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Valerie Grose: Reminiscence

I had the somewhat dubious distinction of being the first girl in London to complete the Gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh's Scheme (only because I was in the first intake of girls to start when it was introduced). On the photograph I am showing Mr & Mrs Simmons the work two younger girls are engrossed in leading to the Bronze stage. It was divided into four sections: Service to the community, Adventure, Hobbies and practical skills. Under hobbies I spotted driving a car and asked my manager what that entailed as few had a car at the time. Please laugh (or not) but a man was paid to take me out on Saturday mornings, in a company car, to teach me. No matter how long it took: the objective being for me to pass the test. I made my way to Cadby Hall to meet George, plus car, and then I drove to my home in Ealing where my mother had coffee and buns ready for us. George had a cigarette and after chatter together I drove back to CH. We spun it out for about six months and I then passed. 

Although I went to work everyday with only two weeks holiday, that company was pretty good to me. What a privilege to have had my office (when eventually promoted to senior secretary) opposite that of Mr Simmons with TRT's alongside. Mr Pinkerton and Mr Caminer had offices elsewhere but were frequently seen heading to Mr Simmons' office. 

One day Diane (a colleague) and I were called upon to serve tea in his oak panelled office to a group of a dozen or so gentlemen. I was going on holiday next day (he must have been told that by someone). He stopped the meeting, excuse me gentlemen, Valerie I understand you are going on holiday tomorrow. May I ask where to if you are going away. The Isle of Wight with my parents. He then wished me a pleasant time. 
My completion of the Award took me to the office of Sir Samuel Salmon who presented me with "The Ascent of Everest". I still have it on my bookshelf. I met Sir John Hunt and when four more girls completed the Gold level we were invited for lunch at the House of Commons with the MP for Hammersmith, Mr Compton Carr. 
So....I never was a "LEO" but had that close association with the key players. I have spoken to one or two people at the reunions who were LEOs but who never met the "gentlemen". I feel very fortunate. KR Valerie I know so many widows, I feel I am now a member of "that" Society. Had Tony have lived, his onward journey would not have been pleasant (wheelchair and incontinent) so I have to come to terms with the outcome being, for him, the kindest thing.

My file was on the table with lots of other items/memorabilia [at the LEO Computers Society reunion]. I removed a couple items that I can always return. I must say, in all honesty, at the time I had no idea of the role of Mr Simmons. Like several other "pinstripe-suited" gentleman he was just a very senior manager to whom we younger employees showed great respect. He was the Comptroller but what exactly that was we knew not: just the head of the clerical workings of J Lyons, in the same way that schools have a headmaster (or mistress). I'm not entirely sure I had awareness of his LEO importance/connection. When Messrs Caminer, Pinkerton and Thompson dashed along the corridor heading to room 23 (Mr Simmons office) I suppose we thought it was the weekly audience, such as the Prime Minister has with Her Majesty the Queen. 

His secretary, Miss Margery Slack went to Tangier. We lesser mortals thought she was on some other planet: way out of our reach. Tony was with British Airways and we returned from Washington on Concorde. Never as a young girl could I have imagined such arrangements. Neither could I have imagined being part of these LEO gatherings in such a grandiose building as Middle Temple Hall. I don't have photos that Mr Simmons took: just one with me explaining the Duke of Edinburgh's award to he and Mrs Simmons. 

Another manager, Mavis Leopold, was the wife of Michael, nephew of Reginald Leopold who conducted the Sunday evening Palm Court orchestra programme. A Mrs Greenall, personnel manager and Miss Buzzey, secretary to the Chief Accountant, together with Mrs Simmons all had manicures, regular hair appointments, bags and shoes like Footaballers' wives have nowadays (several thousand per item: equivalent in those days). Something we younger ones could only admire and dream of. It all seems like another world but of course is the memory of the early days of my life. 

The Lyons whole operation was very labour-extensive. Would Mr Simmons nowadays have no need of his secretary and just communicate on his mobile and iPad? Maybe the wages and salaries to so many thousands of staff (9000 at Cadby Hall, I recall) perhaps be part of the downfall of the company? Thankfully the organisation of the time enabled me to have an interesting and fulfilling career. I feel very fortunate.

Date : Unknown

Creator : LEO

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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH53404. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Valerie Grose: Reminiscence

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