ALE & Hale, the former Dudley Port foundry which has received numerous references from Bugle readers over the past few months, has a special place in the heart of ex-pat reader Steve Hughes.
Former Black Countryman Steve is now 87 and living in Boca Raton, Florida, but he remembers Hale & Hale warmly as his first employer. He began working there during the latter years of the Second World War, and shares with us a story he remember hearing at that time, of how American manufacturing knowledge had an effect on the workings at the factory. Steve writes:
"The two Hale brothers had a small foundry near to St John's Church (I think it was), on the opposite side of the street about about a hundred yards away. They were making cast iron cooking utensils, open fireplaces and heated ovens for cooking food.
"Over the open fire swung the iron kettle in those days, boiling the water that was used for making tea, washing anything that needed it, and bathing. Everyone got in on a Friday night using the same water.
"When World War Two started and the Yanks came to our aid, they pointed out that the tank tracks must be made with malleable iron. Cast iron as we made it, could crack on impact and trouble was on hand.
"So Hale and Hale opened up their space, and found out how to make American malleable iron. From what I understand the Americans gave them the formula and detailed the beehive type furnaces.
"Soon Chatwins, near the railway station, just off Owen Street in Tipton, was aquired to make the cast iron products. J.J Whitehouse, a small foundry, was purchased and transferd into an area in Chatwins about a mile away.
"Whitehouse's was a small foundry producing cooking products.
They were shipped to Africa for the people who cooked their food over the open flame. There was a moulder at the main foundry there who got molten samples for me to use in the lab. His name was George Rhodes; I met his daughter Beryl at a dance and we got married.
"Hale and Hale converted to American malleable using standard-type furnaces as the melting pot.
"At this time my Dad William (Bill) Hughes was made foreman, and within the next few years Dad was promoted to manager.
"During this time I graduated from Dudley and Staffordshire Technical College and I got a job at Hale and Hale in the lab.
"After my departure from there I went on my way to new jobs at several companies, both local and around the country, including Bilston Foundries, Christy and Norris in Chelmsford, then to Foundry Equipment in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. After covering Europe as a salesman, Foundry Equipment sent me to Canada then the USA.
"I settled here and retired a few years ago in Florida. My wife Beryl (a Dudley lass) and our four children
are still enjoying the American way."
Steve still has one photograph, reproduced here, from his days at Hale & Hale, along with a reference from the firm on headed note paper. Dated 13th June, 1947, it helped young Steve secure his next job at Bilston Foundries. Handwritten in blue ink, it reads ...
"To whom it may concern:
"This is to certify that Mr S Hughes has served under the writer as a metallurgical assistant during the first three years, during which time he was promoted to a senior capacity.
"He has always been a consistent worker. He has had experience in most branches of metallurgical work connected with iron foundries, has quite a good knowledge of foundry practice, and also a very useful experience of cupola melting.
"He has always displayed interest and initiative, particularly in connection with plant and production control in foundries, and the writer has no hesitation in recommending him for any post where these qualities are desirable."
Frustratingly, the name of the writer is just missing off the bottom of the letter!