Take This Job and…4

I reported to the Sherriff at the appropriate time on Monday morning. It was an 8 till 430 pm operation with a half hour for lunch. Okay. But what I didn’t know was that the Sherriff office was HQ, the mother ship confectionary, headquarters for the entire operation. I was duly sent to another planet, plant, about a 20 minute drive away. Imagine my chagrin, disbelief and amazement when I arrived at the address given to see a huge, fat animated egg-man with thin black anorexic arms with tiny four fingered white gloves and long spindly black equally anorexic legs with tiny black ankle height boots dangling off the oval white egg shape that was perched precariously but on a slight angle from the roof of a very large building. It was THE WALL! Its facial features as hideous as a clown’s with that wide grinning smile, red ruby lips and a Feldman like gaze. Oh noooo, I cried and thought out loud. I’m working at Humpty Dumpty potato chips. Then it dawned on me. Sherriff? Yes, Sherriff made various brands of potato chips, cheese-corn and other delectable delights. Humpty Dumpty was one of them. Oh noooo. What have I done. This was definitely not a career move that I imagined. Not career worthy in any stretch of the imagination. I will be a laughing stock I thought to myself.

“Where do you work?”

“Uh, Humpty Dumpty Potato chip factory”

“No Shit?”

“No… Sherriff”

Nevertheless, being the dependable sort that I was I duly reported for duty. The plant manager was at reception waiting for me. I guess to ensure I didn’t high tail it out of there.

“Don’t mind the sign, or the name” he chuckled. “But the kids love it.”

I didn’t dare tell him that I had a phobia with clowns, or nursery rhyme characters for that matter. Brother’s Grimm added an eerie essence to those fantasy stories.

We shook hands and introduced ourselves.  He then proceeded to take me into the plant. The very first thing that we saw and that came into focus was this huge contraption of a machine: high, long and very narrow, that made some confectionary I guess but he just brushed it aside without saying a word. I looked at it quizzically as he was ushered me across what was a very large rectangular shaped room with an opening at one end that led into the shipping and receiving departments. Here a large shipping dock was situated with a number of open bays. I could see some of the trucks parked just out and off and to the side of the main building with that innocuous looking “Humpty Dumpty, sitting on a wall” logo of the sides of the truck. Innocuous to whom I thought.

“Most of the trucks are off on delivery” the plant manager offered.

“We have to be up and running with trucks loaded by 0700. The day’s production has to be completed by midnight, giving our shipping department seven hours to get things organized for delivery. Two shifts running full tilt. This area here is sort of the hub of our operational wheel with our production and preparation rooms branching off from this central area in three directions”

“Hmmm or Mmmm” I thought, as I was getting a little peckish…

Take This Job and…3

…City Construction Worker: jackhammer.  Man oh man I cannot begin to tell you or show you how a crew of jackhammer artistes act while taking a break…off the job. Stammering…you, you, you, you, you bet. Conversation was torturous. One thing I learned very quickly. Never, ever buy hot coffee during stand easy, or break time. Hot soup was definitely a no-no during lunch.  I qu,qu,qu,qu,quit.

Worm Picking:  I am not kidding. I did this for two nights. It was backbreaking work, on a golf course, starting at midnight. Equipment? Miner’s cap with an attached lantern, which was oriented down to the ground but at an oblique angle as one looked to the ground. Just enough light to catch a glimpse of an earthworm before it slithered back down into its hole and into the earthy bowels of the earth. There, on each fairway, a long line of pickers in line abreast inching their way from one end of the fairway to the other, lights flickering as heads bobbed up and down in comic unison. Two one quart pails: one tied to each leg. One pail was full of sawdust while the other was for the captured worm. The sawdust was required to counteract the slitheriness of the worms themselves. There was a definite knack to this. The majority of workers were Chinese I think. They were really adept at this kind of work. One that I was unable to grasp. Needless to say I squirmed out of there and quit.

There were many, many other jobs to speak of. Office worker, construction, transit, retail, you name it I did it. It was so bad, or good, depending on your perspective that I accumulated 13 tax statements in one year. It was sort of a competition between the “ner do well” friends of mine. I also had a very close literary relationship with the classified ads of the local newspapers as well as with the local government employment agency. I do believe the tax gurus red flagged my file. My parents were so worried about me. Being products of the depression, they could not understand how or why I would give up on what they felt were career worthy employment opportunities. I just could not help it. Most jobs were soul destroying as far as I was concerned. I wasn’t lazy for I was never out of work. How did I get by with new employers given my track record? It didn’t matter. Most employers were only too happy or none to the wise to have a new employee in their midst as manpower turnover was a huge problem in those days.

There was one job I had that really took the cake. While working for Moo Millers, I noticed a help wanted sign at a factory not far from the milk emporium. I took note and at the end of my shift, around 2pm, as we started very early in the milking business, I drove up to the factory in question. It was called “Sherriff Confectionary”. They were looking for an operator of some sorts in their factory. I applied and on the spot was hired. No experience required. We will train. I accepted their offer but told them I couldn’t start until Monday as I had to clear up some loose ends…quit my other job. This I did in short order and left the milk emporium to a chorus of shouts, curses, arm waving and one finger salutes. I gave them back five of the best of mine.

I was somewhat relieved to be free of that place as I couldn’t stand starting at 6 am in the morning, which meant I had to be up and about around 5. For a young buck like me this was not good.  I quit always thinking that the employment grass is always greener on the other side. Often times it wasn’t…

Take This Job and…..2

My parents were always amazed at some of the jobs I landed in no short order cooks:

Lake Simcoe Ice: ice cube making racket where I ran the vertical and horizontal planing buzz saws cutting and chopping two foot by two foot by eight foot long cylinders of ice. All was abuzz in the summer months but cold as hell in the winter. One had to be very careful here as chapped lips were a huge disadvantage but a badge of honour. Our heavy parkas, our toques, our mittens and our boots drew many a stare in mid July. Mild winters were killers for this industry. Brrrr, I quit.

Macdonald’s Tobacco: Good pay! I was their chain smoker. It was an easy job for I quit at least a thousand times. Then I really quit.

AC Wickman: factory that produced diamond bits for drilling operations. My job was to smooth out the flat end of these bits removing any irregularities using a grinder. A thousand bits to a box and when that box was finished, another one miraculously appeared, then another, and another, and on and on it went, bit by boring bit. I quit.

Intercity Truck Lines: my future here could be measured as seen from the back of these 40 foot trailers. I had to reactivate my Teamster’s Union Card though with this particular job. Many of my colleagues were Maritimers with all the verbiage or lack thereof that one could handle. I couldn’t understand my foreman. A co-worker of mine would continuously rant about his 13 year old bride. I wondered if he had any roofing experience. After about a 14 month period we went on an ugly nation wide strike. Ugly in that our promised strike pay never materialized with negotiations being conducted through physical skirmishes, vandalism and fraudulent activity by the union executive and the union’s hard core members. Faster than one could say “comrade,” I was out of there, vowing never, ever to be a member of a union again. I haven’t. And I quit.

Kodak: the Eastman Kodak family had a huge plant in our city. I managed to acquire a good paying but menial job in that plant: the very bottom of the employment rung there but with a promising future nevertheless if I wanted it or, as fate would have it, so I thought. It wasn’t just a plant, more of a campus really with a number of buildings housing an array of activity from a huge storage facility where cleanliness and humidity from the elements was essential, my job, to a paper cutting floor, research labs, administration wing and recreation and messing halls. They treated us all like family there. It was the picture perfect job for someone like me. Not too physical or demanding too much intelligence. Right up my alley. I could make my rounds in record time so much so that I had a number of hiding places where I could read the paper or catch a few winks.

Funny what one remembers about working in places like this so many years ago. Not so much the job but other things. CCR was huge at this time, “Green River” was all over the airwaves and it was the 25th anniversary of the D Day landings. One of my colleagues at Kodak was a Canadian vet, not from WW2 but from the Vietnam War, which was still raging at the time. He wanted to go back! Something about male bondage, er bonding, I think, camaraderie, a hard to describe feeling as he put it. I don’t know. Perhaps the chemicals at Kodak may have been playing havoc with his mind, or he was suffering from something else. No matter. Suffice to say I gave him a wide berth. I quit because I just couldn’t picture a career at this place!

Dow Chemicals: making paint. A chemical job. And I was good in chemistry. I don’t remember too much about this place except that when I came home from work on my first Friday I soon fell asleep and didn’t wake up until Monday morning. Fantastical dreams in kaleidoscope. I think I quit!

Milkman: not too long after receiving my drivers licence, I applied for and received my chauffeur’s licence which allowed one to drive commercially. I then applied for and was accepted as a driver at Moo Miller’s Milk Emporium. They, the owners, felt that “Emporium” had a fancier ring to it than “Factory.” I kind of felt that wow: “Moo Millers” kind of said it all but they didn’t agree with me.

I had this neat little truck with open doors, a long stick shift and with a canopy of wooden cartons all filled with milk bottles, milk bags, eggs, and juice cartons of various sizes and shapes. I had a route to follow and a regular delivery pattern but then I was required to cold sell any of the inventories outside of my normal rounds. I had to be a salesman and an entrepreneur as well as a delivery man. Housewives were our target audience.

Eggs were the worst. Little did I know how hazardous this job could be.  Not just with horny housewives but those nasty juvenile delinquents in the burbs.  As I was delivering a load of milk, some of these young turds would enter my open air truck from my blind side, grab some eggs and start pelting me or my truck with egg whites. This was no yoke as, in addition to explaining the shortfall in product and profits to my superiors, I also had to clean off the truck before I returned to the factory. I mean, emporium. As anyone who has had their house egged during Halloween can tell you it is extremely difficult to clean dried egg whites and yokes off of any surface. While there may have been some fringe benefits to this job, I quit.





Take This Job and…

I had to work and I had a multitude of jobs in those days as there was no paucity of opportunities for someone who wanted to work. Job descriptions were succinct, resume’s non existent:

“Wanted: healthy young males required for hard physical labour. No experience necessary. We will train. References not required: Call 555-5555. Note: Personnel with their own sledge hammers will be considered first.”

“Wanted: dish washers, waiters, waitresses, for a new catering service located in the west end. Uncle Sam’s Catering Service need’s you. Call 555-5555. First come, first served.”

“Wanted: Godfather’s Window Cleaning business is looking for some bright young individuals for our new start-up window cleaning company. Call 555-5555. Acrophobians need not apply. Transparency is crucial. Remember: at the Godfather’s window cleaning business: “We Wipe em Out.””

On and on it went. Get fired one day and have a job the next. It was that simple, that easy. In those heady non Internet, non Social Media and non Social Justice Warrior Days, no one gave a rat’s ass about political musings, posturings, leanings or hurt, frayed feelings.  As long as you could breath and had some smattering of workable English as in: “fucking pitch asshole,” you were hired. Unions ruled the roost, scabs were scattered. The working man was king. White collar was for whusses. You could progress upward if you had the smarts and ambition…

Fair Winds and a Following Sea…6

…For all of that horrendous boredom and its corollary of nightmares, I made many friends. One in particular I will never forget: a black guy of about the same age as me. Jonas Jackson I seem to recall was his name.  Black he may have been and from a very different background than I for he grew up in the inner city while I was a product of the burbs. In those days, Blacks were Blacks and Whites were Whites and never the twain shall meet but in those Orange protestant fuelled racist days of that particular city, Catholics like me were considered shit.  Except on that social ladder of shit in that city of shit, Black shit was considered slightly more shittier than Catholic White shit – about one or two rungs down I would guess. And if you were Black and a Catholic to boot, you were considered to be social diarrhea on that shit scale on the social shit ladder of that shit city.  

Circumstances were bred as a manner of chance, of timing, of birth and not choice for our family was as dirt poor as his. He wasn’t even Catholic. Baptists I think. No matter for during those heady, hot, and humid late August summer days we were a tag team in gathering those pods. He was Stan Laurel to my Oliver Hardy, Lou Costello to my Bud Abbott.  His was an intelligent wit hidden by clownish antics and a machine gun delivery once you got him going.  He had us all in stitches and while I do not consider myself to be an individual of high wit or higher humour for some unknown reason we clicked as friends and were able to play off one another and have a bundle of laughs, all the while continuing to service those pods with the great unwashed.  It was great fun and he was, or is, if he is still alive, a great guy.

Racism? It was evident in those days. It was really a product of upbringing and the environment of the day where ignorance bred contempt.  I can remember, years later, when my twin boys were attending a private day school in Hampshire England.  I was on exchange with the Royal Navy at the time living in a small English town in the South Downs area of that home county.  My boys were about 5 years old. One spring day all of the parents were invited to watch the students partake in an afternoon athletic fete, as they called their fairs over there.  We attended and when one of my sons saw his mom and dad he ran over to us all excited for he had made a new friend, as he told us. We were so pleased.  

“Where is he?” we asked him eagerly? He pointed to an area at the side of the playing field.

“Over there” he said to us. “He is wearing the red hat.”

We looked, astonished and somewhat surprised of our son for the boy in question was Black: the only Black boy in the whole playground, wearing a red hat. That to me said it all.  Innocence is color blind.

Alas, summer and the fair ended on Labour day. We said our goodbyes, promised, but lied, to keep in touch and off we went, back to school and the rules of fools. In my case I gave it a good try but quit two weeks after school started. I had my junior matriculation or high school in pedagogical parlance. Why do they complicate things so with words like that?  Pedagogical! What does pedagogical mean anyway? Who thought that one up?  I looked it up! Pedagogical: of or relating to a pedagogue or pedagogy.” That helps! Jonas would know. Thinking about it now only makes me goggy. Perhaps it was a term that arose out of that Catholic priestly liturgy to describe one’s actions in front of alter boys – but I digress.



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