Had to SWIM to work if he was late!
‘Part- of the Pier’ for forty-five years: now Jim is to retire
SIXTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD Mr. Jim Baker, of 133 Burgh Road, Skegness, will have done more than most men to earn a retirement when he does so during the next 12 months.
For in 45 years with the Skegness Pier Company he has lost through an accident the sight of his right eye, fractured his skull, pelvis and collar bone, has fallen twice into the sea and more than once has had to swim to work!
To Mr. Baker his retirement will mean more than just the end of a lifetime working for the same company. It will also be the end of a 25-year-old “partnership” between father and only son, Mr. Jack Baker, who lives with his parents.
One can best describe Messrs. Baker and Son’s occupations as turnstile keepers and handymen. Mr. Baker senior has for the past 42 years operated a turnstile on the pier during the summer season and his son has for 23 years been employed in the same manner.
In the close season they are engaged in maintenance work on the windswept pier, replacing worn sections of decking, painting seats, ironwork and shelters, and doing countless odd jobs essential for the pier’s appearance in the summer. They are, in other words, “jacks of all trades.”
No doubt the task of painting the pier is an enormous one. Nowadays a different section each year is painted, but Mr. Baker said: ” In the old days we were given seven weeks in which to paint the whole pier. Mind you, there were about six men on the job and we only gave it one coat of paint.”
Most Skegnessians remember or have heard of that sensational day in March, 1919, when a Dutch motor vessel on her maiden voyage ploughed into the pier, causing damage amounting to £3,000.
Mr. Baker has a vivid memory of the occasion, for he was one of the last workmen to reach safety before the pier was torn in half.
” The sea was very rough,” he recalls. ” She had lost her rudder two or three days earlier and the captain had no control over her. In the morning she came straight at the middle of the pier. I was working with Jack Hardy further along the pier and we were the last to run clear.”
Mr. Hardy has also been employed by the Pier Company for 45 years.
“The war had just finished and we were getting ready for the 1919 season when it happened. Every day after that we had to start work at 4 o’clock in the morning and climb up a Jacob’s ladder to get on to the pier.”
A temporary bridge was built over the gaping hole in the pier, but not before Mr. Baker and his fellow workmen had once or twice had to swim to work after misjudging the tide!
In later years he twice fell into the sea, but fortunately suffered only a ‘ducking’ both times. Nevertheless, the latter fall came in November, when the water was far from warm.
“I was working with Jack Hardy from a plank when it snapped. We got out all right, went home, changed our clothes and then came back to finish the job we were doing.”
Unlike a fall in 1945 which almost cost him his life. ” I was working in the arcade when I fell 35 feet on to the concrete. I lost the sight of my right eye, smashed my pelvis, skull and collar bone. He did not return to work until two years later.
” Hardly Changed”
Although Mr. Baker has nothing to do with the entertainment on the pier, he remembered seeing many of the famous old-time music hall stars from London performing in the pier pavilion.
“The amusement arcade,” he says, “has hardly changed at since I started here. It has always been mainly automatics.”
Mr. Baker was born at Burgh. His father, Mr. J. Baker, was of the workmen who built the first shop in Lumley Road. Bonnett’s Bakery (now cafe) in approximately 1885.
Source: Skegness Standard 14th May 1958