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Author Topic: Gary Baltao, QE2's Bakers shop 1974-1975 + 1981-82  (Read 3837 times)

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baltaogc

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Gary Baltao, QE2's Bakers shop 1974-1975 + 1981-82
« on: Dec 29, 2013, 05:15 PM »
Working on the QE2 was one of the best and eye opening experiences of my life.

In 1974 I started as assistant baker confectioner after working nights at the Dorchester in Park Lane while I was at an A level cramming school in South Ken. My pals from Gosport had already joined the Merchant Navy and I decided to try my hand. After getting no joy at the Pool I walked into the Cunard offices in Southampton and said to Mr Allen I wanted to go to Sea. He said what as and I replied anything deck hand waiter..... He smiled and asked.. what have you done before?

I said supermarket, lead foundry, engineering, lathes mills ( mostly all summer jobs) and bakery..Dorchester Hotel and Greens plant bakery Gosport.

Can I make petit fours?  blank look  Can I make macaroons?  blank look again by me.  What can you make then ? he asked.

Dutch, Cobbs wholemeal, wheatmeal , dinner rolls  I said.  So your a bread baker said Mr Allan. Yes sir!  This was a Monday.... he said ok you leave Thursday you need uniform, Seamans book  etc etc  hang on I'll give you the letter you'll need.

So off I went

Jan (polish) was my Chief Baker..George from Woolwich  Tony Frolich, Tony the "Malt" were the characters I clearly remember from the bakers shop. Apart from my duties in the bakery and turns on service I was the "runner" and I will see if I can tell what that entails after I have had a look at other posts.

As the youngest I seldom had to take a port watch to serve the "bloods" so at every port I was 1st off the ship when we docked to explore the beaches, bars and sights of every country we visited. I have swam and drank on most of the worlds best beaches all thanks to Cunard and Mr Allen :)

EDIT..While its still in my mind and to provide a written record(for myself)  3rd baker on 1975 trip was Tony Burton from Plymouth (sister was a catalogue model) who could balance on tables and push up with one hand .Night bakers on 2nd trip included a brummy and a red head pleasant/polite boy  Day baker 2nd trip was Budgie   large Scots timid and genial lad who used to ljke posting tobacco (old holborn) back to the UK. Feccys end was Monkey and fonzy ( "alleged" facial similarities at the time) and a really keen and straight laced youngster ( non bar attendee or drinker) who was perfecting his art including pork pies which were good.

Edit #2.. Remembered the eldest person in the shop (Alfie?) up the Feccy's end . His task was mostly cooking off the pancakes and crepes collecting and delivering to Restaurants and stores and was the de facto Feccys "runner" ( I was the Bakers ) and he would get all the lunches and dinners for the Feccys end from service and they would eat together round one of the stainless tables in a civilized fashion ( while the Bakers would gulp down and nip off to the Pig) He would often shout Rawilpindi..Khyber Pass and other similar Colonial war locations so I assumed he was ex army which were still present in the region up to the 1950's
« Last Edit: Jan 19, 2014, 08:50 AM by Gary Baltao »

Offline Alan Snelson

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Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #1 on: Dec 29, 2013, 05:35 PM »
Hello Gary and thanks for your informative introduction.

I know you have already made a couple of posts but it is so nice that you have taken the time to give us the background of your introduction to QE2. It certainly seems that you caught Mr Allen at the right time.

When did you start work on QE2 and how long were you on board?

I never really got to know any of the Bakers during my time aboard, I knew a couple of the 'Feccies' but only remember one, I can't recall his real name but everyone knew him as 'Fozzy'.

I know what you mean about it being an eye opening experience to work on QE2 and also what a fantastic thing to have experienced.

Look forward to hearing more from you.
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Offline Rod

Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #2 on: Dec 29, 2013, 08:07 PM »
Welcome to the forum Gary!
I remember Jan...crusty sort if you will excuse the pun! I often spent time in the bakery fixing the bun moulder divider and the bread slicer!

Offline Twynkle

Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #3 on: Dec 29, 2013, 08:16 PM »
Hi Gary and Welcome!
It is great that you have joined us!

Hopefully it won't be too long before you might want to tell us more about your experiences on board QE2
I have always wondered what it must have been like working in the Galleys
And I guess -  Galley Gossip on QE2 was probably the most entertaining there was at sea!
Was the Bakers Shop working round the clock?
It must have been hot, noisy, extra-hard work and a bit tricky when the seas were lumpy!
All the best
Rosie

QE2 had been waiting alongside in Dubai for nearly 12 years.  Please restore her Lifeboats and Tenders to where they truly belong - she looks naked without them - please spare her this ignominy.

Online Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #4 on: Dec 30, 2013, 03:21 PM »
Hello Gary, I love your story about how you started on QE2. Those were the days, it seems, when jobs were there for the taking...

I always loved the bread on QE2... fresh and tasty and quite a few varieties. There must have been all manner of tastes, with such a varied passenger list.

Did you share a cabin? What was that like?

Looking forward to reading more from you -- and do enjoy the Forum!

baltaogc

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Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #5 on: Dec 30, 2013, 03:55 PM »
Thank you all for the warm welcome. Reading the  posts have helped jog my memory so here we go..Part 1

I started about Oct 1974 and was on the 1st World Cruise and my 1st stint was just under a year. When we were in HK in 1975 I took a side trip during refit to see my Dad in Manila who persuaded me to come and work for him ( not a great move as it turned out)
I returned in 1981-82 again for a year and left just before Falklands when I had my Met Police application accepted.

Jan and his Polish pal who used to sweep the corridors were both former POW's with the numbers tattooed on their arms. I always assumed that the terrible experience he had was the reason for consumption of a min 1 bottle of vodka a day. Most of us were drinkers ..as in heavy ..and over the course of a 13.5 hour shift 6-10 pints (@5p) and 4 or 5 shorts was standard before we went drinking if we were so inclined:)

I made all the runs to the Pig on day shift and brought all the drinks which were free and came out of the "pot" (more about that later).
Jan didn't speak much English but was a great guy and a great baker so much of the conversation (which was deep and philosophical) was with Tony Frolich a former Jesuit who had left the cloth.

I was frequently invited to free drinks with Steve the kitchen Clerk and his pal allegedly with "blue blood" who, once he realized that there was no chance of his agenda coming to fruition was a good laugh and full of ships gossip so I allowed him the occasional flirty remark in good humor as he passed the bakers shop ( normal brash and loud banter exchanged to the amusement of the whole shop)

Frequently, by the time I slept it was in full checks ready for the next turn to after the glory hole had knocked for the 3rd time.. then run to the shop and get straight down to work. I probably only ate in the crew galley a dozen times as we would make our own breakfast and lunch in the shop. As we had keys to most of the walk in refs the menu was limitless and Boylee  Tonys friend on the roasts would oblige with a prime rib anytime. Everything in the kitchen was available to those inside and part of "running" was to go to service stations to get what everyone wanted. Only when they were running short would you get "knocked back" and have to get something else that day. These stories are the tip of the iceberg for 1970's but when I returned in 1983 things had tightened up a lot and only special people could still operate like that ( like the bakers shop )

I have some interesting stories from Yokohama docking, Cherbourg accident where we had to have gashes covered with plates , free passage for Irish emigrating to US unofficially when you just needed a yellow card stamped to go ashore in NY, 42nd street and 8th street introduction by the "malts" on the potato corner being begged to take children home with us in places like Bombay, Dakar and Madras ...amongst others. I will look to see if there is already a thread.

Part 2 will include how I saw old friends on board after I had left when the ship docked in Manila and then in Palma de Mallorca where I was living at the time and the influx of Filipino UK based crew before I returned in 1983.
« Last Edit: Jan 19, 2014, 08:49 AM by Gary Baltao »

baltaogc

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Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #6 on: Dec 30, 2013, 09:13 PM »
Hello Gary, I love your story about how you started on QE2. Those were the days, it seems, when jobs were there for the taking...

I always loved the bread on QE2... fresh and tasty and quite a few varieties. There must have been all manner of tastes, with such a varied passenger list.

Did you share a cabin? What was that like?

Looking forward to reading more from you -- and do enjoy the Forum!

first trip shared a cabin with n older guy who was almost never there and always round his "friends?" cabin. After that I always seemed to to have no cabin mate despite there being a double deck bunk. This may have been just luck or  something to do with Steve the kitchen clerk who was responsible for cabin assignment and liked me :)
 In 83 I shared with a young cook who bought a dustbin sized stash of a smokeable leaf in India and was normally aft on an open deck consuming it and selling to passengers on the deck above. I only smoked tobacco leaf ..ever..I have always had a natural high so had no need .

baltaogc

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Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #7 on: Dec 30, 2013, 09:31 PM »
Alan and Twynkle

I never really got to know any of the Bakers during my time aboard, I knew a couple of the 'Feccies' but only remember one, I can't recall his real name but everyone knew him as 'Fozzy'.

I'm pretty sure I knew fozzy and he was the Chief feccy Bob Fosbury. Nice guy but stayed well away from Jan the baker as Jan could rant if you upset him and he was VERY protective about all things and people in the bakers end.

Was the Bakers Shop working round the clock?
It must have been hot, noisy, extra-hard work and a bit tricky when the seas were lumpy!


Yes bakers (not confectioners) 24 hrs 2 shifts which overlapped morning and night. 5 men on days 3 on nights sometimes 2 on nights for most of the shift as one paid us to cover him while he played kalooki at $1 a point outside the crew mess when he had money. At a dollar a point $400 dollars was easily won or lost. There were even bigger games going on in the Pig , crown and anchor.craps  black jack and poker.On night shift I was the runner after the Pig had closed....a dollar from each for the "pot" for every drink..steak sandwich  or whatever they ordered.The public games in the Pig had stopped when I went back in 83 but there was still a "pot" from other sources.

Really hot when in the tropics so that was a 10 pint day as you sweat it all out. The ship rolling just made things slower and harder ergo the 5.5 hrs overtime which was ALMOST really needed in bad weather. Of course in good weather we get to go and nap or drink from 10.30 to 12 and 2.30 to 5.30. The bloddy oven was a 3 tiered nset up . the top tier was hard for a guy under 6ft and in rough seas I often got my arm burned on the door that stuck out and still have the scars.
« Last Edit: Dec 30, 2013, 09:38 PM by Gary Baltao »

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #8 on: Dec 30, 2013, 11:34 PM »
Fascinating insight into working onboard QE2.  Looking forward to hearing more of your interesting memories of the working life on the ship.   

You had mentioned that there was changes by the time you had returned to the ship in '83.  Do you know what was the reason for such a change that resulted in the tightening up in regulations?
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank
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baltaogc

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Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #9 on: Dec 31, 2013, 02:48 AM »
Fascinating insight into working onboard QE2.  Looking forward to hearing more of your interesting memories of the working life on the ship.   

You had mentioned that there was changes by the time you had returned to the ship in '83.  Do you know what was the reason for such a change that resulted in the tightening up in regulations?

Well it was definitely easily to smuggle in the 70's. Hardly any checks for the crew on disembarking in the 70's. Cigarettes at 10p a pack meant most would bring 10 reams ashore for 1 month leave and there could well have been commercial operations.

Of course this didn't help

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisional_Irish_Republican_Army_arms_importation

Harrison spent an estimated US$1 million in the 1970s purchasing over 2,500 guns for the IRA.[10] According to Brendan Hughes, an IRA member who later became Officer Commanding of the IRA inside Long Kesh prison, the IRA smuggled small arms from America by sea on the Queen Elizabeth II from New York via Southampton,[8] through Irish members of her crew, until the network was cracked down on by the FBI in the 1980s.

and

http://saoirse.fr.yuku.com/topic/4113#.UsIrpPvcAng

When some details of the smuggling operation first emerged in 1997, a spokesman for the QE2’s owners told The Sunday Times that it “was done without the knowledge of anyone at Cunard”.

The QE2 crossed the Atlantic about twice a month, so the IRA could have smuggled up to 240 guns a year. The Armalites made it a potent terrorist threat on the streets of Northern Ireland, where IRA snipers killed 64 soldiers in 1972.

After the operation was rumbled, the IRA tried to blow up the ship on Guy Fawkes night in 1975. Police discovered 874 sticks of gelignite in a block of flats in Southampton and arrested six Irish people, including a
crew member.

I never saw sniffer dogs and major searches on ship in the 70's but it was regular practice by 1983.

I drank with the Irish Catholics on their table in the Pig so you can guess if I knew who were likely candidates.

So when the police and security services get heavily involved ALL the unusual behavior has to stop.

Offline June Ingram

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Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #10 on: Dec 31, 2013, 03:20 PM »
Hi Gary - Welcome ! and I look forward to more very interesting information !  June

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Offline Alan Snelson

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Re: Bakers shop
« Reply #11 on: Dec 31, 2013, 06:19 PM »
There is another thread about smuggling by the IRA on the following link. Unfortunately the link to the original post to the Times story appears to only be accessible by those with a subscription to the Times newspaper.

https://www.theqe2story.com/forum/index.php/topic,1771.msg19497.html#msg19497
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Offline Sue Crozier

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Re: Gary Baltao, QE2's Bakers shop 1974-1975 + 1981-82
« Reply #12 on: Feb 28, 2014, 09:47 PM »
Hello Gary, did you know Paul Cleary, who also worked in the Bakers shop, he married Dawn.
SUE

baltaogc

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Re: Gary Baltao, QE2's Bakers shop 1974-1975 + 1981-82
« Reply #13 on: Mar 05, 2014, 12:17 PM »
Hi Sue

The name rings a bell but I do not remember him (yet) ..Maybe from the Confectioners end :)