Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Western Electric Again

Chapter Six

Wherein I return to civilian life, return to work at Western Electric, continue my glittering academic career, lose some teeth and become disenchanted with the rat race and the attendant quest for material gain

We landed in KC at the old airport called, I believe, Kansas City Municipal Airport. (Still there - just used nowadays for light aircraft.)

My Dad, sister Lynne and brother Jim were there to meet us.

At that time the OM was living at 4324 S. Saville in Independence. After a few days of happy reunion time I went back to Western Electric to get my job back. Uncle Sam looks after his vets.

I did a week on days as a floor hand and then I was back on nights in the packing department. Of course, all the products made at WE had to packed up for shipment to the desired locations. So, we packed them.

Hours of work were 1600 – midnight, 5 days a week. What I remember most about the packing department was being left-handed. When I arrived for the evening shift I had to move everything around so that I could pack things the way which seemed most logical and most expeditious for a left-handed person. My colleagues could never figure out what I was doing, but it worked for me.

At this time I was also slowly resuming my academic career. I had finally decided to be a teacher. Why? Well, I had always followed the line of least resistance and since I was good at English and Biology they had become by default, my major and minor. But what to do with them? The career path seemed very limited. Whilst there are jobs called Biologist there are no jobs called Englishist. You might par-lay an English degree into a spot in journalism or some other related activity, but the line of least resistance is teaching.

“Those who can do – those who can't teach.”

Therefore I was accepted onto the teacher education programme at CMSU.

A routine developed. Up about 7. In the car by 7:30. Drive to CMSU at Warrensbugh for 9. Back in the car by 3. Drive to WE in Lee's Summit for 4. Work til midnight. Home by 12:30. Bed – get up and do it all over again the next day.

We did get weekends off and some vacation time. One weekend we went to the lake with Stoner and I tried water-skiing. I was doing great but eventually, of course, fell off. I landed awkwardly on my head and dislodged my upper denture. I made a grab for it, but my life vest stopped me from reaching it. Costly and embarrassing!

I finally got out of the packing department. I went back to being a floor-hand in Transistors. In Transistors I was paired with another floor-hand, Danny Ray Grimm. What a character!

Danny Ray had a large FuManchu tash and long hair. He had a brilliant plan to account for the fact that we were not allowed to smoke in the WE factory. Nobody said we couldn't chew tobacco.

(My first experience of chewing tobacco was at Ft Hood. At the end of the month – just before pay-day – when there was not a spare nickel to be had in the entire battalion we would scrounge up enough cash for a pack of Winstons and some chewing tobacco. Sharing both we would get a good chaw going and then light up. Get you about as high as you can – legally.)

So at WE, just to piss off the supervisors, we would wander about the department sweeping and chewing, oh yes, and spitting in all the bins (fortunately they had plastic liners and it was one of our jobs to empty them).

I have a abiding memory of Danny Rae leaning on his broom, listening intently to what the super was telling him with an un-nerving brown bit of tobacco juice leaking from the corner of his mouth. Priceless!

Come lunch time we would go out for lunch. Lunch breaks were staggered, so Danny had a plan. We signed out at the gate for first lunch break, he got one of the girls to punch us back in at the appropriate time and we stayed out for 3x lunch breaks – so we could sit in the car and drink Thunderbird before staggering back. He even managed to sneak a bottle of Southern Comfort into the department one Xmas. We drank it. I was violently sick. Even today just the smell of Southern Comfort is enough to make me gag.

Summing up Danny Rae – once the cops stopped him in his pick-up truck. He was surrounded by and knee deep in beer cans (empty). Somehow he managed to get them to let him go and drive on. What a character!

Like all good things Western Electric had to end. I was in my last year at CMSU and deep into teacher training. I had to do my practice teaching (I lucked out there – I got a placement at Truman HS – about a quarter of a mile from my house.) I figured I could not do both, so I had to quit.

Practice teaching at Truman High was interesting. For one thing, I had my dopey brother Mark in Homeroom. (Oddly none of the kids ever put two and two together and made us family – they were not the brightest tools in the shed) My supervising teacher was Mrs Meredith and I suspect she secretly despaired at my career choice. What I most remember about the teaching of English at Truman High School in 1974 was that it was mind-bogglingly boring (sorry Mrs Meredith, but it was).

I passed and got my degree and a life-time certificate to teach in the public schools of Missouri. Much to the state's profound disappointment, I decided to move to England. So we did.