Work was not a problem. My love affair and pending marriage had no effect on my performance. I was fast and accurate, a work habit I had developed not because I was raised with some strong work ethic, but because I wanted to go home at night and write, not be stuck doing overtime. Some might think my missing those high school typing classes would prove a hindrance on this job with the Graphotype’s standard keyboard (pictured left). It wasn’t. These machines weren’t made for typing per se, but for cutting names and addresses into metal plates. The mechanics of the machine dictated their speed capabilities. I quickly understood these limitations and used them to advantage. I was soon the fastest and most accurate Graphotypist in the group. It didn’t matter if it were the keyboard or the wheel driven
It was no different with the Addressograph machine. Once I'd been trained on that beast I could stomp out the envelopes as if I was just an extension of the machine.
Ron Paul, our “genial” supervisor, was a volatile person, quick to change moods from appathetic to explosive. I jested describing him as “genial”, which was one characteristic not in his repertoire. I carefully gave him no cause to take his demons out on me; however, it is hard to predict what kind of demons such people have. I was his best worker. You could give me any job and I completed it before its deadline and without error. In other words, I made him look good. Rather than being pleased he decided I was a threat. The better I got the more it soured his mood.
He was at Atlantic a decade by the time I arrived in the unit, yet only a Grade 6 level. Remember you started with this company as a Grade 3. Even though Atlantic wasn’t the fastest to dole out promotions, this should have indicated something amiss.
Frankly, it wasn’t hard to understand. Ron Paul was cocky, but lazy. Whatever his past performances may have been, and however he managed to become a Supervisor, didn’t matter. Once they pinned that title upon him, he saw his job as supervising only, nothing else. In his mind it was not his place to lift a finger to tap a keyboard. He was boss; he gave the orders and we peons did the finger lifting. You know who he was like, the Don Knott’s character named Barney Fife. You could let him swagger a little bit, but you didn’t dare give him any bullets for his gun.
The company expected him to do actual work of course, but he kept it to a minimum. He seldom cut plates. He would normally restrict himself to operating the Addressograph (pictured left just above) and then take only the easier jobs. He preferred to lean against his desk and puff his pipe.
His attitude was going to catch up with him in the future and make him my sworn enemy.
It is interesting to note my parents’ reaction to Lois and my announcement of engagement. There was no concern about out young age. We were only 19. There was simply a great deal of relief.
I do not know where my folks ever got the notion, but they had convinced themselves I was going to marry a Black woman. It was one of their biggest fears, but had little basis in reality. I barely knew any Black people. There had been no Black students in Owen J. Roberts High during my tenure as a student. There were no Black people living anywhere near us in North Coventry or East Vincent Townships in those days.
Even working in the Big City I only saw Black people as passersby on the street. There was not many working at Atlantic, at least not in the Headquarters building. There was a Black elevator starter. There were Black maintenance people who cleaned the floors and emptied the wastebaskets, but I only saw them on nights I worked overtime. There were some Black men working in the print shop. Where was I supposed to meet this mythical Black bride? I was to develop a close friendship with a Black woman in the near future, but I hadn’t even met her this early in my career.
There were some rumblings here and there that would grow into the Civil Rights movement, but in 1960-61 Black people were still very much a nearly invisible subculture. Now it was true I was making friends with equalitarian-minded people, but even my friends were all white at this point. Our views on racial integration were more theory than practice.
And then they became nervous when they found out she was Irish. (I wonder what their reaction would have been if they had known she was one-fourth Native American?)
They had not been at all overly pleased with my more recent girlfriends, none of whom were Black, of course. Their flaw was one of religious leanings. None were Protestant. Sonja Kebbe and her family were Atheists or strong Agnostics. Pat Gormley was Roman Catholic, whose parents stepped in and did what mine probably wished to, but wouldn’t. Arleen Guida was also Roman Catholic, and as a double whammy, an Italian. The other young women I was then showing interest in were all Roman Catholic.
Lois was, hallelujah, a Lutheran. My family was greatly relieved once more. Probably my being Methodist was taken with an equal amount of satisfaction by her family as well. Both her side and my side, unfortunately, put more stock in one showing up in church properly attired each Sunday than on one’s underlying faith. Everyone may have looked upon me being President of the MYF as something akin to an Apostle, whereas in reality, I was a paragon of an apostate.
My dad had always been the thorn in my side when it came to introducing girlfriends at home. He could be rude, say little or do something that embarrassed me. (Remember that nude photo of me as a toddler?) I always feared he would frighten my girlfriends away. According to my mother he seldom approved of my dates, although he never said anything to me directly about them. In truth, mother often put her views in my father’s mouth, leaving her looking sympathetic and him the troglodyte.
Lois did not simply ignore my father’s indiscretions, as my former girlfriends did their best to accomplish, but she did not like his behavior, especially toward me, and she showed it. One day on a visit he belittled me in some way, even called me Gertrude at some point. Lois lit into him. She told him he had a great son and he should be ashamed of the way he was treating me.
My father really liked Lois there after because she stood up to him. He did everything except stand there and say, “You got spunk, kid.”
For a guy who once complained he would never get a girl I did okay. Between the summer of 1957 and the summer of 1960 when I met Lois, I had dated thirteen different girls, some steadily. I had been quite serious about two of these, Sonja and Pat. Despite this, I was still a virgin, not that the opportunity to alter that condition had never occurred. I can’t say if my keeping myself “pure” was an act of virtue, just blind luck or plain stupid naiveté. I was 19 years old and not had even a hint of sex with anybody. Although I had seen what a naked woman looked like by now, it was just pictures in magazines (had I ever), I still had never seen one nude female in the flesh. I had kissed and held a number of these girls, but I still had not touched a female breast, let alone anything below the waist.
I was not religious, but I did believe sex was only for after marriage. I expected to wait, but as our engagement progressed so did our passion. We were beginning to push the envelope a bit and we were always looking for more and more opportunities to be alone where we could embrace and kiss.
There were always the Drive-in Theaters.
During intermission there was the roar of real motorcycles that didn’t come from our speakers. A whole gang of Warlocks arrived. They completely surrounded my car and most of the front rows. They didn’t restrain themselves to the designated parking spots either. They parked where they pleased. I had bikes to the north, east, west and south of me. I felt like an interloper at a Harley convention.
We watched the second feature. I mean we really did watch it, intently, no kissing, and no fondling. I can tell you from experience, extreme nervousness trumps extreme passion. My only thought as that movie concluded was how was I going to get out of the place. These Warlocks literally imprisoned us and the dudes slouching upon their bikes were a lot tougher looking than the Q Gang back in high school. They looked even scruffier and tougher than the Hell’s Angels portrayed in the movies we just watched.
I fully rolled down my window and slowly replaced the speaker on the pole. Maybe I thought I had to move in slow motion or something might bite me. I leaned out toward the nearest Warlock, who was half leaning on my front fender. “Excuse me,” I called. “We’d like to leave now.”
He looked over at me. “Yeah, sure,” he said. Then he yelled to the bikers in front of me. “Guys. People want out.”
Amazingly the Bikers moved their cycles aside and guided me out of the parking space and we left. I breathed a sigh of relief, but once again my perceptions of the world had been tweaked.
When looking for more intimacy there was always my house. More and more often I would bring Lois home to visit. My bedroom was my space and my friends always spend time there with me. It was no different with Lois. No one thought a thing about my having this girl in my bedroom all the time. There was nothing going on.
And there wasn’t as long as someone else was home. But several times everyone else was gone. We grabbed those times to grab each other. Our grabbing was little more than light petting at first, but it grew hotter each time. Soon we were fondling each other through our clothes. I wasn’t trying to pull away and hide my erections anymore. We were reaching that point of inflamed hormones that Mr. Buckwalter warned us about in Eleventh Grade health. I was approaching that moment to “go behind the barn and take care of it myself”.
Except there weren’t any barns handy.
I guess the nearest I came to that was the night we had been petting on her living room sofa.
I feared I might have shocked her. Would she want to see me after that display I wondered, but she was neither shocked nor turned off by my loss of control? If anything Lois was much more sexually charged than I was. Our passion with each other only escalated after that.
One Saturday she was visiting and my dad was gone for the day. Lois was wearing a Jersey top and her favorite pedal pushers, which had a leopard skin pattern. My mother told me she and Grandmother were going to some church function. We could hardly wait for them to leave. Finally, they did.
We waited until we heard the car leave the drive and go down the highway and within seconds we were both naked upon my bed. Suddenly, we heard the unlocking of the side door. We jumped from bed and scrambled to tug on our clothes as we heard footsteps coming through the house toward my room. Next came my mother’s voice calling me. My mother was at my bedroom door.
“Can I come in?”
“Just a moment,” I said, checking if I was altogether dressed. I knew I couldn’t stall for long and my door didn’t lock. “Come in,” I finally said, probably a bit too loud.
She opened my door. I was standing on one side of my bed and Lois stood on the other side. My mother told me they had forgotten something they were supposed to take to the church affair. She then told me something she wanted me to do, which I no longer remember. With that she left. She shut my door and her footsteps receded.
I turned around and looked at Lois. There was no Leopard pattern. In her rush she had put her pants on inside out.