On November 11, 2022, ex-Guernsey employee David Bradshaw joined us on our regular volunteer Zoom meeting. We had sent David a list of questions to help direct the conversation with questions we had on Guernsey. We were thrilled to have him share his experience with us over the course of about 30 minutes.
Below is a transcription of the Zoom call. Words spoken by museum volunteers are in bold. The transcript has been lightly edited to improve readability.
Very briefly. When I joined Tek in 1968 the company had been in Guernsey for nine years and had grown significantly from the beginning. I guess when I joined, there were probably around 400 employees. And at that time the population of Guernsey (I had a quick look) in 1960 was 47,000. So Tektronix was considerably the largest private employer. Obviously, the government was the largest employer. At its very peak, I think I recall seeing a number of 702 employees. From the day I joined, I think I started as what we called a test trainee and that was a fast track to bring young people in and get them into a technical capacity. It was a six month program run by a guy called Doug Campbell, who was the training manager at that time. He was quite ahead of his time because he insisted that any training he gave had not just to be relevant to Tektronix, but it had to be to what was the UK standard qualification which was called City and Guilds. They were a professional examination body in a vast range of areas, not just technical areas. He insisted that the training was relevant to the City and Guilds qualification. And in actual fact in later years, back into the 1970s and the early 1980s, people from other organizations within Guernsey would come to Tektronix to undertake the training to that City and Guild standard.
In the list of questions you sent, you asked once you became a test technician, was it usual then to move to different locations? And I would say no, it wasn't common. But what Tektronix Guernsey did do is if there were times when perhaps we had less work than some other areas we would then offer technical assistance to other areas.
So in 1972, at least two groups of us spent time in Heerenveen on the production line. I was in the second or third group of four. We spent about six weeks there, and as a 20 year old in Amsterdam, that was quite neat - really. We were working alongside colleagues who are doing exactly the same work that we were doing in Guernsey.
And then later on, in the early 1980s, two of us were sent to Cologne in Germany three times. The first time I was in Cologne for about six weeks and I remember it was the summer of 1981. It was horrendously hot, tremendously humid, and the second time was literally just a week before Christmas of 1984 and then early in 1985 a couple weeks more.
And then on my own I was sent to the service center in Munich (I think) in 1985. And in 1986 I went and spent two weeks in Milan, Italy. And the whole point of that was to provide extra assistance to the service center there because they had a huge backlog of work.
And just as an interesting aside, when I was in Milan, I found out that at that time the Italians did not seem to understand the concept of working overtime.
Because when I said I was willing to work more hours than the standard, this was greeted with you know, this guy's crazy. He wants to work more hours. It was just something that seemed to be outside of their knowledge, really.
I wonder what they would have thought of working all-nighters?
Yeah, well, we've all done that at some time, haven't we?
And I know moving from a technical background into a job. I think this was something that was probably almost unique to Tektronix at the time because any post that was available was open to any employee. And certainly, within the framework of Guernsey at that time, people tended to specialize and stay within that specialism. But I had already been working there for 12, maybe 14 years, and was involved with something that was called the Tektronix and Employees Mutual Benefit Club, which was basically an insurance scheme funded and run by the employees that provided insurance for medical claims, which would not pay, and still not paid, by the local government. And as part of that, I had a lot of interface with the Finance department and the HR section. So, when a post became available, I think I'd had enough of dealing with machines and wanted to actually use what I thought I had a skill as, dealing with people. Unfortunately, people answered back whereas machines at that time certainly didn't.
So, welcome to hear any questions or comments and I will answer whatever I can.
One of the questions that we're all curious about is the annual picnics, and then let me diverge to another topic off of that. One of the things we learned was the Miss Tektronix contest, and then I learned that someone won it at 15 and I assumed she was a child of an employee only to learn Guernsey hired 14- and 15-year-olds. And I'd love to hear more about how many young people did they have? Did they move out of the house? Did they drive a car? Did they walk to work?
The annual picnic was a great thing. All you've got to do is to Google Guernsey and look at the map of Guernsey, which is an island, basically, triangular in shape and roughly nine miles by five.
Off to the east coast of Guernsey three miles away is this little island called Herm which is about a mile long than a quarter mile wide. And I love Herm. It's a fabulous place. And what used to happen was a group of people would go over there on a Thursday, possibly Friday, dig chemical toilets into the ground, get the food ready. And then on the Saturday, everybody from Guernsey and their families would disappear over to Harm and have a fabulous day out.
There were treasure hunts for the kids. There were tug of war competitions. They were all sorts of entertainment. Certain alcoholic beverages were consumed and we all came back on the boat later on. The boats took about a hundred people at a time and you could end up with anything like a thousand people going over for the day.
So, moving on to the fact that we have employed 14-year-olds, when I moved over to Guernsey with my parents in 1962, the minimum leaving age from school was 14. My own sister-in-law had a job at the age of 14, working in a local factory that produced and packaged cigarettes. Nowadays, of course, that wouldn't be acceptable. But it was perfectly accepted then. But by the time I was looking to join Tektronix - I joined up at 16; the minimum leaving age from school at that time was 15. So yeah, there were a lot of 15, 16, 17-year-olds working at Tek and normally living at home. Normally in those days people lived at home until they got married, I guess.
We got to the factory by, the company actually paid to run a couple of buses, two or three buses around the island. They would pick up employees from various points and deliver them to the factory on time to start at usually 7:30 in the morning. And I always remembered the rule was that if you were an employee who arrived on the bus, if the bus was late it didn't matter, your time wasn't deducted because you were on a bus that was supplied by the company and it was their duty to get you there on time. And I certainly remember one occasion when I could drive. I got stuck behind one of these buses which was involved in a traffic accident and was held up and we all arrived at work, 20 minutes late. The people that were on the bus got paid from 7:30. People like me who didn't arrive until 10 to 8 got money deducted because we were late. At that time, and even to this day, a 14 year old can ride a 50cc motor scooter. So, some 14-year-olds were able to get there under their own steam. And yeah, there was a lot of, particularly the girls on the assembly lines,were teenagers who would work their way through several years.
So how did things transpire at Guernsey after Heerenveen got started up? Was there much of a decline then or what?
No, I think at that time, certainly the 1970s and into the 1980s, there was not. It wasn't a fact of being in competition with Heerenveen. We saw them very much as a partner. And in fact, when the 7000 series assembly line was taken away from Guernsey and was moved to Heerenveen, they sent a group of technicians and engineers over to see how the products were put together, how they were tested. And I remember one of them saying to us that they were quite worried that they would be given a very poor reception by Guernsey people because they were taking work away and they were surprised to find that actually, we were more than happy to, to give them all the information because they were still part of Tektronix.
Where was Telequipment located and was there any crossover between employees of the two companies?
Yeah, I don't know about crossover of employees but Guernsey certainly produced a lot of the Telequipment scopes. My memory says D54. I don't know where that came from but the D54 was a mainstream Telequipment product.
Where was Telequipment located?
Telequipment was located in the UK. Harpenden, I think.
Another item on the list that says, "we heard there was initial concern about Tektronix involvement with nuclear testing. Was it a real issue?" That was way before my time. But I remember seeing newspaper articles around 1960, or 1961, saying that people in Guernsey were concerned that Tektronix was involved in the nuclear industry. I've never heard that from ex-colleagues. I think it might have been newspapers trying to make a story.
What kind of a reputation did Tektronix have in the eyes of the local people at Guernsey?
With we're now 32, nearly 33 years, since Tektronix pulled out of it, and you will still hear people saying that that was probably the best employer the island has known.
How were people received when they came over from the US? Did they come over a lot? Was that considered help or was it considered something else? And the second question is, do the ex-Guernsey employees still get together or is there still kind of a social grouping going on?
Okay, well, in reverse order that there's no sort of official get together of Tek people. We have the Tek Guernsey Facebook page, which I know some of you have contacted and my wife is one of the administrators of that page. I'm not on Facebook and I don't want to be on Facebook. I'm on LinkedIn. There's a lot of transactions there, particularly with ex-employees and children and sometimes the grandchildren of ex-employees.
How did we get on with the Americans? Generally, you know, I think pretty well. I'm trying to think of some of the names of people. Earl Wantland was one who I think the perception was that he was biased towards Heerenveen, as opposed to Guernsey, but I don't know if that's a fact. And others that I remember, John Wanders and Dick Montag. Our final general manager was a guy called Fred Entizne. I would love to know what's happened to Fred because I've not heard anything of him since he left here other than that, he left Tek not long afterwards. So, that would have been early 1990s. Fred was a - how do I put it - larger than life in more ways than one. He was a real bear of a man. It was just after I'd moved into HR and he came in one day and he said I'm going on a diet and even he weighed 26 stone. There's 14 pounds to a stone and my math is not that good anymore. And he went on a diet and it came back on about six months later.
Three hundred and sixty four pounds.
Yeah. Yeah, that sounds about right. He came in one day, about six months later and said, "Well I'm now exactly half the man I used to be." Yeah. Unfortunately, within six months he was almost back where he had been six months previously, but that was his personality. I think he was the obsessive-compulsive personality. And he was a nice guy. I got on well with him. He had the pain of overseeing the closure of Tektronix in Guernsey. But he had been instrumental in making sure that the employees got what they deserved, which was more than the statutory requirement, shall we say. There is still very little redundancy legislation in Guernsey, but Fred fought tooth and nail to get a good deal for us all.
And I think that's another reason for Tek being so well remembered is the fact that when it closed down it was demonstrated that it wasn't the fault of Guernsey. It was the fact that Guernsey was probably the cheapest one to close down at the time, if we're being perfectly honest.
One of our visitors that I mentioned from Guernsey worked for a spin-off after the Tek closure. Did you do that, too?
I personally didn't. But if you look up a couple of companies, one is called Polar Instruments and another one is called Offshore Electronics and they were both set up and manned by people who had worked at Tektronix, I actually went to work for a small local management consultancy where we provided staff and management training and computer training. I was there for about 10 or 12 years. And then after that, I moved into what we call the civil service. I was a government employee for the last 15 years of my working career.
With respect to the closure of Guernsey versus Heerenveen, it was my understanding that the laws where Heerenveen was located were, I'm going to say, so restrictive, in terms of the price they had to pay to shut down Heerenveen versus the price they had to pay versus Guernsey even though Guernsey was probably a little more profitable than Heerenveen and so they chose to shut down Guernsey instead. So it sounds like it was purely a financial consideration.
Yeah, yeah, you're absolutely right. I mean, my wife has a brother who lives still lives in the Netherlands, has lived there for a long, long time. And obviously we've got a good handle on how things happen in the Netherlands and certainly their restrictions on redundancies, benefits, generally are a lot superior to what has ever been on offer in Guernsey and it therefore meant that, yeah, Guernsey was the cheapest one to close down.
Was Polar Instruments the spectrum analyzer company?
It's not specifically spectrum analyzers but they do similar sorts of things. And they were actually set up by the guy I mentioned earlier on, who was our training manager, Doug Campbell who, unfortunately we lost just last month. He was an eccentric guy in that he was gadget-mad. He loved his gadgets. But if you had to read an instruction manual to use the gadget, it wasn't worth anything in his eyes. A gadget had to be: you take it out of the box and you can use it. He was also instrumental, and a friend of his, were instrumental in introducing to Guernsey, we call it windsurfing. I think you call it board sailing. And certainly, in the late 1970s and early 1980s he and his friend were instrumental in teaching a guy called Prince Charles how to wind surf in Guernsey. I don't know whatever happened to him...
So Pat is our archivist. He does a wonderful job going through donated materials which are newspapers and clippings and things people send us. And in between him and I, we try to figure out how to create a website that has broad appeal for people worldwide. And then we take kind of the key things from there and things that happen at the museum and do the monthly newsletter. So I'd appreciate, and you can do this some other time if you want, any feedback on the website and the newsletters, in terms of are they interesting for people from an international standpoint? Do they capture it correctly? I can't tell what we wrote on Guernsey is factually true or not. I think it is. It's the best we could figure out.
Well, like any good journalist, it doesn't have to be true to make a good story does it? But certainly what I've read pretty much reflects my vision of what happened and I am still in touch with some very good friends who were ex colleagues of mine.
And in fact, I was looking at the vintageTEK website the other day and you've got a section there on, you call them "display cruiser". We in Europe didn't like the word "cruiser" because it tended to sound like a battleship. We called it the demo bus. The demo bus went around Europe and one of my colleagues was one of the persons that manned that demo bus. I've already suggested to him that he goes on your website because you are asking for the names of people in certain photos and he was one of them.
So, I think from the Guernsey perspective, if you want to, if you want to leave a message on the Facebook page asking for more contributions, I think you'll get quite a few.
But you won't see it! On the topic of display cruisers, the way that page came about, is, I had a page on Tek Masters, and one ex-Tek employee was doing a Google search for his name, and he hit on that page. And so, he contacted me. And in the conversation I found that he's the one who drove that bus in the US. And so, he suppled me with that information. I would love to get more information on the Europe bus if that individual has pictures or whatever, that would be very good.
Okay, well next time I speak to him I'll make it a point to give him a kick to get something done.
Yeah, we want to capture this history before it's just gone and we're getting close to some of being gone.
The museum maintains an email list. And once a month, we send out the newsletter via the email. I checked, and I didn't find the name Bradshaw on our list. Would you be interested in being added to the list?
Please supply, maybe Dave or Bob, with your email address that you'd like to have us put on the list and we'll do that.
Yeah. Dave has already got that. Okay. Happy to pass that on.
We certainly appreciate you taking that time. I guess that now we will probably run through the rest of the agenda, but you're welcome to stay on and just hang out if you want. We do this call weekly.
I think I should continue with this, but what I would ask is if you have any more questions please feel free to use the email address you've got and I'll be happy to come back on another Friday evening, and do the same again in the future.
Yeah, let me just comment on that. Gerrit deVries is my contact for Heerenveen.
We've got a contact for Sony Tek. I will start using you for a contact for Guernsey because as stuff comes up and we can't make sense, I'll just send an email - "Does this make any sense to you?" Or kind of give me what it is. But I'm always looking for contacts from the various regions that just help us sort out stuff that we can't figure out by ourselves.
Fine. Yep, I'm more than happy to oblige if I can.
This January 15, 1988 TekWeek article features a photo of Fred Entizne.