Clippies and Clippers
I was reminded yesterday by IanVisits Boris bikes parked in front of various Parisian landmarks of the front cover of this – the London Transport employee magazine from this month in 1957. I have the feeblest of excuses for writing about it today, since the bulk of the mag is nothing to do with Greenwich but this was one month after the arrival of the great tea clipper and besides, I reckon that anything that includes a picture as fab as this on the front cover is fair game…
The mag is about all the marvellous things LT does, both for its passengers and its staff. Its main article is about how the London Transport Gardening Section (!) is transforming parts of the Metropolitan Line with landscaping to both combat chalk falls on the tracks and – well, to just look nice, really. 100,000 plants raised at Acton, a sub-heading notes proudly.
This piece will have been popular with readers since it would seem, from the mag at least, that every LT employee was a mad gardener, including their pinup of the month, ‘Father of the Fleet’ Henry Cruse, who, despite his 77 years was still working on the trolley buses, a ‘sprightly’ chap whose ‘blue eyes twinkle as he talks, while his waxed moustache bears witness to the fashion of an age that has gone.’ He was, of course, a bush-rose obsessive.
Of course not all the staff’s hobbies were that sedate. “One slip and she would have been crushed to death,” screamed the headline about LT’s own Elephant Girl, plucky Juliet Foster, who worked in the chief electrical engineer’s testing section at Wood Lane. Born to a carney family, she ran away from the circus to a daily routine of office work which she found ‘very enjoyable,’ after a life of sequined bikinis and ‘unreliable’ zebras…
Obviously there’s a whole bunch of information about how LT helps its workers – ‘the busman who lost all his carpets’ was helped by the benevolent fund, as was a widow who needed an invalid chair. I confess an article about how LT make ticket rolls didn’t grip me as much as the Railwayman’s Jublilee Sports Day or the month’s news from Plumstead bus garage (beat Bromley by ten runs, popular trips to the theatre, ‘Fur and Feather shows’ need new entrants, R. Partemheimer caught a six-foot,twenty-pound conger eel and celebrated by growing a beard.)
In fact, after the excitement of R. Partemheimer and his conger beard, the article about Greenwich is a bit of a let down, really. A Mile of Magic takes up the coveted centre pages, but it’s basically just an ad for the bus services using the excuse that the Cutty Sark had just arrived the month before, though there is a lovely reference to the Son et Lumiere that was held that summer and for which I have a programme somewhere and can’t find.
I guess that however familiar we are with the basic history that the article gives us, it’s hard to argue with the last paragraph:
To look around these splendid buildings at Greenwich does not call for the spending of any pocket money ; and if it is a fine day there is nothing pleasanter than a picnic in the spacious park. Thus, for the young people of London on holiday a wonderful adventure need cost no more than a bus or river fare.
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