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5/10/2018

Those Were the Days

High School graduation was held at the dome on the college campus of USF.  Next day, hopped in the car, headed for Jacksonville, Florida.  Had a job lined up, working in the wallboard factory.

I roomed with my brother, he worked there prior year and knew the ropes.  A guy at the tennis club got us the jobs, they were not easy to get.

The factory was quite large, out in the middle of nowhere, had to drive a long way to and from.  I started off sweeping the floors.  The factory made wallboard for houses, 1/4 inch and 3/8 I think, with and without fiberglass.

The line started with two huge reams of paper that got spliced together, inserted the material in between to form a giant strand of sheet rock, traveled more than a hundred feet.  Further down the line, a guy sat all day and monitored the material prior to going into a huge oven where it got cooked.  Later, it reappeared the other end, got cut into sizes then flipped, trimmed, taped and finally stacked.

I worked the stack quite a bit.  Once the boards got to certain height, you had to add slueters in between to separate the boards, pushed the button so the machine would go back up and after two cycles, the forklift driver would haul them away to the bowels of the factory, where they were stacked about 7 high, one stack after another.  A truck would haul the contents down the dusty road and they soon ended up in stores and people's homes.

Our shifts rotated.  7am - 3pm, 11pm to 7am and the double back, 3pm to 11pm.  Rotated every week.  12 hours Saturday and Sunday.  Weekend off every 3rd week.

Suffice to say, the altering time shifts keep you constantly tired.  And I volunteered for any overtime I could get.  So the mandatory 64 hour weeks turned into 80+ hour weeks.

What did we eat?  Had a hot plate in the 1 room apartment.  Ate a lot of junk food.  And lots of liquids as the summer temperatures where hot in the factory.

Sometimes I had to climb the ladder, they'd hoist a pallet of fiberglass bags, had to pick each one up, cut open with knife, empty contents into bin.  For 8 or 12 hours.  One time, I must have fallen asleep during the night shift, when I awoke, the new shift was already working, I went and clocked out.

They'd give you a broom, sweep a good chuck of the factory floor, next day, completely covered again.

Had to work the jackhammer, they sure enjoyed working the college workers a lot.

They had a giant furnace, they would have us enter the hot furnace, after they let it cool off a few days, with a broom, scrub the walls.  It was so hot in there, we only lasted 5 or 10 minutes.  I said anyone ever die in here, actually, yes, one of the temps died last year.

They hired temps, people that may have been homeless, earned enough money for beer, then show up a week or two later, same thing.

Some of the workers got together after a shift, pick up a 6 pack, head to the docks, sit and drink for a while, some smoked, even when quitting time was 7 am.  Soon I was hanging out also.

They said a college kid was working there prior years, stayed on to work instead of going back to college, died on a motorcycle.

I remember watching the clock during the night shift, clock struck midnight, I turned 18, sitting on the forklift, tucked away in a factory, far from home, earning money for college.  I worked in the factory for 2 summers.

Those were the days~!