I mentioned in the last post that Luke G. would on occasion leave work early on Friday, to play with his band. He wasn’t the only one, by far. On Friday nights Brighton could resemble a ghost town. Most Friday nights began with good intentions. People would show up for work. But one by one they would escape into the night. I don’t think this malaise is exceptional to Brighton. Rather it is endemic to second shift. With our contract, negotiated by the Steelworkers union, people with the most seniority got to choose their shift. Most people prefer to work during the day. So first shift was filled by the older employees who had been there longer. That left second shift to the younger guys who hadn’t been there very long. Young people like to go out on Friday nights. And if you haven’t yet invested much time in a job, you don’t worry too much about the risk of losing it. Hence, half the shift might not be present at quitting time on Friday night.
A standing joke about going home early on Friday night was, if you were married, to call first. Let your wife know you were on the way. In case she had company. A young wife sitting at home on Friday night might not be alone. So anyone leaving early was advised to call ahead. To save yourself a lot of heartache and money.
Of course, some men leaving work early on Friday night would not go home. Al’s Bar near the union hall was a favorite destination. There was also Tommy’s, the Pleasure Inn, the Bikini Lounge. The Bikini Lounge had go-go dancers in bikinis. They were hard on the pool tables. A dancer would pass by wearing two tiny scraps of cloth, and a pool player would get distracted and trench the felt. Of course, if you really wanted to see good-looking dancers you went across the Ohio River to Newport, Kentucky. They had nude dancers. But that was a long drive. And no pool tables.
Also, Luke’s band wasn’t the only people to come by. We don’t have a guard. Anyone can just walk, or drive, onto the property. Most of the time it was spouses. This one guy’s wife liked to look in through the locker room window. She was a hoot. Once I was peeing in a urinal, which is by the windows, and her face popped up out of the dark, smiling, looking in to see what she could see. But most of the other wives behaved respectably. Another time a moonie walked in. Remember the moonies? She was a young girl dressed in rags. She came in passing out little wilted flowers. And we’ve had our share of thieves come by. But that’s another post.
My wife came by one time to bring me dinner. It was summer and still light. Most of us were sitting outside at lunch break. She was in her early twenties at the time, and was dressed like it, in cut-off jeans and a tank top. Conversation died like someone had flipped a switch when she got out of the car and brought me a plate of food. I had a lot of friends that night.
Friday nights could get lonely at work. The ones who stuck it out didn’t get much work done. We spent a lot of time talking about where we’d rather be and what we’d rather be doing. John M. was a press operator who liked to slip outside and relax in a quiet place in the dark. Sometimes I went with him. He had a remodeling business he ran on the side. He worked at that during the day, so I think he came in to Brighton at night to rest. We’d sit talking about anything, everything, until Jim D. would find us and run us back inside. This mostly seemed to happen on Fridays.
Some people didn’t wait for Friday to miss. Curt H., the guy who helped me get hired at Brighton, was liable not to show up on any day of the week.