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vauxhall victor2

Mr Zummerset Comes Home Part 6

by Robin Wale

  • Robin lived in Curry Rivel from the 1950s through his school years and early adult life. As he married he moved away from Oath Hill Farm (but not too far) though has since returned. In a series of short articles, Robin recalls his years in agriculture, his schooldays, growing up around Curry Rivel and his eventual homecoming.

My social life was now in the fast lane. I had passed my driving test and had purchased a nearly new Vauxhall Victor, with a column gear stick and bench seats, which would seat 6 quite comfortably. It is the only car that I can remember the registration of – 19 CLA.

I had joined North Curry Young Farmers club, a small club, with about 30 members, half of whom had farming connections, the rest being local young teenagers.

We had many competitions to enter into with other Young Farmers clubs, e.g. brains trust, debating, public speaking, stock judging and all the County Rally events, but my favourite was always the drama competition. We reached the National Semi Finals twice and the National Final once. I also enjoyed the entertainment competition and have happy memories of being the MC at Strode Theatre, showing the audience how to wash a baby in a nappy. Unfortunately the baby was a 14 year old member called Keith, dressed only in a nappy, sitting in a galvanised tub!

In 1967 the County chartered a Boeing aircraft for Somerset Young Farmers to participate in a arranged trip to America, hosted by American Farmers and their families. My mate Stan and two lady members of the club, Sheila and Lyn, decided we'd do our own thing. We all touched down at Boston runway but the trip did not get off to a good start. The County organiser ran up to us with a challenge to our going off alone – one of the young ladies was 14 years old. Once assured that her parents were entirely happy with the arrangement and trusted our friendship group, we were allowed to proceed. I'm sure it wouldn't have happened today – it seems life was much more innocent and far less complicated then.

But moving on, we purchased a $99 ticket each from the greyhound bus company, which allowed us to travel for the duration of the holiday. We left Boston and travelled to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, and back again, seeing all the major highlights and staying in YMCAs. Sadly the trip was over all to soon, and I was back on Monday morning sitting on my office stool in Langport.

When the branch manager arrived, keen to hear all about American farming and what I had learnt, to say he was disappointed when I told him that the nearest we got to it was looking at it through the coach windows was a understatement!

That evening, having had my tea and feeling rather deflated, the phone rang and luckily I answered it. It was the neighbouring Branch Manager at Martock, asking me if I had ever considered going out on the road as a salesman. An opportunity had arisen at the branch and, considering that my current situation had always been decided by my father, this was a big decision for me. I had very little sales experience and I was going to take over existing business from the out going sales person, who had been instantly dismissed for making inappropriate phone calls to farmers wives. (The mind boggles! Ed)

Well, I was by now 21 and I decided to go for it and said yes, there and then, without discussing it with my father first. It was agreed I would start in a weeks time, commencing with sales training. Things were very intensive in those days! My training was to accompany another salesman at the Yeovil depot for a fortnight, listening and watching, observing how he looked after existing customers and going on to farms trying to get new business.

That was it! I was on my own, responsible for all the Agricultural business in the area designated to the Martock branch. The total trading area extended for a radius of 5 miles. Can you believe I called on existing customers every fortnight, plus calling on other farmers to generate new business, and still there were farms that I did not have time to call upon. Competition was incredible – there would be between 15 and 20 other companies trading in the same area, a split between National and regional competitors. You could lose business for two shillings and sixpence a ton. In today's language about 30p!

Although it was not easy to start with because of the circumstances that I took over, thankfully with the help of Young Farmers and sons and daughters that I new, this encouraged people to trade with me. I also credit the strict education at Brymore School, which taught us respect, manners and punctuality.

Next time, the industry starts to change and I have to make difficult decisions.

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