flanging 27

Larry F. was jittery.  You could goose him in the ribs and he would hit the ceiling.  Or attack you, with arms flailing out of control.  The best thing was to sneak up behind him and goose him, that way he would attack the person standing in front of him.  He was tall and bony and jittery.  I heard he was in Viet Nam, but he never talked about it.  At least not to me.  We sort of got off on the wrong foot.

Larry was  working in shipping when I started at Brighton.  One day not long after I began working on my own I finished a 260 inch diameter head.  To do a head that big, I had to unbolt the bottom of the blue valley flanging machine and extend it out into the aisle.  There were holes threaded into the floor for this purpose.  The head was only a quarter inch thick, so it wasn’t that heavy, it was just huge and flimsy.  The blue valley flanging machines set the heads at an angle while they were being flanged, and there was a top to the machine, so there was no way to get a fork lift in to load or unload heads.  It had to be done with an overhead crane.  But a head this big required two overhead cranes.  So I fastened on two clamps, positioned so the head would be lifted up at the right angle to allow it to be moved easily out of the machine.  In theory.

So I got the two overhead cranes, hooked each to the clamp on its side, then went for help.  I couldn’t operate both overhead cranes at once, unloading this big head required two people.  Jim D., the second shift foreman, got Larry F. to help me.  Since Larry worked in shipping, he was used to rigging big heads and moving them around.  So I took the control box of the crane next to the wall, and Larry took the control box of the crane on the other side.  We motioned to each other what we were doing, because we had to lift the head up off the pin and move it out of the machine in unison.  If we got out of sync with each other and got too jerky with the cranes, the flimsy head would bounce.  Which is what it did.  The clamp on my side broke loose, and that side of the head came down.  With a BANG and a cloud of dust.  By the time the dust settled, Larry was all the way at the far end of the building.  I couldn’t believe he could run that far that fast.  That was Olympic sprinter speed.  Of course Charley F., the maintenance engineer, came out of the office to see what the racket was.  Luckily, the machine wasn’t damaged.  But the head was.  There was a huge hump in the radius, where it had hit the corner of the machine.  No problem, I’ve seen worse press jobs get smoothed out in the press.  So the head went back to the press to be repaired.  And that was the last time Larry ever helped me.

It wasn’t all my fault.  I was new.  I didn’t realize I didn’t have the right clamps, that I needed bigger ones.  But Larry should have seen that.  He was an experienced shipper, used to rigging big stuff.  And Charley F. had learned his lesson with my partner.  So he didn’t say a word to me.  He merely scowled so hard I wish he had said something.

Larry F. was a decade or so older than me.  He did roofing during the day, working with his father-in-law.  Years later he became inspector.  Several years after that he became the second shift foreman when Jim D. retired.  He spent the rest of his time at Brighton on second shift, as foreman.  He was okay to work for.

But he got me back, for laughing at his running ability.  One night I needed to lift the top dished head out of a stack of dished heads, in order to flange it.  So I got the forklift driver, Mike H., to slip a fork between the top head and the rest of the stack.  But he could only get the tip of a fork between the top head and the one under it.  So I got a block of wood to put between them.  That way there would be enough separation he could slip both forks in and scoop the top head out of the stack.  Once he had the top head up high enough for me to slip the block under it, I missed.  I tossed it instead of placing it, not wanting to stick my fingers underneath the head that was hanging so precariously on the edge of his fork.  The wood block bounced down into the top head.  So I climbed in to retrieve it.  And I shook the head off the edge of the fork.  It slammed down into the rest of the stack.  Which wasn’t so bad.  But then the whole stack rocked violently.  Which sent me flying up into the air.  I came down, hit the top head, the stack was still rocking, so it flung me up again.  Larry came over to watch.  He said I was bouncing around like a rubber ball.  When the stack finally stopped rocking I was able to crawl out.  Larry tried to help me out, but he was laughing too hard to be much help.  I was covered in bruises and hurt all over.  Larry and Mike both had a good laugh over that.

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