KETTERING TAXI DRIVING 30 YEARS AGO
I first started taxi driving for a man called Lewin. He lived in a large, old house down Rockingham Road. He gave me my instructions, handed over the keys to a blue Vanguard, which was housed in a lock-up garage in Duke Street, and I nervously drove through town to the taxi cab rank which was down by the side of the George Hotel. There I waited in line for my first customer, but I didn't do very well that first night. I think I spent more at the fish and chip shop just opposite the rank than I earnt ! I stuck it out for a couple of more nights and then quit, it was just too boring.
Not long after the mini cab boom hit Kettering when a man called Starmer started up operations in Crown Street. His fare was proudly displayed as 2/3 (two shillings and threepence) anywhere in town. So I decided I'd try that. We were very, very busy in those days, but uinfortunately Mr Starmer wasn't that well organised and he frequently booked in more drivers for a Saturday than he had mini cabs. With spare drivers hanging around you dare not leave the keys in the car or one of the "spare" drivers would grab a job and off he went in your car ! It seemed to us that Kettering had minis flashing around all over the place as I think he had something like 15 mini cabs.
The clubs always relied heavily on us, clubs like North Park in Wood Street, and the Windmill Club in Stamford Road. These were difficult jobs, the clubs were so crowded it was always hard to find who you were supposed to pick up. Actually the mini was never the ideal vehicle for taxi work, the main negative side was the fact it only had 2 doors. Many's the time I picked up some rather stout ladies from a club, ladies who had consumed a few drinks of course, and in backing themselves into the car, trying to get on the back seat, would end up spreadeagled on the floor of the mini instead. Being a gentleman I looked the other way of course.
Another regular trip was to Brigstock, to the old army camp, where Stewarts and Lloyds housed workers invariably from Scotland. Frequently on Saturday nights about 11 or so three wouild book a taxi from one of the town pubs. First stop would be at the fish and chip shop opposite the market place, then off to Brigstock. What a journey that could be. Three drunken Scots, all wolfing down fish and chips on a wet Saturday night! Immedately the car would be like a sauna bath, but the odours from the occupants was not so pleasant, and it was common for one of them to be sick on the way out there. Naturally the driver had to clean this up and I for one never liked having to do that.
One journey that stands out in my mind was when I had a pickup from The fare turned out to be some Pakistanis who were moving house. How on earth I got them and their belongings in that small car I'll never know and to cap it off the last thing they brought out to put in the boot was a large pot, straight off the gas stove containing some very hot, evil-smelling curry. After they'd gone I noticed a burnt ring on the boot floor where the pot had stood !
Another disastrous trip came about one Saturday evening. The boss called me over and said did I feel like going home and then coming in early the following morning, Sunday, as he had quite a few bookings. I agreed and turned up very early the next morning. I was given an address to pick up from and on arrival there my fare turned out to be three Indian men. They got inside, I smiled and asked where to and my smile quickly vanished when the one in front said "Bradford . . we go to Bradford please". I'll never forget that drive as long as long as I live. They pleaded with me to stop for breakfast, but I was intent on getting to Bradford as soon as I could, and in any case no where was open that i could see. Eventually they spotted a Co-op milkman on his rounds in Huddersfield, so I pulled over and they all bought pints of milk. About ten minutes later I nearly jumped out of my skin as i heard a series of crashes, and broken glass. Having finished their milk, they simply threw the empty bottles out of the moving car. I expected a police car at any moment! Arriving in Bradford worse was to come. I discovered my passengers were just visiting for the day, and that I was to spend the day ferrying them around and then return them to Kettering. That proved to be one long day !