A To Z – History And Hi-Way Market

Challenge2017   Letter H

About 125 years ago, just at the turn of the 20th Century, in the heyday of Ontario manufacturing, Kitchener was not yet a city.  It was still a town, a booming, industrial town, full of Germanic Mennonites and Pennsylvania Dutch, called Berlin.

A bit over a mile (a long way in those days) north of ‘City Hall’, toward Waterloo our Twin City, two companies were established, and two buildings were erected. The nearest was Kaufman Footwear, making slippers, shoes and boots.  A square, three-storey structure went up.  Over the next 50 years, three more additions produced a plant a half a block wide and a city block long, right where the main street crossed the old highway.  At its height, it employed hundreds of men (and later women).

I applied for a job as a lab assistant in 1965, when I first came here, but was turned down. I worked for Kaufman for two years, 25 years later, after they’d moved storage and most of the manufacturing to a new plant at the edge of town.

Another block further north, a rubber company was formed. This was the plant I retired from.  It began as Merchant’s Rubber, then became Dominion Rubber, then Uniroyal bought it, and later amalgamated to become Goodrich/Uniroyal, though it never produced tires.

The asshole brother-in-law worked there for almost 25 years. After he left, I joined it as Becker’s Lay-Tech, then it became Perstorp Components, and finally, Collins and Aikman drove it and its sister plant down the street where my brother worked for Dominion Textile in 1965/66, into bankruptcy.  During its Uniroyal heyday, there were 3600 people working around three shifts.  It didn’t grow as neatly as Kaufman.  Over 50 years there were 13 ‘buildings’ which became another half-block wide X block-long X 4-storey plant.

A mile further north, in the open fields and meadows between the two cities, dozens – hundreds – of stout little homes were built to house all the men who walked or biked to work at these plants. The wife was born in a sturdy brick house, three doors north of the imaginary boundary of Waterloo.

This neighborhood was once called the North Ward, home to the blue-collar families who worked in these factories. The North Ward is slipping away.  The area is called Mid-Town now, and it’s the up-and-coming place for young professionals to move to.

Of course, not everyone in the subdivision could be a mindless plant drone. Her father built a barber shop a block and a half from the Uniroyal plant, and raised 9 kids by cutting hair for men going to or from work.

Two nearby young brothers tried plant work, but found they were more interested in installing and adjusting machinery, so they started a millwrighting/rigging firm in their dad’s garage, to service the two firms. Years later they built a facility further out of town than the Kaufman plant.

I worked for them for two years, and the engineer down the hall, was the guy who didn’t hire me at Kaufman. The structure is now the plastics plant where the son works, and they rent warehouse/assembly space at the nearby ex-Kaufman building, where I once cut shoe/boot parts.

The man whose Portuguese wife sent him to work with delicious sandwiches, started providing them for a friend – or two – or more – soon dozens. He quit the company and started his own catering business, eventually stocking the vending machines, and running the three-shift, hot meal cafeteria in the plant he no longer worked at.

The greatest success story was the local grocer. He also couldn’t take the plant work, but had an inspiration.  If it was a mile walk for the men to go to work, it was a lot further trudge, dragging children, to go shopping.

He turned his front living-room into a little ‘corner store’, when such a thing didn’t exist locally, and stocked it with the essentials. GENIUS!  He had a captive audience.  Soon, he expanded the ‘living-room,’ and then added on….and added on again.

Then he had another flash of genius. In the late 1950s, more families owned cars, and the rise of shopping malls was beginning.  In order to get around an hours-of-opening bylaw, a mile outside the city limit, he built Hi-Way Market.  In the days of two-lane highways, you could just drive out to the A & W, and turn left across the road.  Today, it’s two exit ramps and an access road.

This was the Costco/Price Club of its day, 20 years before Costco was born. He erected a huge big barn of a building, as big as any Costco.  Like Costco, he sold everything, and much of it in bulk – canned and boxed goods, produce, meat, bakery, clothing, hardware, electrical.  He had a sit-down lunch bar where both the wife and her brother worked, and a postal, and a banking facility.

There were actually two floors, but much of the upstairs was used for storage and staff/administration. He put a photography department up there, which later went independent, and still exists in town.  Aside from the main-floor diner counter, he tried a slightly upscale restaurant upstairs.  It became famous in the region, as The Charcoal Steakhouse.  It built a fancy new home a block further up the street recently, when the original building was torn down.

So much history! So much local commerce emerged from the wife’s neighborhood.  The Kaufman plant is now a preppy downtown condo, and my C&A plant had a tiara added and is home to a bunch of Google gremlins.

Jeep goiing up

And so, the ugly duckling has become a swan.    😉

Google Building

 

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A to Z Challenge – N

april-challenge

What do I need to talk about, for the letter

letter-n  ?

What time is it now?
Why?
I just wondered how long it’s been since you first figured that any of my business was any of
your business.

***

Damn, the woman could talk! And not just talk, but prying, and wheedling, and digging, and investigating.  If she spent half as much time and energy doing her work, as she did in insinuating herself into other people’s affairs, we could all have Fridays off with pay.

She liked to portray herself as interested, supportive, caring and curious. She had no qualms about asking questions that even a husband/wife, psychiatrist or priest would hesitate to raise, and acted outraged if someone declined to give out every detail of sensitive, highly personal information.

She may have felt that she was the office counsellor and confidante, reducing stress and raising morale. The rest of us just thought that she was a Nosy bitch!   😯

HOT-DAMN HOT ROD

Mustang

Once upon a long time ago, shortly after the invention of the wheel….

One day I had to take my car in to a garage to have some work done. Back when ‘Customer Service’ was still a proven fact, and not a forgotten myth, the apprentice mechanic drove me to work and took my car back to the shop.  He, or someone else, was supposed to pick me up at 5:00 PM, when both our firms were finished for the day.

About 3 o’clock, my phone rang. They had dismantled the car, but a couple of necessary parts wouldn’t arrive till early the next morning.  I would have to leave it overnight, and find a way home and back in the next morning.

Home was almost 10 miles across town on a hot August afternoon. Walking was unthinkable.  Transit would mean over an hour, three buses, and still a good walk to the house.  I approached DORIS, a ditzy clerk, old enough to be my mother.  She lived on the same side of town, but normally took a road parallel to mine.

Sure! She could drive me home.  She was also taking Ethel, who lives near me.  At 5:00, we all left the office, and headed for the parking lot.  Doris handed me a key chain, and said, “When I’m in the car with a man, he drives.”  A little strange, but, Okay.

I know she drives a crappy Dodge Dart. The keychain she handed me was quite masculine – a blue rabbit’s foot, one die (dice), and a Ford key.  She saw me looking at it questioningly, and said, “I had to take my car in too.  I’m driving the son’s car.”

When we got to her spot, there was a new(ish) Mustang. I climbed in and fired it up, and saw a couple of reasons why she wanted me to drive.  Gearhead son bought the ‘Tang with the stock 283 cubic inch motor, but had got ahold of, and shoehorned in, a gigantic seven liter (427 C.I.) engine with 4-on-the-floor transmission.  I was raised on standards, so I was good to go.

As I backed up and pulled out, I found yet another reason. While son had installed the big motor and tranny, he hadn’t (yet) put in power steering or heavy-duty front suspension.  Here was an engine as big as Mount Rushmore, sitting over extra-wide front tires. It was like trying to steer the Titanic with a canoe paddle.

Once I got it going more or less straight, on the road home, the conversation turned to language. How could it not? I was in the car.  I mentioned that the first thing I had learned about German when I arrived, was that there are no silent letters.

I had asked a German-speaker about an Amish dish called ‘schnitz und knepp.’ I confused her by pronouncing it ‘nepp.’  This is when she told me it should be ‘kenepp.’  We had recently hired a new, young engineer, named George Kniseley.  When he came around to introduce himself, he pronounced it ‘nizely.’  I told them that, properly, it should be pronounced ‘kenizely.’

Doris said, “Who??”
“George Kniseley!”
“Who??!”
“The young engineer we just hired.  He sits upstairs, across from Bill, our chief engineer.”
“Oh, him!?  I’ve been calling him Kinsley (kins-lee) for six months, and nobody’s said a thing.”

That’s okay, Boris….uh, Doris, I’m sure he doesn’t mind.   😕

Mistaken Identity

I recently read a post by a young woman who is a receptionist for a small firm.  She handles the few walk-ins, directs incoming emails and deals with the constant phone calls.  She wrote of the strange and wonderful telephone calls she has to deal with.

Steam ears

Like being a greeter at Wal-Mart, this is a job I could not handle.  I like to talk to people, but I don’t suffer idiots well.  By about coffee-break time the first morning, I’d want to injure someone.  Since I couldn’t get at any of the fools on the phone, it would probably be the loud blonde in accounting, with the nasal, Fran Drescher voice, who snaps her gum as she chews.

Asshole

The lady with the post estimates that she knows 83% (what an interesting number 😕 ) of her regular callers by their voice, even before they identify themselves.  That’s a useful ability to have, but it should not be relied on unquestioningly.

It’s only good telephone etiquette, and business sense to identify yourself on the phone.  When I worked as a Purchasing Agent, I always did so when I called someone – until that fateful day.  I had called a supplier one day, and told him who I was.  He replied, “Oh, you don’t have to tell me who you are.  You have a very recognizable voice.”

Once upon a time, my company required a small amount of…widgets, ASAP.   We needed them by 11 AM the next day, to allow assembly time, to make a 4 PM shipment.  I called a supplier, and in the excitement, merely started off with, “Hi Bill, could you do me a big favor?”

He replied, “Oh hi.  Yeah, sure!  What can I do for you?”  I told him what I needed, and how soon.  He put me on hold, and picked up again in a couple of minutes.  “You’re in luck.  The machine running that item is in production right now, and we have a bit of extra raw material.  I’ll tell the operator to run it out.  We’ll load your stuff tonight, and you’ll be the second stop for the truck tomorrow.  You should have them by 8 or 9 o’clock.”

I gave him a Purchase Order number, and promised to mail the confirmation.  The next day, when I arrived about 8, they weren’t there – no biggy.  They weren’t there at 9, when I took a washroom break – Hmmm.  They weren’t in by 10, when I called the receiver – startin’ to worry.  They hadn’t arrived by 11, when the receiver called me in a panic.

I finally got through to the supplier about 11:30.  “What happened to my widgets?  You promised they’d be here much earlier!”

“Oh, they’re there.  I knew how important they were to you, so I asked the driver to call me when they were unloaded.  He has a bill of lading, signed by your receiver at 8:37 AM.”

“But they’re not here!  The receiver just phoned me.”

“They must be there.  Maybe he unloaded them and just forgot.  Just call him back, Bob, and ask him….”

“BOB!!??  I’m not Bob!  This is Archon!”

“Oh shit.  You and Bob sound so much alike.”

He didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.  The other company’s receiver unquestioningly unloaded parts they’d never previously ordered, on a waybill with a purchase order number not in their series.  The truck driver got paid overtime, because he had to go back and reload, and deliver to our plant.  And we still got a non-compliance late/short shipment demerit.

If it doesn’t say Styrofoam SM®, it isn’t, but you can be sure you’re getting the real Archon, because every one of my babbles is clearly identified as “Archon’s Den. ™”

 

Thieves I Have Known

Every office or shop has one or more, the guy/gal who takes home a roll of Scotch Tape, or a box of pencils.  Working with vinyl sheet and felt, at the auto-parts shop, they used to buy scissors by the case.  A supervisor opined to me that the company would be able to stop buying scissors when every employee had a pair at home.  (I have two pair, plus a couple of part-rolls of duct tape.)

Usually the thefts are small enough not to be noticed, or at least overlooked.  Sometimes though….

I discovered roller-skating as it made a big come-back when I was about 16.  My record was 9 two-hour sessions in one week – every evening, plus Sat. and Sun. afternoons.  I started with rental skates, but, each pair is different, and they’re never Yours.  Soon I wanted to buy my own.  I went to the hardware store in town which sold them.  They had sold out of the shin-high Bauer skates in my size, but had a pair of Dunn’s ankle-high, men’s, white.  I bought them, and never thought about them.  The small towns up north must be more open-minded.  No-one ever commented about me wearing “girls’” skates till I moved here.

The first pair had been the old cone and ball-bearing type wheels.  When I moved to the big city, I decided to get a pair of the new precision-bearing type, which Bauer made right here.  One of the ladies at the Adult Education told me that her neighbor could get me a pair for about half-price.  Go to his house, tell him what size and type, and a week or two later you picked them up and paid cash.

A couple of years later, after graduating, I got a job at the Bauer plant, and found my supplier making hockey blades and, quite coincidentally, his brother-in-law the sole warehouse worker.  Six months after I left, I heard they had both been fired, arrested and charged.

At my next job, at the steel-fab plant, there was also a pair of brothers-in-law, both Turkish.  This was the first time I heard the term “camel-chaser” applied.  They took it as playful razzing, returning “squarehead” to the German co-workers.

One summer they took their wives and kids, all in one station-wagon, to a beach, 90 minutes drive away.  They settled them down on the sand and told them they were going into town for a beer.  They drove back to the city in an hour, parked in front of their baby sitter’s, a block from the house, ran up the street, carefully not attracting attention, and set a fire in the basement of their home.

Then they ran back to the car, raced back to the beach, and spent the day on the sand.  When they returned to a pile of ashes and an insurance claim, late that evening, they were shocked….that people had seen them driving, and running, and heard them talking about returning to the old country.  Sorry guys, not for at least two years less a day, for arson and insurance fraud.

While I was busy making boots, shoes, and slippers, there was a promotions manager from the down-town main plant who used to come out to our warehouse almost every week.  He was responsible for displays in local malls, and at trade shows.  He would show up with a clipboard and a list of styles, sizes and colors, and hand it to the warehouse manager, and later drive away with a trunk-load of footwear.

One day, as he was doing this, a senior executive from main branch was in the warehouse and was intrigued, and started asking questions.  How often does he do this?  How many pairs does he take? Does he provide a project number?  Are these deducted from inventory?  It soon became apparent that the “trade show” he claimed, didn’t exist.  Like my skate supplier above, he was stealing (or having stolen for him) to order.

At the same plant, despite a security guard at the entrance, the two young dopers in the rubber-moulding department used to carry out pairs of winter boots in their backpacks.  They traded them to their dealer for hash, which they brought back and smoked, on the job.  One night, they were so baked that they produced 46 pairs of boots in a row with large holes in them – and never noticed.

At one company, one of the senior maintenance men was the go-to guy for welding.  He used steel flat bars, angles and hollow structural tubing to produce racks and ramps and stands as processes changed, or were added.  He was also responsible for keeping an eye on metal stock, and having it replaced as needed.

His shopping list confused a new purchasing clerk, because the inventory showed hundreds of feet of all material.  An investigation revealed that he had a lucrative home business.  He built trailers – campers, ATV, snowmobile, etc.  He was having the company purchase and pay for, material in excess of their requirements.  He used company time and equipment to cut it to precise size and shape.

He would then take it out the back and pile it on a hardwood pallet, along with undersized, damaged or otherwise “scrap” steel.  This was available to any employee to buy at scrap prices, or even be told, “Just haul it away.”  Since he knew when the pallet was full, he always got first chance at it.  He even used the company forklift to put it in the bed of his pickup, but always returned the pallet for refill.

Have any of you worked with a paper-clip pincher?  Or even worse, one of these?  Are any of you the office paper-clip pincher??!  I still have a 12-foot Lufkin steel tape measure I got 45 years ago at the steel warehouse, along with a fine-tip felt marker which, surprisingly, still labels my coins.  Oops!  😉

Under Pressure – Overtime

Recently, the son climbed out of the car and left his choice of radio station on.  When I climbed in, I left it playing.  Because of this, both of us heard David Wilcox’s, sexual innuendo, double-entendre song, Layin’ Pipe, with its line of, “Eight shifts a week is never enough.”

People like young, up-and-coming doctors and lawyers put in huge amounts of hours to guarantee future success, but often, hourly-paid workers will do the same, working two or three jobs, to get ahead.

One of my fellow auto-workers put in an 8 AM to 4 PM shift every Saturday at a cookie factory in the next city.  There was no problem when he was on day-shift, or afternoons, but, when our week ended after a midnight shift, Saturday at 7 AM, he had an hour, to drive 20 miles, and punch in by 8.

The son has a co-worker who works as a bus-boy/prep chef at a local family restaurant every Sat. & Sun.  On a straight midnight shift, he gets a few hours sleep, and works Saturday, from 2 till 10.  The plastics plant has offered a couple of Saturday midnight shifts recently, and he took them.  Leave the restaurant at 10 PM Saturday, drive across town and put in an 11 to 7, grab a few Sunday ZZZs, and back to the diner.

Fortunately, they were the weekends before, and after, Easter, giving him a week to recuperate.  The son worked both weekends also.  He had a four-day week with Easter Friday off, but followed by a six-day week.

My auto plant had a five-year stretch of prosperity, where there was overtime available every week and weekend.  As a union shop, the work went first to the person on the required job, and then by seniority.  A young man hot-forming vinyl sheets went through two packs of Hall’s Mentho-Lyptus cough candies per shift, to keep his mouth moist.

Someone suggested doing something on his day off, and he replied that he hadn’t had a day off work in 17 weeks, and many of them had been 12 hour days.  It was either the work stress, dextro-methorphan poisoning from all the Hall’s, or a combination of both, that lost him his job.  Not once, but twice, he phoned the plant manager’s house (who, of course, wasn’t home) and screamed at his wife and daughters and threatened them with violence and death.  I’m not sure if he demanded less overtime, or more.

The inspector/packer on my Jeep line was a little, Muslim, Turkish Cypriot.  As such, he had a great need for male children.  His wife first presented him with two daughters.  He bitched at her, but she was sufficiently Canadian to tell him that he only got back what he put in.

She finally gave him a son, but – Oh Horrors – the boy’s right ear was malformed, and he held it against her, loudly, constantly.  They had a nice little house, with a nice little mortgage.  She must have felt that, if he was going to either ignore her or belittle her, she wanted something that included room away from him.  Before long, they had a nice big house, with a nice big mortgage.

Soon, between abandoning her and paying down the mortgage, he was spending huge amounts of time at the plant.  One day, the supervisor distributed our pay checks and, without thinking, I asked, “Did you work any overtime last week?”  Then I slapped myself!  I worked the standard 40 hours.  He had a slow week at 80, 24 at time-and-a-half, and 16 at double-time pay, and yet, his check was exactly double mine.  All the premium pay had gone to the government as taxes.

He would work four hours over, each day – five 12-hour days by Friday – then come in on Saturday and Sunday as well.  If he wasn’t asked for overtime, he had a system.  Even if he worked till 11 PM Friday night, he was back at the plant by 6 AM Saturday morning, “Just to get something from his locker.”  He knew that, of a crew of 10 or 12, at least one would get drunk, or forget to set an alarm, and he would be invited to fill in.

He had another trick.  He would work the Saturday day-shift, come back at 11 PM and work the overnight midnight shift, get a bit of food and sleep, and return once again and work the Sunday afternoon shift, getting in three shifts over two days.

A few times, he managed to stretch one of the weekend shifts to 12 hours, giving him a total of 88 hours for the week.  Wilcox’s “eight shifts a week” is nothing; that’s eleven! At least once that I know of, he managed to get 12 hours on two of the weekend shifts, setting his record (and anybody else’s) at 92 hours.

He showed me a picture in his wallet once, of a handsome young man.  I thought it might be a younger brother or cousin.  It was just him, shortly before I met him, pinched, dried, wasted!  I own an 11-year-old car that I may not be able to afford to replace.  At 70, my mortgage isn’t paid off yet, but people still don’t believe I’m as old as I am.  I worked to live.  I didn’t live to work.

Huge work hours, and dedication to a job or career can buy you lots of “stuff”, but it often doesn’t leave you enough time or energy to truly enjoy your stuff.  I tried to attain a middle ground with my employment, and still often shake my head at those who don’t leave time for life or family.

There’s No Excuse

To save everyone’s time, post this list near your desk or workspace, and everybody can just take a number.

 

TABLE OF EXCUSES

 

  1.  That’s the way we’ve always done it.
  2. I didn’t know you were in a hurry for it.
  3. That’s not in my department.
  4. No-one told me to go ahead with it.
  5. I’m waiting for an OK on it.
  6. That’s his job – not mine!
  7. Wait till the boss comes back and ask him.
  8. I forgot.
  9. I didn’t think it was that important.
  10. I’m so busy I just didn’t get around to it.
  11. I thought I told you.
  12. I wasn’t hired to do that

 

NOT KIDDING AROUND

 

Dear Doctor;

 

I wish to apply for a Vasectomy operation to endure my sterility.  The reasons for this are numerous, and after being married for 7 years and having 7 children, I have come to the conclusion that most of the methods of contraception amd are absolutely useless.

After I got married, I was told to use the rhythm method.  Despite trying the Tango, and the Samba, my wife became pregnant, and I suffered a hernia while doing the Cha-Cha.  Apart from the obvious deficiencies, where in the Hell can you get a dance band at 5 o’clock in the morning?

Another doctor suggested that we use the “Safe Period” after this, but at the time we were living with the in-laws, and we had to wait for three weeks for the house to be empty for a “Skag Safe Period.”  Needless to say, this didn’t work either.

A lady of several years experience informed us that if we made love while breast feeding it would be all right.  It’s hardly Jack Daniels, but I did end up with silky hair, a clear skin, and my wife pregnant again.

Another old wives tale was if my wife jumped up and down after intercourse it would prevent pregnancy.  After the constant breast feeding from our earlier attempts, if my wife were to jump up and down, she would finish up with two black eyes and eventually knock herself unconcuous.

I asked a pharmacist about the sheath.  He demonstrated how easy it was to use, so I bought a packet.  My wife became pregnant again, which didn’t surprise me.  I fail to see how stretching a rubber over a thumb, as the pharmacist showed me, can prevent pregnancy.

My wife was then supplied with a coil, and after several unsuccessful attempts to fit it, we realized that we had one with a left-hand thread, and my wife is definitely a right-hand screw.

The diaphragm, or “Dutch Cap” came next.  We were very hopeful about this method, and it didn’t interfere with our sex life at all.  Alas, it gave my wife a number of headaches.  Even though we got the largest size available, it was just too tight across her forehead.

Finally, and in desperation, we tried the pill.  At first it kept falling out.  Then we realized we were doing it wrong.   My wife started putting it between her knees, thus preventing me from getting anywhere near her at all.

You must appreciate my problem.  If this operation is not a success, we will have to resort to oral sex, and just sitting around, talking about it, can never be a substitute for the real thing.

 

Yours hopefully

John Smith

 

CORPORATE IMPROVEMENT

 

To:  ALL EMPLOYEES

From:  PERSONNEL  DEPARTMENT

As a result of new “effective management programming” and a declining work load, management must, of necessity, take steps to reduce our work force.

Arrangements have been developed which appear to be the most equitable, under the circumstances.

Under the plan, older employees will be placed on retirement, thus permitting the retention of younger workers, who represent the future of the company.

Therefore, a program to phase out older personnel, by the end of the year, via early retirement, will be placed into effect immediately.  This programme will be known as RAPE (Retire Aged Personnel Early)

Employees who are RAPEd, will be given an opportunity to seek other jobs within the company, provided that, while being RAPEd, they request a review of their employment records, before actual retirement takes place.  This phase of the operation is called SCREW. (Survey of Capabilities of Retired Early Workers)

All employees who have been RAPEd and SCREWed, may also apply for a final review.  This will be called SHAFT. (Study of Higher Authority Following Termination)

“Effective Management Programming” dictates that employees may be RAPEd once, and SCREWed twice, but may get the SHAFT as many times as the company deems appropriate.