It’s easy to write about the colorful ones. But most people come in, quietly do their job with out causing a fuss, and go home. Daniel M. was like that. He was in his fifties when I came to work there. He was a helper on second shift who did all kinds of odd jobs. He helped out in the pickle room, he operated the furnace, he washed heads, he swept the floors. He did anything that needed doing, without complaint. And he didn’t need to be assigned work. He kept busy. If he had nothing else to do, he would pick up a broom and sweep.
Howard P. was another worker like this. He was in his fifties when I came to first shift in 1979. He worked in shipping. He smoked a lot. That’s all I recall about him. Whereas Daniel M. was friendly and would talk to you, Howard kept to himself and only mumbled when pressed. When I was committeeman a job posting went up for a press operator. Geoff L. already knew who he wanted to award the job to. But I enjoyed aggravating Geoff. So I talked to Howard about applying for the job. He had years more seniority than the person Geoff wanted. Tom H. learned what I was doing and told me to leave Howard alone, that he wouldn’t make a good press operator. There was no need for that anyway, since Howard had no interest in learning a new job. He eventually hurt his back at work. For a while he couldn’t even sit at break time. He had to eat his lunch while standing up. Apparently sitting puts the most stress on your back, standing or laying down is preferable. He finally either quit, got fired, or got a disability, or maybe even lasted long enough to retire. He just quietly disappeared one day. Just like he had quietly worked the whole time he was at Brighton.
Mike H., the forklift driver I’ve mentioned before, was quiet. But he had a sharp wit and could be very funny, only his comments were brief and to the point. He wasn’t one for launching into a long tale, rather he’d come out with humorous one-liners. When we first got laser pointers installed on the flangers, he’d stick his hand in the beam, then react like he’d been burned. It doesn’t sound funny, but it was when he did it.
The young guy who was one of the three fired for drinking not long after I first started, Bill-something, was very quiet. I never knew him, he was on third shift. But he followed people around like a puppy, never saying much of anything. That’s what got him fired, he was following the wrong people.
Then there are the ones I just never had much contact with. Roger B. is a welder who worked at Brighton nearly as long as I did. I just never encountered him much, so he seemed quiet to me. He had a son, Bobby B., who worked at Brighton for a long while. He was a flanger operator. So I had a lot more to do with Bobby than I ever did with his father. Bobby quit. After running a flanging machine for 10 years or so, I’m not sure how long he worked there, he claimed he was sick of it and quit. Those two aren’t the only father and sons to work at Brighton. My oldest son worked there briefly. But he never made it into the union, he was released just before he completed his three-month probation. He was hired in the early 90’s just as the recession that cost Bush Sr. the election began to effect us, and work dried up. Also, I was financial secretary of the Steelworkers at that time, and Bob E. sure seemed to enjoy telling me that my son had to be let go.
Probably the most famous father and son to work at Brighton was Leotis W. and his son. Only they never worked together. Leotis had quit Brighton and was driving a truck by the time his son was hired. He was quickly named Badeye Jr. Not because there was something wrong with his eye. He was so like his father. He was hired as a flanger operator, and he caught on to the work so quickly everyone accused his father of having a flanging machine in his garage and teaching his son how to operate the machine before he ever came to Brighton. Can things like that be passed on through your genes? It sure seemed that way with Badeye Jr. It was like he walked in the door knowing how to run a flanging machine. But he didn’t last long. He was young and too skilled to stay. He quit and found a better job in a machine shop.
And then there are the stories I remember, but I can’t remember the names of the people involved. Such as the guy who got his foot stuck under a head. To work on the outside of a head we flip it over, then lower it flange-down to the floor so it rests on the clamp. But if someone else needs that clamp, or if the head is going to be flange-down like that for a long time, the head will be lowered down onto a block. We used to use wooden blocks to support inverted heads. We now use steel blocks. These are much heavier and difficult to maneuver. But safer. Yet there was nothing wrong with the wood blocks if used correctly. You were supposed to lower the edge of the head down against the grain of the wood. But we got rid of the wood blocks after this one guy lowered the edge of the head down with the grain. The weight of the head and the sharpness of the edge, which was beveled with a razor edge, split the wood block. The head came down on the guy’s foot. Luckily, it landed on his steel toe, and his foot wasn’t injured. But his foot was caught and he couldn’t pull it free. The head must have dented the steel toe enough that he couldn’t pull his foot out of his work boot, either. And he couldn’t reach the control box of the overhead crane he was using. So he was trapped. I don’t know how long he stood there yelling for help and waving his arms, trying to get someone’s attention. Sometimes it gets very noisy in the shop, it’s hard to hear the guy who is in your face trying to talk to you. But finally someone heard or saw him, and came over to raise the head up off his foot.
Then there was this minister. He said he was a preacher, and some people at work had heard him preach in some small church. But he was extremely evangelical, if that’s the right term. At lunch time he would go off behind the big furnace and pray. Of course there is nothing wrong with praying, but he would do it very loudly. During lunch break all the machines were turned off, and the shop was quiet. So if you came out of the break room into the shop you could hear him screaming and bellowing. It was eerie. But nobody interfered with him. He was merely expressing his faith, on his own time since our lunch breaks aren’t paid. I don’t think he worked at Brighton very long.
I’ll relate this anecdote about Bernie T. I don’t think I wrote about before. I hope I’m not repeating myself. Bernie was always frail, from the first time I met him. But he got worse. He had problems with his back. One day his back locked up and he sprawled out on the floor and couldn’t move. A welder, Dennis B., saw him and came over. Only problem was that Dennis thought he was fooling around. Bernie was always fooling around. So Dennis came up and kicked him, telling him to stop fooling around, then walked on. I don’t know how long Bernie laid there in pain before someone else came along.