flanging 47

I transferred from second shift to first shift in September of 1979.  It was a struggle.  Joe D., a brother-in-law of Jack S., had been hired as a flanger operator several years earlier.  He was groomed to run number 10 flanging machine, which had just recently been purchased and was the largest flanging machine in the shop.  For whatever reason, Jack did not want to come to first shift at the time.  So Joe was to run it on first and Jack would continue running it on second.  But I had years of seniority on Joe, and was wanting to come to first shift.  My oldest son had just turned 7 and had begun second grade.  He had spent all of first grade with me seeing him only on the weekends, and I didn’t want that to happen another school year.  So I put in for first shift.  If Geoff L., the supervisor at that time wanted to bring Joe to first shift, he also had to bring me.  So he did.

On second shift I had been running one of the larger flanging machines, number 1.  But that was being run on first shift by Ira B.  So I was assigned to one of the older Blue Valley flanging machines.  At that time there were two operators running them on first shift, Bernie T. and Gilbert F, so I was often assigned to help out in the inspection department.  The inspector on first shift then was Don M., an older guy who had difficult time getting around.  So it wasn’t just busy work, there was a lot I could do to help out.  Flanger operators have always been used in the inspection department, since we produce a finished product and are familiar with what it should look like, and know what is okay and what isn’t.  So when I first came to first shift I split my time between operating a Blue Valley flanging machine and inspecting heads.

The first shift foreman at the time was Al B.  He was in his fifties, easily excitable and gung-ho for the company.  He had been a flanging machine operator before becoming foreman.  There was the story of how he had part of a finger cut off while running a Blue Valley, had gone to the emergency room to have the remaining stub treated, then had returned to work to finish his shift.  Of course the company sent him home, but he was back the next day.  That’s the kind of guy he was.  And the kind of place Brighton used to be.  You used to see a lot of men there missing parts of their body.  Now it’s a much safer environment.  What’s ironic, such dedication to the company as Al showed seldom gets rewarded.  He eventually had to quit work because of his heart, and he filed for a disability.  Which Brighton denied.  He was still fighting for it when he died, without collecting a dime.  But he was a difficult foreman to work for.  He was enamored with the two older guys on the Blue Valley flanging machines, Bernie and Gilbert, they could do no wrong.  Once when I was still on second shift and followed Bernie on a Blue Valley, I had to finish a head he had begun.  It was under minimum thickness.  So I went to show this to Al, who hadn’t ended his shift yet.  He asked me if I had turned on the machine yet, which I had.  Then he said I was the one who had messed the head up, that I was supposed to check a head out before I began working on it.  That’s the kind of foreman he was.

But I had no regrets about coming to first shift.  The supervisor Geoff L. didn’t want me there, the foreman Al B. didn’t like me, but I was happy.  I was home at night with my family, I became involved with my son’s school activities, I was able to work the hours the majority of people in the world worked.  The first thing I did was join an intramural basketball league.  We played several nights a week in the gym at Mason Central school, which when I was going to school there housed K-8 grades, but at this time, 1979, only half of the students attending grades 3-8 went there.  That’s how much Mason had grown since I graduated in 1970.  Now it is closed, used merely as a storage facility, if it is still used at all.  I think what keeps it from being torn down is its historical value, much like the one-room schoolhouses that are preserved.  But I thoroughly enjoyed the basketball.  I had played on the school teams in grades 8-11, and we had had good teams.  But now I was terribly out of shape, having exercised little and smoked a lot.  But realizing I couldn’t keep up with guys my age and older because I was wheezing up and down the court was the first impetus for me to quit smoking.


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