FLANGING 10

Elmer’s injury was extreme.  One of the worst I’ve heard about at Brighton.  I’ve certainly not had a workplace injury near that bad.  In fact, my worst workplace injury didn’t even happen at Brighton.

I grew up in Mason, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati.  At the time it was a farming community in transition to a bedroom community.  But in the 50’s and 60’s it was mostly farms.  I didn’t grow up on a farm.  I wish I had.  What farmland around Mason ended up selling for was astronomical.  But I worked on farms.  About the only kind of part-time work a teenage boy could find in Mason at that time.  For two summers, bailing hay.  Hard hot dirty work.  So as graduation approached in 1970 I wanted something different.

The third place I put in an application at, about a month before graduation, was Deerfield Manufacturing.  They wanted to hire me on the spot.  I told them I wanted a job for the summer, after I got out of high school.  They told me the job was available now, and maybe wouldn’t be come June.  So I took it.  For a month I went to school by day and worked second shift, from 3:30 to midnight.  It was a rough month.  But I was 18, so I could handle it.

About the injury.  I was running the first press on an assembly line.  I fed stainless steel circles into a hydraulic press.  These circles were stacked up on a skid on a table next to the press.  When I finished a skid of them one night, I tossed the empty wooden skid onto the floor to get it out of the way, then walked around the table in search of a forklift driver to bring me another skid of material.  When I opened my eyes I was in the backseat of a car.  A woman was driving.  I asked her what was going on.  She told me I had a head injury and she was taking me to a hospital.  When next I opened my eyes I was prone on a table in the emergency room getting my scalp stitched up.  I later learned I had thrown that skid so hard it had slid across the floor all the way to the wall.  Where it struck a long steel pry bar leaning up in a corner.  Which started toppling over just as I was walking around the table.  And hit me on the top of the head as I walked under it.  People claimed they found me wandering around the factory babbling nonsense.  I was out cold on my feet.  Only time that’s ever happened.

I worked at Deerfield Manufacturing for 3 years.  Grueling tedious assembly line work.  But it made me appreciate Brighton once I got there.  The difference between those two places was night and day, with Brighton being the sunshine.  And it helped me get hired there.  Ken, the soon-to-be-fired personnel manager who hired me, said he liked that I was so young, yet still had years of experience around heavy machinery.

What also helped me get hired at Brighton was Curt H.  He was a guy about my age I worked with at Deerfield.  He was funny and easy-going, and we worked well together.  Until he quit and went to work at Brighton.  He came by Deerfield about a month later at lunch break and told me about the place, and that I should put in an application.  The rest is history.

And so is Curt.  He ran a small spinning lathe.  The spinning lathe had a large assortment of dies of all shapes and sizes that could be mounted on it.  As the die spun vertically, a small roll moved horizontally across the circle of steel affixed to it, forming the steel to the shape of the die.  The initial run would get the head close, then he’d measure and make several more passes with the forming wheel across the icr and flange area to put it into size.  There was a small tool holder that he trimmed the edge of the head with.  Then came the fun part.  The head was now on the die so tightly that the only way to get it off was to force it off with the forming wheel as the die spun.  This would send the rapidly spinning tank head flying off the die and rolling away in all directions, at very high speed.  It’s a wonder Curt, or anyone within fifty feet of the machine, was never hurt.

But Curt missed work a lot.  He pushed the envelop, missing every day he was allowed.  And more.  So he received a 3-day suspension.  Which I never understood the logic of, give someone 3 days off because he took off, that seems like a reward to me.  To keep Curt from enjoying it too much, the 3 days were Tuesday through Thursday.  Naturally, he missed that Friday, which gave him a nice, although unpaid, vacation.  So the next step in this escalating struggle was 6 month probation, which meant if he missed 1 day during those 6 months he could be fired.  He made it through several probations, but eventually failed one.  And was promptly fired.  He moved back to his home town in southeastern Kentucky, and I never saw him again.  But he is the reason I found Brighton.

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