On 1st July 1946, St Austell Brewery took delivery of one of the first post-war commercial vehicles off the old ERF assembly line in Sandbach, Cheshire - a state-of-the-art C15 flatbed truck, registration number HCV 857 - and put it to work delivering its ale far and wide across the county. Following the fire at the Brewery that had destroyed most of the original delivery line-up in 1939, the company had struggled to maintain its supply of morale-boosting ale across the county. Much of the remaining fleet had been requisitioned by the armed forces for troop training and movement during the war, so it was much to the management’s relief when ‘ERF-ie’ rolled up through the gates and signed in to work the following summer.
According to those who remember her, the standard runs made by the truck in its heyday involved a round trip from the Brewery up along the north coast to Bude, alongside return jaunts out west to the Hayle depot. Taking in the many tied and free trade customers along the way the former journey was a two-day affair, the latter a spritely one-day turnaround.
However, according to those same sources, the somewhat lengthy duration of these forays may not have been purely down to mechanics, as many recall that both driver and mate were liberally ‘refreshed’ before they had even passed through the old Brewery gates on the way out - not to mention the generous offerings they received from thankful landlords and ladies on receipt of their much needed stocks of St Austell’s finest along the way.
“I remember my first time out on the dray,” commented Brewery pensioner Ivor Minear. “It was full on and those journeys certainly weren’t dry runs! They got into plenty of scrapes, including losing the trailer coming down Truro Hill one time, but the beer always got where it needed to go on time.”
‘ERF-ie’, as she is fondly recalled by some, is a reminder of a different age: a world before health and safety in the workplace, where the roads were far emptier than they are today and a world buoyed by post war aspiration and the promise of the new. Not only was she a stalwart workhorse for the Brewery for many years, she was also the very visible public face of the company, appearing as she did for many years in the late 40s in local carnivals, bedecked with beauties from both the old Brewery flowerbeds and the shop floor!