How Steep is Your Truck


Hello and Welcome to Sams Canteen.

We were sat in the office the other day at one of our rare quiet moments when we were thinking of what would our readers want to see/hear in a blog. I had just been telling a story from when I was an apprentice that was from back in the 80s when the health and safety was, to say the least, a bit relaxed when I thought that’s it ill share some of these.

Sams canteen is now up and running and we will be open & be posting stories that actually happened though we may have to change the names except mine to protect the not so innocent.

So grab a tea, coffee, and biscuit and enjoy the memories.

Sit back relax and enjoy the story
Sit back relax and enjoy the story


The fleet of transport at SM Halls (Cudworth Builders) in 1984 consisted of an escort van, 2 tranny vans, a large flat bed lorry and a Ford Transit Tipper truck. All of the transport was to say the least a few years old. Rust buckets would probably be the correct phrase.

Rusty Tea
Rusty Tea

So back in the day what would happen on big jobs was all the trades (workers) would be picked up on a morning by one of the lads who was allowed to take the van, home. They would also have to drop the lads off after either going back to the yard to pick up their cars or straight home if they had been picked up that morning, (normally them that did not drive or them that had been banned).

So in a tranny van you would get 3 men and a lad in the front on the bench seat and the rest in the back sat on bags of plaster, tins of paint, crates, or anything that was slightly more comfortable than the wheel arches or metal floor.

If they were long journeys men would make beds out of insulation or dust sheets, and you needed a bed because the petrol fumes coming in via the holes would make you sleepy and give you headaches.

One of the of the practical jokes Neil would do was randomly slam on the brakes on a country lane when there was nothing on the road and swerve violently from side to side. Or worst, if someone had fell asleep in the front then the brakes and horn would go on simultaneously giving the poor victim a mild heart attack.

I had my first ever driving lesson at the tender age of 16 in the car park of the working mens club in South Kirby. Neil started it up and showed me how to drive round on our dinner hours.  That saved me a few quid in lessons and got me a confident start to driving.

The coal board work wasn’t the only work Cudworth builders did back then, but it was one of their main contracts. They also did work for the local health authority. It was extensions and things like that, so there were normally quite a few men on site. Read more blogs on our award winning website in the latest news section.

This one particular day nearly all the trades were on site up at the general hospital, and one of the ford transit vans was supposed to come and pick some of the lads up and the rest would go in the tipper as usual. There was, Jack, Jacks son, Bry the old plasterer, Andy the labourer, Jim the joiner, Neil the apprenticed bricky, Big Jim n little Jim plus Toot n Ploot all waiting for the transit van only to be told it had broken down and anyone that wanted a lift had to get on the tipper.

Toot n Ploot

Toot n ploot always worked together, they were a team, if they got split up the got right monk on and were in a bad mood. They were both small around 5’3″ each with platform shoes on. They wore old NCB donkey jackets as did a lot of the old workers, and they were in there 40s. Toot n Ploot got their nicknames as did a lot of the lads from Neil the Plasterer. We were working at a house and they were being slimey to the customer and when they had gone the customer brought out a cup of tea for everyone and said “wheres Toot n Ploot gone” well that was it neil just cracked up laughing and from that day on they were christened Toot n Ploot.

So it gets to 4.45pm and every one is packed up ready to leave, actually what used to happen was, because it was day work everything was done around 3.45 with just a tiny bit to do in case any of the bosses came. Then everyone would be stood around talking about sport, telly n basic mens stuff.

So in the front Toot was driving and ploot was sat next to him (partner in crime). Next to Toot was Jack the brickie then his Son and me on his son’s knee all uncomfortably close. The reason for this order was it was those who used that truck regularly got first choice, jack & his son would be getting out at Stairfoot to make some room and then i would get out near where i lived on Rotherham road before the rest went back to the yard to get their cars.

So after what seemed like hours of complaining and whining everyone was in their places with all of the lads sat in the back with their own backs against the front metal wall of the tipper bucket. There was other things on the flat back as you would expect some rubbish, bricks, sand, cement, scrap, the lads tool bags and some plant.

So we were finally off and it was just dropping dark, dusk even as it was autumn and there was quite a bit of traffic about. In the cab the heater did not work and the windscreen was steamed up due to the amount of carbon dioxide being produced between us all. Toot kept wiping the windscreen with a rag then passing it along for the rest of the screen to be done which was awkward because we could hardly move our arms due to being squeezed in like sardines. the dash board was like someone had thrown tika tape like in the 78 world cup in Argentina and it had landed there with all the tickets from the builders merchants and job sheets. You could just make them out in between the dust and the chocolate bar wrappers. Every time someone moved someone would cry out “aaarrrggg”as elbows, keys and knees dug into each other.

squeezed in like sardines
Squeezed in like Sardines

So the journey to stairfoot involved going from the hospital and traveling the route of the old Barnsley circular bus which was the Pogmore 331 you could travel the whole way around Barnsley for 2p back then, which was an interesting journey for people watcher. The route from the hospital was along broadway, through Kingston, down Park Rd on to Cemetary Rd on to Doncaster Rd then up kendry hill and over to Stairfoot at the other side. The key here is when the tipper got to the bottom of Kendry hill and started to drive up. Unbeknown to anyone, was that during the passing of the wiping steam cloth, and subsequent in cab wrestling the lever for the tipper had got knocked on, so as we were traveling up the hill the tipper back was slowly raising up. We kept going oblivious to the state of play and the back got higher and higher until about three quarters the way up Toot noticed it in his mirror and there was a scream then shout and a mass scramble to pull the lever back down.


This hill is steep
This hill is Steep

Toot pulled the van over just over the top and got out to see if they were all ok, everything was at the rear of the truck in a pile the bricks, sand, cement, plant and last but not least lots of dazed puzzled work men with dust surrounding the back tailgate. Thankfully they were all ok and the journey continued.

The next day it was the talk of the yard and the stories of what happened in the back came to light. As we were going up the hill and the tipper was going up slowly know one said anything in the back but they were all thinking the same thing. “This hill is steep” then it got steeper and steeper and Bry finally came out with it as the sand and bricks started sliding F**k**g hell this is a steep hill, then they realised what was happening and were all scrambling trying to grab the sides before ending up in a pile at the back.

“Its a good job that tail gate was bolted shut or we would have all been on the road”, said Jim in his dead pan voice. every time the story got mentioned by Bry me n Neil would just fall about crying with laughter because he was so serious and that made it funnier and funnier.

Read more stories from Sams Canteen in the Latest news section of our award winning website


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