Ronald Basil Girdler

1925 - 2017

Helene Girdler

1927 - 2020

Jobs after Marriage

At first I enjoyed being at home with plenty of time to sit in the garden and enjoy the sunshine, but I soon became restless and kept thinking about all the money I was losing, and I knew I had to get another job. I think it was Shirley who pointed out an ad in the jobs column of the local paper. A lab assistant was required at Crookes Laboratories in Acton to test their products, in what we now call the Quality Control lab. I applied and was accepted and started working there with another girl of about my age. The products consisted of ampoules of various vitamins which had to be tested in a fume cupboard. I can't remember what we were actually testing for but the work was rather tedious. We had to supply our own cutlery for our lunches which were served in the factory canteen. A galvanised bucket of tepid water was provided for us to wash up in, for which we had to queue up when we had finished our meal. There was always a layer of grease on top of the water and I don't think there was any detergent in it either. I thought it was horrible! So I was not too upset when I was called into the manager's office, after I had been there for about three months, and told that I was to be made redundant. My work had been completely satisfactory, I was told, but the Company was cutting down on staff and as I was last in I was first out. I was provided with a glowing reference and that was that.

Once again I was without a Job but now it was winter and I was enjoying my leisure much less than before. I scoured the local paper and very soon I saw a post advertised at the labs of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in Mill Hill. This seemed to be more in my line and so it turned out to be.

I was to be an assistant to Dr. C. Le Q. Darcel, a Jersey man, who was a research Vet. He was a young married man and was about 6'4" tall. He was carrying out research on leukaemia and the work involved the inoculation of day-old chicks with a virus which produced leukaemia in some cases. The inoculation material was known as RP11 and was kept in ampoules in the deep-freeze cabinet, which was a very new idea in refrigeration. Each chick had to be palpated daily for tumours at the injection site in the breast. I used to hold the chicks (about a hundred in each batch) in readiness for the inoculation, and palpated them daily for signs of a tumour at the inoculation site, with the help of Pat who was the animal technician, a girl of about my age who had been a land-girl during the war. I also made various solutions for injection and kept the records.

Later Dr. Darcel began working with tissue culture, which was another new technique. For this we worked with fertilised chickens eggs which were kept in an incubator and "candied" each day. This consisted of holding the egg up to a light in a candling box -an electric light- and looking for any changes in the appearance of the contents. Dr. Darcel would then carefully open the egg and remove the embryo, and I think divide it into small portions, and attempt to grow them on in culture fluid. I remember on one occasion Dr. Darcel required some amniotic fluid to continue with the experiments and he asked me to go with him to the local slaughterhouse to collect some from cows which had been in calf. (I once referred to such animals as "pregnant cows" when talking to Pat, who burst out laughing and told me the correct term!), Dr. Darcel was not very communicative in the normal course of events, and I thought the trip to the slaughterhouse might a bit awkward, and I was surprised when, whilst waiting at the bus stop, he asked me what my husband thought of the trip. I was, and still am puzzled by this question. However, it turned out to be an extremely interesting day although looking back on it, all that killing of animals does seem a rather gruesome way of obtaining food. We got our amniotic fluid and returned to the lab.

The I.C.R.F. labs were housed in a relatively new large building next door to the Medical Research labs, which were themselves housed in an enormous multi-storied building on the top floor of which was the restaurant, which we were allowed to use. From its windows was a magnificent view of the surrounding open countryside which was very extensive and quite surprising considering its proximity to the suburban area of north-west London. Also, on a windy day you could feel the tower building swaying which I didn't like at all. At the ICRF, there was a large number of staff working on various projects, as well as several clerical and secretarial people. Shortly after I arrived there, Dr. Darcel acquired a co-worker, Dr. Negroni, who was a medical doctor from Sardinia. He was an interesting young man with typical Mediterranean charm, and had quite an affection for the ladies, He was always surrounded by a bevy of girls from the lab and would tell of all his conquests. At about this time Ron and I were planning a holiday in Italy, and I had started an Italian course in evening classes. So of course Dr. Negroni helped me with my Italian homework during the lunch hour.

So Pat and I were kept busy assisting the two doctors. Both doctors were carrying out similar work. When a batch of chicks were to be inoculated some were used as controls, but Pat and I were never told which were which, t was quite put out by this until Dr. Negroni explained that the reason for this was that when we palpated them our findings would not be influenced in any way. I later realised that this was of course standard practice in research. I also used the calculating machine to work out the statistics from the findings. Dr. Darcel wrote out the formula I was to use. This machine was a revelation to me. It was an early forerunner of the electronic computer, but this was a purely mechanical machine. When calculating there was such a metallic din as the numbers rolled round their individual cylinders until the appropriate result was achieved. When an impossible task was set for it, such as a calculation involving a negative number, the cylinders would roll round in a frantic manner so as to appear quite demented, and the result would be a series of zeros. I loved using it, as I enjoyed all the work there.

Pat was preparing to get married but had very little money and was finding it difficult to buy a wedding dress. I had a full-length white net dress with an overskirt which was looped up with a red rose, which I had worn to my cousin Beattie's wedding a couple of years earlier. I offered It to her and she was delighted with it. She simply removed the rose and it became appropriate and fitted her beautifully.

Het and Jack had bought a second-hand Jaguar car in about 1952, but neither of them could drive at the time, although both were having driving lessons. On a fine day in the summer, it was arranged that Ron would drive (he had already passed his test at the first attempt) and we'd all go out for the day. I can't remember where we had arranged to go, but purely by chance we drove down a narrow country lane and arrived at a nice little pub by a river, where we had a drink. The pub was called The Anchor, and some years later we discovered that it was in Pyrford by the Wey navigation canal, about two miles from where we are now living.

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