Ted Harrison cannot be sure, but he once probably saved someone’s life.
Quoting to fit an intruder alarm for a Derby man whose house had recently been burgled, Ted was taken aback when the householder proudly showed him a live mains cable which he had connected to the backdoor handle.
“I pointed out that he might inadvertently electrocute the window cleaner or the milkman, or even a family member,” said Ted. “He took some persuading, but eventually he agreed to remove it.”
Walk anywhere around Derby and it won’t be long before you come across a yellow intruder alarm, on commercial premises or on a private dwelling, bearing the initials “EJ”.
The company no longer exists on its own, but those bell boxes bear witness to a 28-year-old success story that owed its beginning to nothing more than a sheer coincidence.
Ted, today better known as a pillar of Mickleover Golf Club – he was captain and chairman – takes up the story: “I worked as a draughtsman at Rolls-Royce until the 1971 crash, followed by spells at Fletcher and Stewart and then British Rail.
“I owe my next career move to two men.
“One was a chap who made me look an idiot in an interview for a promotion to a management post at British Rail.
“I could never have turned the job down as my wife Brenda and I had recently moved to a new house and we were expecting our first child, but as it turned out I didn’t get it.
“I was furious and decided to leave.
“The other man was Keith Johnson, the proprietor of Johnson’s Electrical on Midland Road. Amid all this turmoil of wanting to leave British Rail, I bought an intruder alarm from Keith, and, somehow, I managed to fit it myself.
“He was impressed and asked if I would fit others that he’d sold. Many of his customers had no DIY expertise, although for that matter, neither had I.
“But I soon got the hang of it, and Keith convinced me to have a go on my own with the promise that he could provide installation work. If I’d got that promotion at British Rail, then I’d never have considered it.
“Soon, though, I wasn’t fitting only intruder alarms, I was also fitting electric showers.
“Keith, of course, benefited because he could sell all these items with the promise that he could also get them fixed for customers who couldn’t do it for themselves.
“My big break came when I was placed on a list of alarm installers provided by Derbyshire police. They told householders to get three quotations and I was often one of them.
“A year later, they stopped handing out the list, but it had already increased the business no end.
“I now needed help to cope with the increase in work, and I employed my first engineer, followed by an apprentice. The next big leap came when we became certificated by the NSCIA )National Supervisory Council for Intruder Alarms), now called NACOSS. (National Approval Council for Security Systems)
“This allowed us into the commercial sector where the qualification was often an insurance requirement. By this time, we’d obtained business premises on London Road, in Alvaston.
“Brenda never returned to her job as a wages clerk at British Rail.
“Instead she managed the company accounts as my trading partner.
“We ran EJ Security until 2007 when, after fitting more than 5,000 intruder alarms, we sold the business, which now employed six engineers, to Tom and Vicky Cooper from the Cooper’s Arms at Weston-on-Trent.
“In partnership with my right-hand man, Malcom Bradbury, they ran it successfully for five years before selling the company to a larger alarm company. Tom had passed away and it all became too much.”
“The company may be no more, but I still see those ‘EJ’ boxes when I travel around Derbyshire and even further afield, and they always bring back a few memories.
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“Like the time I was up my ladder drilling through the wall for the bell wire.
“My long masonry drill became stuck, so I went inside the house to discover that I’d misjudged the height of the cupboard I was drilling into. The drill had gone all the way through a teddy bear.
“I’m convinced that it had a pained look on its face when I had to spin it off the drill bit. I don’t know if anyone noticed the hole in teddy.
“Those were such happy times for me, and for Brenda. We had some lovely customers who appreciated the conscientious work that the engineers did.
“Three of the lads now have their own little business and that gives me a boost.
“I must have been a reasonable boss as I am still good friends with all of them. And those bell boxes are still there, looking as good as the day I put them up.”