I first started working on the Queensway part-time in the December of 1984 at a company called Al-Ko B&B. It occupied the site where Queensway Court is now. Al-Ko was an Austrian/Bavarian company named after its founder, Alois Kober, which had bought out a Leamington Spa company called B&B Trailers Ltd (B and B standing for Bird and Billington, the founders), making caravan and trailer parts.
A marketing project
I went there as part of a marketing project, for a new range of gas springs, made at the Netherlands factory. whilst I was in my final year of business and finance at Coventry (Lanchester) Polytechnic. When I finished the course in the summer, I carried on. Unemployment was still fairly high then, so they said that after I had finished the marketing list, they would keep me on for so long as there was work. So after that was completed they had me doing various jobs: I worked in the production office, the computer department, the drawing office (all drawing boards, no CAD then!) the stock control office, on the shop floor, the purchasing office and delivering items. Inadvertently I had a good grounding in working in a manufacturing facility, which stood me in good stead for later on in my working life.
The facility itself consisted of three main works. Apparently number three works (and possibly more of the facility as well) had been a facility for making rubber trim for cars, sometime in the past, although by that time they had moved to a facility in Sydenham. Number three works was divided into three brick partitioned cells. I was told that was because if there was an explosion (from the rubber producing days) that would help to contain it! There was also another separate building, which by that time was only used for storage, which had been in the past used as a heated garage with a flat for the chauffeur. The owner of the rubber factory owned a Rolls Royce and liked it looked after properly.
Changes to the area
The surrounding area has changed a bit. Where the road goes to the roundabout by the McDonald’s drive through, was just a dead end back then. There used to be a group of peacock type birds which you used to see around there, sometimes on the factory site itself. No one seemed to know where they came from though. They were no trouble. Across the Kingsway, on the same side of the road as Al-Ko, was Ford’s Machining shop. If you went further down the Kingsway, towards where the bowling alley is now, were another couple of companies: a plastic injection factory and an acupuncture training school. The biggest change though was behind the factory, where the Shires Retail park and the neighbouring business park are now – this was just ploughed fields. From the canteen window you could just see the caravan park which used to be down Heathcote Lane.
I left Al-Ko in the March of 1987, to become an assistant manager at Whiting Electrical Supplies Ltd, on the corner of Shrubland Street and Brunswick Street. Whiting Electricals consisted of four branches: Brunswick Street; Northampton; one at Nod Rise in Coventry and one at the Kingsway in Rugby. They specialised in selling cut price electrical stuff, such as cables, plug sockets, etc, primarily to the trade.
Memories of Brunswick Street
The Brunswick Street building itself is now occupied by flats which are next to the Brunswick Hub. My mother was from that area originally and says that she could remember the building originally being a dwelling house (this would have been about the 1950’s) to two elderly ladies. They had a very nice front garden. Although by the time I worked there it had been converted into a car park. Prior to it being Whiting Electricals, it had been a bookies. The nearby newsagent was still owned by the same family from when my mother lived around there. I left in September 1987 to go back to polytechnic to study engineering.
I did enjoy working at Al-Ko and kept in contact with people there for a while. They needed to improve the site though and a few years later they moved to Southam, where they still are.