Overcome with emulsion: Friends retire together after four decades with Wisbech paint suppliers

TWO lifelong friends celebrated the “end of an era” yesterday when they completed a combined total of 88 years service to a Wisbech business by retiring together.

Charles Waling, 65, and Neville Johnson, 67, have spent more than four decades working together at Crown Decorating Centre in Queens Street, Wisbech.

Charles joined the firm in 1966 as a counter assistant, gradually working his way up to the position of manager. Neville started as a van driver in 1968, rising through the ranks to become deputy manager.

But at 5pm yesterday the pair locked up the Wisbech store for the final time, finishing their 45 and 43 year stints with the same firm.

Neville, who also runs the Woadmans Arms pub in Newton, said: “We’ve been working together for 40 odd years and I just thought I would go when he does.

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“It’s the end of an era.”

Charles said: “It’s going to take a lot of time to wind down. I think it will be hard to get out of the routine of what I’ve been doing for 45 years. I’m up at 6am because that’s what time my body clock says I’ve got to be up.

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“We shall be having a few beers in Neville’s pub to celebrate. My retirement will involve golf, bowling, dancing, grandchildren and anything else I can fit in.”

As a leaving present, Charles was awarded �900 in Capital Bonds vouchers while Neville received �860 - �20 for each year they had spent with the company.

When the dedicated duo first joined the decorating materials business, all orders were hand-written and the company also supplied oil and glass.

Neville said: “I still remember my first day. I turned up keen to impress and the manager told me I had an order to deliver.

“There was a huge square of glass in a wooden box - it was worth about �200-�300. I was working away and my heel slipped and hit the bottom, cracking the glass all the way up.

“At that point I wondered whether I was going to last 40 days never mind 40 years.”

“I have got no end of memories. I will miss the customers and the people I have met over the years.”

Julie Semke will become the new manager of the Wisbech store, which has recently been refurbished. She said: “Charles and Neville are such lovely people. They have been an absolute pleasure to work with and they will be big shoes to fill.”

Charles added that he had more than one reason to celebrate yesterday, saying: “We built up to this day for two years - and it was also my 65th birthday!”

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