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The warehouse was built in tandem with a new Community Centre on the site of the maisonettes, which were demolished by the council when an electrical fault which claimed the life of Valerie Barlow led to a devastating fire exposing structural faults and leaving no choice but to condemn the building.
Knowing that a warehouse opening in Coronation Street would be unpopular with the residents, councillors Alf Roberts and Len Fairclough tried to keep the matter quiet, but builder Fred Chapman let the cat out of the bag in the Rovers Return. Concerned residents campaigned against the warehouse, with Annie Walker organising a petition. Emily Nugent and Lucille Hewitt went one step further with a sit-in on the building site, which gained support from the women but was ignored by the men as Len kept Alan Howard and Stan Ogden supplied with drinks in the Rovers. Fred Chapman broke the stalemate by calling a digger forward, which knocked Lucille over and poured its contents over her feet. A few days later, the company's smooth-talking PR manager, Geoffrey Hunter, visited the Street to try and win the residents over by pointing out how the warehouse would benefit them. He was persuasive enough to get the residents to drop their protests.
Construction of the new buildings was completed by May, and the firm spent the next few weeks recruiting staff. Edward Pollard, temporary personnel manager, hired Elsie Howard as checking supervisor, but fired her when Hilda Ogden informed him that Elsie was previously in court for stealing from a former employer, Miami Modes (even though the case was dismissed), although his replacement, Dennis Maxwell, reinstated her, and by June, the warehouse was up and running.
The day-to-day running of the warehouse fell to managers such as Dennis Maxwell and John Fitzpatrick but their superiors - company directors Sir Julius Berlin and Marcus Berlin - kept a close eye on the site and often dealt with site matters personally.
In April 1974, work on the main loading bay at the other side of the warehouse caused lorries to be diverted to Coronation Street to use the alternative loading bay, usually used as a staff entrance. The resulting lorry noise at unsocial hours and increased traffic meaning residents were unable to park outside their houses resulted in the residents deciding to take action, with Ken Barlow elected spokesperson. Meeting with Sir Julius and manager Lionel Portious, Ken criticised the firm's business practice and proposed that the company redeploy labour from their branch in a non-residential estate in the Midlands, which was also having alterations done. Ken's suggestion was successfully implemented, and Sir Julius was so impressed with Ken that he offered him a job with Mark Brittain as Northern Executive Administrative Assistant, with a car and £1,000 rise on his current salary.
Ken's career move would prove to be an uphill struggle for the former teacher. His was a newly-created position in a well-established structure, and he had no clear role. When he joined, he found the staff pushing for a union, and was instructed by Edward Pollard to silence them without making concessions - a difficult position for Ken, who was in fact sympathetic to the staff in labour issues. With the girls threatening to strike, Ken asked shop steward Peggy Barton not to push the unionisation and debated with her at a meeting between staff and management. A deal was struck for the girls to get their union in exchange for Peggy's resignation, a resolution which satisfied all parties, with Peggy bagging a union job. Three months later, Ken and Peggy met up again and started seeing each other, discovering that they actually had a lot in common. At the same time, warehouse management was battling a militant Ivy Tilsley when the firm decided to lower the staff retirement age to sixty. Ivy decided to call in the union, but finding no help from Peggy, accused her of siding with her boyfriend. Fearing the sack for having divided loyalties, Peggy dropped Ken and they parted amicably, but Pollard had learned about their relationship and tried to get Ken fired by reporting the matter to Marcus Berlin. However, when Ken solved the retirement age issue with his suggestion that women over sixty be kept on call to fill in on emergencies, he gained favour with the Berlins, and Pollard's attempt to shop his colleague resulted in his superiors asking for his resignation.
In October, storeman Tony Bolton and his friend Paul Meggitt used Tony's dad Fred's key to steal jackets from the warehouse and store them at the Canal Garage. Fred suspected Paul of the theft, but avoided reporting him to the police when Paul warned him that Tony was involved. When Billy Walker was caught with the jackets by the police, Ken Barlow convinced Fred to shop his own son and set the record straight.
In 1975, the packing department was put on a three-day week, and Mark Brittain announced that 20% of the staff would have to go. As one of the unlucky few, Ken left the cutthroat world of business behind, with no regrets. The warehouse's problems continued that September, when three youths, Kevin and Bernie Marsh and Chris Ashton broke into the warehouse storeroom and spent the night sleeping on blankets, hiding from their father Douglas who was after them for smashing up Ken Barlow's house. The next morning, the youths fled, leaving a cigarette smouldering on an armchair. The cigarette caused an inferno that filled the room, and when checker Edna Gee opened the door to have a cigarette break, she was engulfed in a fireball. The alarm was raised and the Street was evacuated as tanks of gas in the factory could have potentially exploded. When the blaze was finally put out, there was nothing left of the factory but its gutted shell. Edna and an unidentified person were the only fatalities of the blaze. Mark Brittain chose not to rebuild and its 200 staff lost their jobs overnight.
- Along with the Community Centre, the mail-order warehouse was added to the programme in 1971 to replace the maisonettes on the south side of the Street. The new buildings were intended to boost the number of workplaces for the characters, which had been reduced to just the Corner Shop and the Rovers Return when the maisonettes stood on the site. This third incarnation of the Street was similar to its original appearance, with the warehouse and the centre standing in for Elliston's Raincoat Factory and the Glad Tidings Mission Hall.
- The warehouse was introduced with a major storyline about the residents protesting its construction, and an effort was made to give it a sense of importance in the Street with the appointment of Elsie Howard as supervisor, but after a prominent beginning, the warehouse maintained only a marginal presence in storylines, often spending months off-screen (including the entirety of 1973). The 1975 warehouse fire storyline was intended to tie-in with Coronation Street's fifteenth anniversary.
- The warehouse is notable for introducing several characters who would gain prominence in subsequent years, including Mavis Riley, Ivy Tilsley, Vera Duckworth, and, indirectly, Fred Gee.
List of warehouse staffEdit
- Sir Julius Berlin (Company director)
- Marcus Berlin (Company director)
- Edward Pollard (Personnel manager, 1971, 1974)
- Dennis Maxwell (Personnel manager, 1971)
- Arthur Smith (Operations manager, 1971)
- Peter Bromley (General office manager, 1971)
- John Fitzpatrick (Site manager, 1972)
- Lionel Portious (Site manager, 1974)
- Ken Barlow (Northern Executive Administrative Assistant, 1974-5)
- Elsie Howard (Checking supervisor, 1971-3)
- Lucille Hewitt (Wages clerk)
- Emily Nugent (Clerk)
- Mavis Riley (Clerk)
- Gail Potter (Secretary)
- Tricia Hopkins (Secretary)
- Susie Proctor (Secretary)
- Secretary to Lionel Portious
- Ivy Tilsley (Checker)
- Edna Gee (Checker)
- Carol Benton
- Linda Palmer
- Sally Turner
- Marion Mason
- Vera Duckworth
- Gaynor Burton
- Flo Broadbent
- Ethel Fox
- Hilda Ogden (Washing up)