IT was 75 years ago, yet Eddie Metcalfe remembers as though it was yesterday the day the first Chocolate Crisp bars came rolling off the Rowntree production line.

It was 1935. Mr Metcalfe was only 18 at the time, working in the store room at the Wigginton Road factory.

The Chocolate Crisp bars, which a couple of years later were renamed KitKat, were much bigger than they are today, he recalls. “They were plain chocolate, and twice as big as they are now. They were only 2d, so well worth the money.”

Mr Metcalfe’s job was to stack the freshly made bars in the store-room until they were ready for despatch around the country. They were wheeled in from the production line on bogeys, packaged in “outers” – packages of three dozen bars. He and his colleagues in the store-room stacked the outers like bricks, sometimes 20 high, while they waited for despatch.

“I was one of the first to handle them as they came into the store room,” the 93-year-old great grandfather, who lives in Heworth, recalls.

One of the perks of the job was that he got to sample the products. “There were a dozen girls who worked inspecting the goods, and they would go around with a little bogey and put in so many outers, and they used to have tasting panels,” he says. Chocolate Crisp wasn’t his favourite – that was a bar he thinks was called a Cocaroon, chocolate with coconut inside – but they were good, he admits. He also liked Aero, which came out shortly afterwards. “That was a nice bar, full of bubbles!”

Mr Metcalfe, who was brought up in Constantine Avenue, Tang Hall, joined Rowntree’s as a 14-year-old in 1931. He had wanted to join the Post Office. “I was taken with them telegram boys riding their bikes. But my mum wouldn’t let me! She said ‘you will go to Rowntrees!’”

He never had any regrets. It was a good company to work for. There were about 6,000 people at the factory when he joined. “But they were a family firm. Everyone used to know each other. It was like a family.”

By 1938, he was captain of the Rowntree’s football team. And he spent his entire career with Rowntree’s – apart from six years with the Army during the war, during which he saw service as an Army driver, and took part in the Normandy landings. Like others, he disembarked from landing ships on the Normandy beaches.

He was demobbed in 1946 as a sergeant, and went back to work at Rowntree’s, where he stayed until his retirement in 1982. He still has a copy of the Rowntree Mackintosh News of 1982, which announces his retirement. He was store-room supervisor by then, with about 50 staff working under him. “His skill, experience and helpful attitude gained him the respect of all who were fortunate to work with him,” says the account of his retirement.

Mr Metcalfe’s wife, Mary, also worked at Rowntree’s, but no-one else in his family did – not his parents, and not either of his two daughters, Rosemary and Margaret.

But he has five grandchildren and three great grandchildren – and they still enjoy KitKats today, he admits.

It is amazing that the bar is celebrating its 75th anniversary, he says. “It’s a good thing. It has been such a success!”

He never, in all his time with the company, actually worked on the production line. But he did visit more than once, and remembers the long conveyor belts.

The biscuits were placed at one end, covered with chocolate, cooled, and wrapped, before being taken off at the other end.

They were happy days. “And I remember it well, like yesterday.”

• KitKat and Aero are both about to celebrate their 75th birthday. Nestlé are keen to hear from anyone who worked on the early KitKat or Aero production lines, or who have family members who did. Get in touch by phoning Stephen Lewis or Mike Laycock at The Press on 01904 653051, or emailing or