When Gerry Colston started his current job, The Rolling Stones were at number one with Jumpin’ Jack Flash and his weekly pay was £3.
The Dundee factory worker will retire today after more than five decades of service for the same company.
Gerry started at Low & Bonar Packaging in July 1968. 52 years, nine months and 27 days later he will turn up for his final shift at the business, now known as Discovery Flexibles.
He said he’d loved every minute of his career maintaining the Kemback Street company’s machines.
Plastic a ‘thing of the future’
But the firm’s longest serving employee could just have easily chosen a different company to work for.
“At school I was given a few jobs to go for – you had a big choice in those days,” Gerry said.
“I wasn’t sure which one was best. They were all ways of serving my time.
“I asked one of my teachers who said ‘they deal with plastics and that’s a thing of the future’. It turned out to be a good choice.”
When Gerry started in the 1960s, the business had around 300 workers. Its main focus was printed plastics and bag making.
Not that he was allowed anywhere near the machines when he started as a fresh faced 15-year-old.
“You weren’t supposed to start your time until I was 16,” he recalled.
“So if people needed materials I used to jump on the message bike and collect them. It was hard going on your bike with 10 boxes of screws at the front!”
‘Enjoyed the banter’
Gerry was a stalwart of the company’s football team which competed in the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades union charity shield in the early 1990s.
The team became Scottish champions and reached the semi-finals of the UK championships.
Over the years the business has seen many owners and many names – Bonar Packaging Films, Teich Flexibiles, Danapak and, since 2008, Discovery Flexibles.
A few times it has been under threat of closure. When Low & Bonar purchased a much larger site in Derby in 1986 it looked as if Dundee would close.
As recently as two years ago it was on the brink of administration before being purchased by factory manager Jimmy Urquhart.
Despite the ups and downs over the years Gerry said he’d never once thought of leaving.
“I’ve always enjoyed my work and the banter,” he said.
“The guys who work here are brilliant and it has been like that over the years. We’re like one big family.
“We’ve had an influx of youngsters lately because we’ve had a few guys retiring but we’re all pals.”
So what led to the decision to hand in his notice after all these years?
“I just thought it’s time,” he replied. “I’ve got three grandchildren and I just thought I should spend more time looking after them.
“I’ll also spend more time in the garden, in the gym and watching football.”
‘Experience you can’t buy’
Factory manager Jimmy Urquhart has worked with Gerry for 37 years and paid tribute to his service.
“A successful business is all about its people,” he said.
“Gerry has always been an active member of the team over his 52 years here. He knows every inch of this factory and its machines.
“It’s easy to underestimate the contribution of maintenance in a production plant… until something goes wrong. It’s fair to say he’s saved our bacon over the years.”
He noted Gerry had been an active member of the firm’s social club, organising company barbeques and parties for employees’ children.
“On behalf of the company I sincerely wish Gerry and his family a long and happy retirement,” he added.
“It’s often said that it’s the end of an era. In this case it is.
“How do you replace Gerry, his knowledge and experience?
“I asked the guys who said they got everything they needed to know in less than five minutes and wrote it down on a cigarette packet. That’s a joke by the way! He really will be missed.”