Joe Stirling had hardly opened his second branch of Stirling Holidays, in the coastal East Anglian town of Great Yarmouth, when oil was discovered offshore. The invasion of the Texan Oilmen began! This extract from Escaping Hitler, recently published by Skyhorse Publications of New York for North American readers, gives you a flavour of the times and the significance of this in the business life of Joe.
In 1965 the first offshore oil and gas wells were drilled off the coast of East Anglia. American giant Conoco built their first fixed platform just 50 miles off Great Yarmouth and by 1967 gas was being piped ashore from the Leman field. The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Bacton Gas terminal in 1968. Senior company directors from Texas and the Gulf of Mexico virtually took over Great Yarmouth, bringing the mighty dollar and prosperity in their wake.
[…] Over the following year over 10,000 American families settled in the Great Yarmouth area. Although everyone struggled to understand each other’s accents, the incomers brought with them many benefits but especially business. The region was booming. With money to spend and time on their hands, they were keen to discover the tourist hotspots of London, Cornwall, the Lakes and especially Shakespeare Country. There were only two travel agents in Great Yarmouth, Seaforth’s and Stirling’s. But with more than enough work for both companies, days were busy. Evenings too, with Doreen and Judith often staying late to keep up with administration. Quick to learn, Judith was soon made manager of the air travel section, reserving First Class flights to Houston or enquiring directly with airlines on the most cost-effective method of flying a group of oilmen to India or Nigeria. The discovery of ‘black gold’ was becoming a priority around the globe and Stirling Holidays was more than happy to play its part. Judith was always willing to open lucrative accounts for both major and smaller drilling companies, her personal service and attention to detail and rewarding the company with 7 per cent commission on each airline ticket.
One favoured client was the Senior Director of McDermott Marine Construction Limited, an Offshore Field Development Company, established in 1923 in Texas, USA. One morning Judith received a telephone enquiry. Could Stirling’s arrange for some of the guys to fly from Norwich to Aberdeen for a golf tournament?
During the early 1970s Norwich Airport was still establishing itself as a commercial airport, dealing mainly in freight. Through a friend of a friend, Joe was able to contact the owner of East Anglian Airways, a tiny operation boasting just one Douglas DC-3 propeller-driven airliner, the plane that had played a significant part in popularising air travel in the United States. It sat twenty-six passengers, who were obliged to enter at the back of the plane and walk uphill, pulling themselves up the aisle using the backs of seats. Flights were invariably noisy and shaky but thankfully reliable. Stirling Holidays chartered a private flight for the American oilmen, the first company to do so out of Norwich Airport. Joe waved them off personally. At Aberdeen, the plane waited on the apron while the oilmen enjoyed their eighteen holes. Two days later on flying back into Norwich, they found Mr Stirling there to greet them. McDermott Marine would not forget Mr Stirling’s professionalism, ingenuity and good humour.
Everyone in Great Yarmouth hoped the oilmen and their deep pockets were there to stay.
© Phyllida Scrivens 2016
Escaping Hitler is now available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles bookstores or by following this link to the Skyhorse site. http://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/search?q=escaping+hitler+%22escaping%20hitler%22&f=1