The following post was written 4/19/8, before Excelsior, and never before posted.
I put myself through college by working part time jobs during the school year and full-time factory jobs in the summer. 1974 was my favorite. I was distanced somewhat from the family reality by the hours of my factory grinding and polishing job. I began at 4 and got home about 1 am. So I slept later, and was excused from the family supper ritual of arguing, doing dishes and stagnating in front of TV. Not getting “sucked in” to family duty obligations was liberating. I still took my grandfather for coffee, and kept things up around his house, and worked in Dad’s garden a lot, but largely led my own life, because I wasn't there when the rest of them were.
At the factory, I’d report to my workbench, a fork lift brought pallets of parts, I did the required operation on them, and then wrote ‘em up and released them. I was ‘way over rate, and so I kept some parts in reserve, to turn in when I was falling behind, to bring it up to 100%. There was a lady, I forget her name, who took me under her wing and showed me all the tricks of making rate, and how to run machines I had no experience on, belt sanders, pneumatic grinders. But mostly, I worked alone. It was a noisy enviromnent, so we all wore earplugs. It was dirty, so we usually wore goggles. And still, it was so pleasant. My own workbench, my own parts, responsibilities, the ability to turn in a satisfactory job, I don’t know what was so pleasant about it, but I look on it as a very happy summer.
And I had to join the machinist’s union. To this day, I don't like unions, preferring the liberty of being rated on my own accomplishments, but on the 2nd shift, union membership was nothing more than paying dues by payroll deduction, no meetings, no grievances, petitions, etc. So, having little choice, I let them have their money.
The machinist’s union card was a great tool for pissing off the liberals in political discussions at college. My conservative views ran counter to the standard college indoctrination kneejerk solutions to the world’s problems. I believed such heresies as: Since they company is paying you, you should do whatever work they give you. And: What’s good for the company is good for you in the long run. And this final horror: because the company pays you, and you should be grateful for the privilege, not whining.
So, when necessary, we’d compare credentials. Answer the question: what did you do last summer to put yourself through college? Usually, when some self-proclaimed workingman's hero was pontificating about identification with the oppressed working class, they would cite when pressed their experience as a part-time dishwasher job in the student union cafeteria. On such occasions I’d hammer out my Machinist's Union Card, and tell them that this was a genuine worker they were talking to, in case they had any questions about how the working class feels on any issues. It confused them so that a card-carrying common person from the working class should possess a work ethic so strong. I used to wear my work shirts around the dormitory, with the real oil stains on them.
Yes, that summer taught me the pleasure of the privilege of being allowed to work, and taught me lessons that are with me to this day.
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