gallons.

John, the chargehand, screwed the corks into the bottles. Tom's brother Arthur worked in the office and was joint owner.

I recall one morning one of the regular wagon lads didn't turn in. I had to go out for the first and last time on a freezing cold morning up to the Stanley area with no gloves on, carrying bottles to the customers' houses until about five o'clock.

I missed my first home game with either my home team Gateshead at Redheugh Park or the lads "ower thi watter" at St James' Park.

I called into the Hexham Fentimans depot last week and spoke to the head man Bob Robson who told me that Arthur was his grandfather. I had a good chat with him telling him about the times I was at the King Street factory, long before his time.

We were grateful too for Bob giving us a few samples of the never-to-be-forgotten Fentimans brew.

LES MAY, Gateshead

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 17, 2017
Words:311
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