Jim D., the man who couldn’t see three-sixteenths of an inch, and got an ass-chewing because of it, was my second foreman. My first was the third-shift foreman who got fired for drinking on the job. I forget his name, mainly because I only worked for him for one month, the four weeks of training I received. When I was hired there was only first and second shift. But the company was gearing up to start a third shift. That happened after my training was completed. At that time my partner who trained along with me, the one who quit after screaming at Charley F., went to first shift. For a little while. The second shift foreman, along with the guy who trained me, Roy H., went to third shift. For a little while. Of course, there were others who either transferred to third shift or were hired for it. Once third shift began, Jim D. quit operating a press and became second shift foreman. I never worked long enough with the drinking foreman to get to know him, so I can’t say what working for him was like.
Jim D. was a good foreman to work for. Mainly because he knew very little about what I was doing. He was a press operator, he never turned on a flanging machine. His go-to guy was Badeye. Leotis W., AKA Badeye, was the best flanging operator on second shift. At least while Ron H. wasn’t around. Those two wrangled a lot over who was better. But Badeye and Jim D. were thick. A good move on Jim D.’s part. He basically let Badeye run the flanging department on second shift. Once I was forming an 8-gauge thick aluminum head and the radius folded. I mean literally folded, like a fan. The kind of paper fan you hold in your hand and fold up when you’re done using it. I had never seen that happen before, and have never seen it happen since. I still have no idea why. I have some theories. Maybe I heated it up too much. Maybe I didn’t heat it up enough. Maybe I used too much side roll pressure. Maybe I used too little side roll pressure. Or maybe it was so thin. We no longer form 8-gauge material, the thinnest we do now is three-sixteenths. We used to do 16-gauge steel, one-sixteenth inch thick steel. Do you have any conception how thin that is, to try to form it into anything? Thank god the company got out of that market. But to get back to the point. It freaked me out, the radius of the head folding up like that. So I went and got Jim D. I don’t think he’d ever seen it before, either. His first words were “How in the hell did you do that?” I’ve heard that a lot, mostly in a bad sense. He slipped a finger under his toupee to scratch his head, then got Badeye. Who laughed when he saw the head. They sent it back to a press to reform the radius. I didn’t get it back to flange, someone else, probably Badeye, finished it. That’s what happens when you’re the best, you get all the tricky work.
Jim D. didn’t say anything to me that time I took out a section of block wall. It happened while I was flipping a really big elliptical head, a hundred and forty-four inches in diameter and about three-quarters of an inch thick. I was helping out in the pickle room. All stainless steel heads get acid-cleaned. They have to be washed before they go into the pickle tank. Inside and out. So the procedure is to wash the inside, flip the head over, wash the outside, then flip the head back. ASME heads are easy to flip, because of their shape. But elliptical heads are rounder and more difficult. So you stand the head up on end with an overhead crane, scotch it with two four-by four pieces of wood (which in theory keeps it from sliding – ha), then lean the head back some so the crane can get a head start, then run the crane forward, hopefully pulling the head with it. Then you have to let up on the speed as the head flips, you don’t want to jerk the head over, jerking that much weight around can damage the crane.
To make a long story short, when I went to flip the head it kicked the four by fours out from under it and went swinging into the air. That much weight pulled the crane along the tracks, there was no stopping the crane. So I was futilely punching buttons on the control box while chasing after a runaway crane and five tons of steel flying through the air. The head hit the wall with a bang, and knocked a big chunk of cement block out. The head was still vibrating when Jim D. came running. I don’t know if he was happy or sad to see that I was still alive. He didn’t say a word, just slipped a finger under his toupee to scratch his head and walked away.
Jim D. had the most god-awful toupee you’ve ever seen. More about that in another post.