Local Street resident Martyn Butler has always had a special place in his heart for his 60’s Mod leather coat, so when, during a “clean up” he uncovered it he just couldn’t bear to throw it away, instead Martyn decided to see if he could actually get it “brought back to life”.
As Martyn had commissioned the coat personally 50 years ago, he knew exactly where to start and that’s why he came back to Owen Barry to ask our advice.
As Martyn walked in the door of the present factory, he said the smell of leather & sheepskin brought back so many good memories of when he used to visit the workshop to see his mum.
Martyn’s mum Muriel worked for Owen in the 60’s & 70’s in the gloving dept. of the old factory in Orchard Road.
Muriel and her family lived at the top of Orchard Road, on the High Street, right opposite The Black Cat and it was in this café where Martyn hung out and got his taste for the music and clothing of the Mod generation.
When he left school, Martyn started his career as a joiner with Melhuish & Saunders in Wells and it was from his early weekly wages of £2/7s.6d that he saved to buy his precious Long Navy Leather Coat.
Mum Muriel spoke to Owen who agreed to bespoke measure her son, that meant that Martyn could commission an on-trend coat with all the styling including the must have design feature of 1 single back panel.
Measurements taken, price agreed: - 15 guineas, Owen set about making the much-anticipated leather coat.
Martyn can still remember the day, fifty years ago, in March 1967 when he had the message the coat was ready, the very first try on, the feel of the cool satin lining, the weight of the plump soft leather and the tight fit.
Martyn knew he was “the business” and to add icing on the cake, Owen knocked off the 15/- bringing the price down to £15 dead.
For the youngsters amongst us £15 then, is the equivalent of £190 now. And for youngsters then 15/- saved and in your pocket as extra beer money was very gratefully received.
So, the years went by, and the “pulling coat” that had been saved only for the weekends was now being worn every day in the joinery, until eventually trends changed and it was relegated to the back of the cupboard only coming out for fancy dress outfits.
So, here we are fifty years on.
For me, the most impressive thing is not the quality that is still inherent in the leather, but it is the fact that the coat still fits!!!
How many of us could still fit into a slimline jacket that we had worn as a 17-year-old - WOW.
When Martyn told me the history, and how he wanted to save the coat, how could I refuse?
So, at OB we gently cleaned the coat, we stripped and replaced the raggedy lining ensuring the vintage label was carefully reinstalled, we checked the seams, replaced the buttons and generally made over/repaired some of the snags and damage that life had thrown at it.
Martyn got a navy leather food and set about buffing and polishing where the surface was scuffed.
Last week Martyn visited with some memorabilia and photos of the factory that his further cupboard cleaning had uncovered, including his mother retirement card in 1977, which showed signatures of 4 staff still employed by the company today, Mel Wells, Alan Chapman, Ken Ellis and myself – frightening where have those 40 years gone?
I am so thrilled with the refurbishment of Martyn’s coat, hopefully he will wear it with pride on Sunday 26th March, - Mother’s Day. Fifty years on from when he slipped it on for the very first time.
I bet Martyn’s Mum will be looking down with the same love she did when he came home proud as a peacock in his leather coat 50 years ago.