Archon’s Exciting Work Life

The inestimable John Erickson invited me to make him slack-jawed with tales of my work history.  The only thing about the story of me and my career that would make anyone go slack-jawed is why half of Southern Ontario hasn’t lapsed into a coma.

With no life-plan, and only a grade twelve education, I worked almost a year at a Royal Bank, before I realized that it and I were not good partners. I put in a summer season as the pro-shop assistant at a country-club golf course, although, as a paper-work diversion, I was on the books as the golf Pro.  I moved from Southampton Ontario, to Kitchener, because that’s where the jobs were, then. With no experience and little training, I went back to an adult education course.

After graduating (again), I worked as a Production Clerk at a shoe factory. The company moved me to a skate plant, where I set blades on boots. When they found that I could read well enough to not put out size 12 hockey blades to be attached to little girls’ figure skates, I became a Production Scheduler. They tried to train me for Quality Control, but a recession was on. I got a job at a steel warehouse/fabricating shop. I started as an Inventory Clerk, filled in for two months as Acting Inventory Manager, moved to Expediter, and later up to Buyer, over 7 years. Leaving there, I became a Purchasing Agent for a couple of years at a large millwright/rigging shop, with some metal fab. and machining. I left that company to be the Purchasing Agent at a large (400 employee) precision machine shop that made automotive, dental, medical and atomic energy parts, for four years.

I got a job as a fancy-named Materials Manager at a small auto-parts stamping shop for two years. I had 8 people working under me. The title just meant I had all the responsibility – with none of the authority. I got shit on from above, and had it rubbed in from below. When the company president found that I had ethics, he pulled the employment rug out from under me.

I tried outside sales, first for a small local courier, then for a safety-supply company, but, with no sales experience and no established territory, I couldn’t support the family. I drifted on and off unemployment for a couple of years. I delivered flyers and catalogs. I worked for a small, and later, a larger building-custodial firm. I spent a couple of years with a Security Guard firm. I patrolled a couple of downtown hotels, and then got moved to a shoe/boot/slipper plant.

I had worked with the leather-cutting department foreman years before. After about a year as security, he talked me into working for him. Starting at $7.01/hr, I worked up to $9.25. He put me on a piece-work job, where the previous operator had made $13.+/hr. Not only did I stay at the nine dollar figure, the company was busy going bankrupt, and I either went back to $7.01 or found a new job.

I took the seven bucks, and his shit, for a couple of months, until the previous press operator told me that her new employer was hiring – at $11.35. If you dig back to about August, you’ll find a post about how I got that job. The economy now booming, I kept that job for 17.35 years, through three corporate owners. The last wanted to expand too fast, and bought a lot of small plants, all over North America. When the boom went bust again, inevitably, they were asset-rich, but cash-flow poor, and jobs got eliminated until the entire plant closed.

I found that now, jobs were obtained by working through temp-agencies. I got a piece-of-cake job at a steel-parts producer. Just as I was about to be taken on full-time, the 2008 recession kicked in. Thinking I was only going to be laid off for three weeks over Christmas/New Years, I had the temp agency get me a fill-in job with a medium-sized transport firm. The parts firm went kaput, and I had to stick with the new job.

They were shipping steel coils by rail-car, to the prairies and B.C. I worked as part of a framing crew, using lumber to brace the coils from moving during transit. In and out of the terminal and the boxcars, we got rained and snowed on. Not properly wired for compressors, lights and heaters, it was stiflingly hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and dark in the rail-cars, on a four-to-midnight shift. Broken lumber for splinters, nails sticking out, nail-guns and circular saws, I’m surprised no-one was seriously injured.

It was a very physically demanding job, just at the time of life when strength, stamina and body control were waning.  I put in just over two years before qualifying for full government pension, got to Hell out, or got out of Hell, and retired.

It might be a bit different for people with a skilled trade, but for guys like me, working at one job, or for one company your entire life, was over years ago.  My father had had at least ten different jobs by the time I hit the market, and three or four more after I left home.  There are still exceptions.  One of the co-workers at the auto-parts plant retired with 48 years seniority.  He’d been there through six owners/name changes.  The joke was, that he had been waiting at the corner for a trolley-bus, and they erected the building around him.

Now you know the sad employment history of The Archon. Do you feel sorry for poor old Archon, or just sorry for yourself for having read this tale of woe?

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