A lot of brothers have worked together at Brighton. But there has never been a pair as different as Joe and Mark K. Both were already working at Brighton when I was hired in 1973. Joe K. was a little older than me, late twenties to early thirties when I started, while I and Mark were about the same age. Joe was working in maintenance on first shift with this old bear of a guy, I can’t remember his name. But he had this great fifteen-inch crescent wrench. I often needed to make an adjustment to the angle of the machining arm on the blue valley flanging machine I operated, and the bolts I needed to loosen then tighten were too big for my twelve-inch crescent wrench. So whenever I needed to do this early in the day before the maintenance department went home (maintenance people work ungodly amounts of overtime), I’d borrow this wrench. He retired shortly after I started. So I asked him how much, and he said $10. I used that tool for about twenty years, until I left it laying out one night and it walked away. I never saw it again. But I got my money’s worth out of it.
But I digress. Once the old maintenance man retired, Joe K. was the senior maintenance mechanic. Brighton sent Joe to school for an electrician degree. He rewired everything in the shop, probably for job security, because no one else could figure out how his maze of wires worked. When Charlie F., the maintenance supervisor, retired, Joe took over the position. One of the first things he did was buy a blue valley flanging machine. Which got him in trouble right off the bat with the Hocks. It was bigger and more powerful than any of the other blue valley flanging machines, but it was a blue valley flanging machine. It was outdated before it was installed. Brighton was going to Boldrini flanging machines, which were a much better design, much more versatile and powerful. Eventually, this new blue valley was set up to do nothing but no-hole flange only’s. We got this huge order which we ran by the thousands, for quarter-inch or three-eighths inch thick carbon steel flange only’s about ninety-inches in diameter that didn’t get machined. Guide pins were installed, so the blank could be loaded onto rollers, then rolled into a pre-set position, and the controls were set on automatic so the machine ran on its own. That way anyone could run it, a flanging operator wasn’t required. Although sometimes we did. I hated that job. Way too boring.
Once again, I digress. After that hiccup, Joe did well as maintenance supervisor. Until Trinity bought us in 1987. He quit soon after, I’m not sure what happened. Remember in one of my first posts me mentioning there was another head shop in St. Louis? Joe K. went to work there. But only for a short while. Soon after Jeff Hock got a head shop started for Enerfab in Cincinnati, which would be early to mid 90’s, Joe K. came to work for him. I assume Joe set up all the flanging machines and presses Jeff Hock bought for Enerfab’s plant on Spring Grove. When Enerfab bought our plant from Trinity in 2002 I worked at their Spring Grove plant for a month, and while I was there I operated a polishing machine that Joe built. That thing was a hazard. The controls were on this rickety scaffolding twenty feet in the air above the huge spinning head you were polishing. I only operated that thing once. Thank God.
Mark K. was mentally handicapped. He worked in the pickle room and operated the furnaces that heat-treated heads. Acid cleaning stainless steel heads is the worst job at Brighton. Back in the 70’s it was even worse than that. The acid tanks were stuck in this tiny cubby hole of a room with little ventilation. When a fresh batch of acid is brewed, it can take your breath. And that acid is powerful. I was helping out once in there and splashed some on my foot. At that time there was very little safety equipment. Now they wear full rubber aprons, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and face shields. Back then it was only safety glasses, ear plugs and steel-toe boots. There was a hose available to rinse off with, but I didn’t bother with it. I walked back to the locker room to wash my foot there. By the time I got my work boot off, I had holes in my sock and holes in my foot. Now I’m a lot more careful around the acid tanks.
Anyway, that was Mark’s job. He did it well, a job nobody else wanted. But he was teased mercilessly. The bullies at Brighton have always picked on easy targets, and Mark was one of the easiest. In the late 80’s, while I was a union committeeman, the assistant supervisor at the time, Dale B., came and got me and brought me to where Mark was sitting sound asleep. With me as a witness, Dale woke Mark up and sent him to the office to be reprimanded. Geoff L. didn’t like Mark and wanted to fire him. But the union was able to prove that Mark was asleep because of strong medication he was taking, and he kept his job.
On a side note, I was in the office with Mark in his meeting with Geoff and Dale when Joe K. burst in. He seemed very upset over what was going on with his brother. I imagine since they were kids he had been tasked with looking out for his younger handicapped brother. He tried his best that day.
After Joe quit Trinity, Mark’s days were numbered. Geoff L. got his wish and Mark was fired. By that time his mental condition was much worse. I heard what drove him over the edge was he discovered his wife cheating on him. They split up and Mark went into a nursing home. Where he died. But despite a severe mental handicap he had managed to not only hold a steady job but to also support a family and raise two children. Not bad for a person with his limitations. Joe K. remained at the Enerfab plant on Spring Grove after they bought Brighton, even after Enerfab shut down their head shop and moved the machinery worth keeping to Brighton’s plant in Sharonville. In the early teens he developed cancer, and quit work. In 2013 I saw him for the last time at a dinner I attended at Enerfab. It was my fortieth anniversary, for which I got a dinner and a bicycle – a Jeep hybrid, which I really enjoy riding. Joe was there. He looked weak, but was in good spirits. He died not long after that dinner.