WHEN Andy Howes knocked on the door at Oddie’s Bakery on Scotland Road in Nelson, the king of rock and roll Elvis Presley was top of the pops, a pint of beer cost 25p and England was celebrating the 1977 Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

“I was 15, and a chap called Bill Tillotson answered, and I said to him, ‘Please, what do you have to do to be a baker?,” said Oddie’s bakery manager, who is celebrating four decades of service with the 100-year-old family baking company.

“I was at Colne Park High School, and when I told them that I wanted to do cookery they were shocked, saying that the boys did woodwork or metalwork.

“You can’t imagine it now, because predominantly cookery was a woman’s trade then, not like today with the superstar TV chefs, but I was very determined that my passion for cooking would be my career.

“He could see that I was keen, and also that I was very driven, so he offered me an apprenticeship and I’ve been proud to work at Oddie’s ever since.”

He started on a weekly salary of £27, but his culinary skills soon caught the eye of his bosses, and as well as winning a host of baking prizes at college, he was promoted to supervisor in charge of the pastry department at the tender age of 20.

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“It was a big challenge, you were managing guys who had fought in the Second World War and I was this young lad with a notebook who thought he knew it all, and these chaps had been on a battlefield, fighting for king and country.

“In the 1970s power cuts and black outs were a fact of life, and sometimes the lights would go out in the middle of bakery production and you’d just get a box of candles and carry on.

“I’d cycle from Colne to be at work for 4am, and I’m still in now, usually before 5am, six days a week.

“The hardest part is getting out of bed in the depths of winter.”

Andy even met his wife Debbie at work, and she manages Oddie’s Mall Shop in Burnley town centre.

They have been married for 34 years and have a daughter Danielle and a granddaughter Bella.

However, it was Bill Oddie, the managing director, who proved to be Andy’s mentor as he rose through the ranks.

Andy has worked in every department of the bakery and was appointed bakery manager in 1998, shortly after the Oddies team won the British Baker Competition.

“I’ve been developing recipes for many years, cakes, sandwiches and pastries and the passion is: Can you make it better?

“But I always went to Bill for advice - he was like a father figure at work and was always there to help.

“He is an incredible man and of all the decisions I’ve ever made – even if my name was Oddie – I wouldn’t have made them any different and that’s because of Bill and his influence on me.”

Andy, a season ticket holder at Turf Moor and who is also a keen golfer, added: “I’ve managed people for 36 years, constantly striving to produce the best product, and I’m passionate about training staff to do the job.

“We have a very loyal local workforce, and I take great pride in that because we are a family business, always a great supporter of the local economy, and that’s a big part of Oddie’s philosophy.

“I’m just a custodian for the next generation, but it is a pleasure to come to work.”