Bob Wright has proved he has got the Wright stuff.
Bob (pictured) joined a safety equipment company in 1971, after getting fed up with his first job.
That has clearly not been a problem at Kee Systems, once of Battersea and now in Earlsfield – because he has just celebrated working there for 50 years.
Bob joined the company, based in Groton Road, Earlsfield, at the tender age of 18 as a fresh-faced tube cutter.
Since then, he’s held many different positions, and now, aged 68, helps customers both on the trade counter and via the website’s click and collect service.
His anniversary was marked with a surprise party for Bob on June 30, where he was presented with a trophy by Kee Systems’ commercial director Jason Godfrey.
Bob, from Putney Vale, first worked at Grierson-Blumenthal Ltd, a London-based wine and spirits merchant – which closed in 2015, delivering as far away as Manchester and Leeds.
He said: “I was getting a bit fed up with it, and one of the drivers I worked with mentioned that a business called Kee Systems were looking for people, so I applied.”
Bob started working at Kee Systems’ original Battersea premises in 1971, when the firm only sold modular cast iron Kee Klamp fittings, for metal barriers and guardrails and metal tube.
The company moved to its current base 18 months later.
“Things were a bit different then,” said Bob. “We were cutting tube in an old lean-to shed on a railway embankment.
“It was this long, narrow yard where we were totally open to the elements, with a little coke brazier to keep us warm.
“They’d bring the tube in on lorries and we’d cut it to the right lengths for customers.”
He asked to move into driving after turning 21, when company insurance would cover him. Later he moved to installation, including racks for clothes.
“We worked regularly with Morris Angel & Sons, who did all the fancy dress costumes, at their Shaftesbury Avenue premises,” he said. “It was like a rabbit warren.”
He moved one final time into the office’s trade counter about 20 years ago, and later online sales.
“I always enjoyed helping customers,” he said.
“I work with the sales team to calculate what fittings and tube our customers need, and I’ll work with the carriers to supply the right pieces. Plus it’s a bit warmer than the lean-to at Battersea.
“I’ve done all sorts of things around the business. Jack of all trades, master of none – that’s me.”
Things have got a lot safer during his career there.
“We always used goggles and masks for the works, but we didn’t have the marked out walkways, and we didn’t have to wear steel toe cap boots,” he said. “It was a lot less safe.
“Since we were acquired by our parent company Kee Safety, you feel a lot safer – they made a lot of changes for the better.
“We’ve been around for so long with the same product that people know its worth, and what we can do.
“I remember one project for the Ministry of Defence where they needed racking for replacement panels for the nuclear subs.
“These were great big heavy things. The racking had to be solid.
“Kee Klamp was perfect for it. It’s easy to fit and if it gets damaged it doesn’t take any time at all to swap the damaged sections out.
“You don’t need to take the whole thing down as you would with welded systems.”
Domestic customers also use the tubes for beds, shelves and climbing frames.
“Once a chap came in on behalf of Keith Richards,” recalled Bob.
“He was having a new kitchen built for his wife who wanted the whole thing done in Kee Klamp. I didn’t get to visit, unfortunately.”
Bob, who could have retired three years ago, said it was the camaraderie with colleagues which had kept him there.
“It’s so nice to work in a place where everyone gets on,” he said.
“You know you aren’t going to struggle because you can always ask for help and people are comfortable asking you for help too. It’s comradeship.
“I was ill a while back and the company said ‘no, you’ve got to go home and look after yourself.’ I had regular calls from my then-manager Christian King asking how I was.
“When [current manager] Jason Godfrey took over he was the same. It’s nice to know the company is on your side.”
He does not plan to retire yet. “During Covid I was shielding and I had no clue what to do with myself,” he said.
“I missed the banter and the chat. I did all the odd jobs at home then just wanted to be back at work.
“I can see myself working for a few more years yet. My wife can retire in a year or so, so I might think about slowing down then, but I’m in no hurry.”
Bob said that if he hadn’t ended up at Kee Systems, he would have liked to have travelled the world.
“Or I would have liked to have done National Service and gone into the Navy,” he said. “But I’ve been doing this for 50 years, so there must be something to it.”
Jason Godfrey, Kee Systems’ commercial director, said: “We’re all chuffed to be celebrating Bob’s achievement.
“Fifty years is an incredible length of time to do anything and it means a lot that he dedicated himself and his hard work to Kee Systems.
“On behalf of the company I’d like to thank Bob for that hard work. We’re glad to hear he won’t be leaving us any time soon.”
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