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The Formative Years

11 Jun, 2018 | Return|

On the eve of my retirement I reflect back on 50 years involvement in the Torque Tool industry. It was at the age of five I had my earliest memory of the North Bar Tool Company Ltd (it was to be four years later that we renamed the company Norbar Torque Tools Ltd.), I was visiting my father’s office in North Bar Place wearing my school uniform of shorts and shirt and I ended up scolding the backs of my legs on the radiator, you could say that event was burned into memory.

Future visits included going to the Old Coaching works where the tools were assembled and packed, the rooms on the ground floor were dark, mostly having no natural light and very cold in winter, the stone flagstones laid on a crude foundation did not help. Heat was from a few potbellied stoves and a couple of open fire places. One of the previous tenants of the building had been Samsons the sweet makers who had left behind a vast quantity of grease proof paper. With the Brodey nature being one of thriftiness we soon realized that this would make great wrapping paper for the Torque wrenches we were producing. Another of the tenants was Wille Hirsch, a Jew who had escaped the Concentration camps and set up his tailoring business in a room on the first floor of the building. His was a very simple life style often sitting crossed legged and hand sewing by the light of a candle.

At the age of eight my father, Ian Brodey, started to bring home components for my brother, Neill, and I to convert into sub-assemblies; tasks such as putting springs and ball bearings into square drives ready for crimping in the factory or starting the threading of adjusting nuts on to the adjusting screws for torque wrench mechanisms. In slightly later years a marketing business called Norbar Marketing Services sold valve lapping products and car tracking devices, it was Neill’s and my job to package the items at home.

At the age of ten I was old enough to go to the factory at weekends and school holidays to carry out maintenance of the grounds and buildings, typical tasks included mowing the lawns, weeding, sweeping up and cleaning the office windows, the latter task done with newspapers water and vinegar.

The proceeds of my first two weekends of work was spent on buying my first vinyl LP record ‘Crazy Horses’ by the Osmond’s which had just been released.

The following years saw me working in different departments inside the factory moving from Stores to Packing, office boy to Gearbox and Torque Wrench Assembly. In the later years I covered for staff in the painting booth, welding and machine shops. In addition, there were always the odd jobs for me to do like using a Torque wrench to check the bolts on the overhead gantry crane, standing at the top of a 30-foot ladder hugging the upright pillar with one arm while applying 150 N·m of torque to all the existing nuts to ensure there had been no relaxation in the joints. I know in today’s world the risk assessment would have been a bit more thorough than back then.

After school I took a business studies degree At Bradford University. This was a 3-year course but my friend and I decided to add in a year in industry after completing the second year. For me this meant the chance to go and work with our distributor Mountz Incorporated in California. Their business is located in San Jose and this was an opportunity of a life time. The year was spent working in all the different departments of the business.

My education here was not only about business but also about life, I had lived away at university but this was living away in another country with communication with my girlfriend and parents being by Airmail letter, hard to fathom in today’s world of instant communication and connectivity. For the first 6 months of the year I was pretty shy and typically conservative in nature however, by the end of the year I was very much at home and taking advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me. The year ended with a one month road trip from New Orleans to Miami with Brad Mountz the son of the founder. Brad was coming to do a similar internship with Norbar in Banbury. Maybe the year in the States gave me the appetite for living abroad. I certainly knew that by the end of the year if I had a choice then I would have planned to return to California to live and work.