Donny Osmond was at No.1 in the charts, flared trousers and platform shoes were all the rage and there were just three TV channels when Ian Charles started working for Laings in Inverurie.
That was in August 1973 and now, more than 50 years later, he still works at the firm.
Job market trends mean very few people clock up 20 years with the same employer these days, let alone more than five decades.
And Mr Charles, 66, told The Press and Journal he has no plans to stop working for Laings Kitchens Bathrooms Bedrooms anytime soon.
From Insch to Inverurie
Born in Insch, he moved from that area to Inverurie while he was at primary school and he’s lived in the Garioch ever since.
Of his final years at Inverurie Academy, he said: “I didn’t do very well, generally coming nearer the bottom of the class than the top.
“My parents told me to get a trade, so I thought I’d need to become either an electrician, joiner or plumber.”
And from young apprentice to plumbing foreman and branch manager for Laings in Ellon
There was an example in the family for him to follow. Andy Walker, his cousin, was already a plumber with Laings. Mr Walker, now retired, went on to become managing director of the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom retailer.
Mr Charles got his foot in the door at the family-owned firm after a chat with its then boss, Andrew Laing.
He completed a four-year apprenticeship, including classroom work at Aberdeen Technical College, and steadily moved up the grades to become a plumbing foreman.
Laings, which last year celebrated its 160th anniversary, had an offshoot in Ellon in those days and Mr Charles managed it for 10 years.
He and other staff relocated to a newly opened showroom in Inverurie after the Ellon business was shut in 1994.
Mr Charles said he loved the diversity of life as a plumber “out in the country”, whether it be mending burst pipes for a farmer or going out on jobs to “fancy houses” in the area.
He’s also worked on projects offshore. Stepping off the helicopter onto the helipad was an “unforgettable experience”.
“I’ve had to turn my hand to a lot of things,” he said, adding: “It was all a good grounding.”
Highlights of his time with Laings include big award nights he has attended on behalf of the firm. There have also been trips to major trade events in Italy, Germany and France.
He was especially proud to represent the business at the kbbreview Retail and Design Awards in Cardiff earlier this year.
He was even prouder when Laings was named the UK’s best bathroom retailer.
It was not the first time the firm had been recognised nationally. Last year it came out on top in seperate categories for best bathroom and kitchen retailer at the same awards.
Getting invited to a customer’s engagement party and another’s wedding reception, while working from the Ellon shop, are among Mr Charles’ other special memories.
And there were “exciting” and “sad” first and last days respectively in Ellon.
Looking back on his 50 years-plus at Laings, Mr Charles said: “It is a long time but it seems to have passed really quickly.
“It’s difficult to apprehend that’s it’s been 50 years, but when you enjoy what you’re doing the time flies.”
Now a technical designer and supervisor, he has had many different roles at the firm.
The biggest change has been the transition from old-fashioned drawing boards and tools to doing everything on computers.
He added: “We’re now able to present customers with 4D headset tours of their new bathrooms.”
It is a long time but it seems to have passed really quickly. It’s difficult to apprehend that’s it’s been 50 years, but when you enjoy what you’re doing the time flies.”
Mr Charles said he enjoyed keeping busy, with his job taking on an extra significance since the death of his wife, Yvonne, in March 2022.
It’s not all work though. He has two daughters, Michelle and Jenna, and four grandchildren – Ellie, Perri, Emmi and Arlo – living nearby and he loves spending time with them.
9 things happening in the UK when Mr Charles started at Laings on August 20 1973
- A 15-year-old Donny Osmond had just hit the top of the UK chart with a song called Young Love.
- Aberdeen Football Club were held to a 1-1 draw by East Fife in a League Cup tie at Pittodrie a couple of days earlier. The Dons – fourth in the league the previous season – ended up second in their group, with Motherwell top. They went on to beat Stirling Albion before losing to Celtic at the quarter-final stage.
- The day Mr Charles joined Laings was one of the coldest August 20ths on record in the north-east. Aberdeen registered a low of 40.1 degrees fahrenheit and a high of only 59.5 degrees.
- Children’s TV show Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead? was first broadcast by the BBC on August 20 1973. It ran until 1995.
- BBC One’s schedule for the day Mr Charles started work included The Magic Roundabout, Why don’t you…?, Andy Pandy, Play School, Jackanory, Nationwide and the final episode of These Young People, a five-part investigation into the views of 18-25-year-olds.
- BBC Radio Five Live presenter Stephen Nolan was born in Belfast.
- Edward Heath was prime minister. The Scottish Parliament didn’t exist – it would be another 26 years, in July 1999, before Scots regained some powers of their own.
- Toy of the Year in 1973 was the Mastermind code-breaking game.
- Some 95% of UK households had a TV, 78% owned a ‘fridge and 67% had a washing machine. But only 39% of British households had central heating.