Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trails of Life Go Up and Down

On New Year’s 1966, my mother and grandmother came down to visit. This had been a tradition ever since Lois and I married. They would come visit to see our tree and what presents we got about a week after Christmas. We went out to eat this time, going to a Diner-Restaurant in Broomall, Pa. right along the West Chester Pike, called Country Squire. It was very popular and very good then.
They may still be good for it is still in business; I’ll have to try it again sometime. It would be worth going just for their homemade banana cream pie. They had the best deserts. But I digress and it is making me hungry.

We were celebrating a new year and a new beginning, and why not? You know when walking through the trails of Brandywine Creek State Park, there are ups and downs. You may be down in a gully, stumbling over fallen trees and other obstacles, but you keep going.You are on a rough narrow trail going up and up and up through the trees thinking you'll never see sky again when suddenly you are on top of the mount. You can see from where you came, you can see the sky, breathe fresh air, hear the buzzing and tweets in the forest below you. And you hike on and the trail is easier. You barely notice that the trail is on a slight decline, perhaps part of the reason it is easier, but slowly the trail begins to grow harsher and the surroundings darker. You are about to cross through another gorge.

This is exactly how life is, gorges and mounts. Some days you are in the valley; other days atop the world. I’d just spent a couple years tripping over vines and fallen logs. I hadn’t taken much notice, but the end of the last year was an upward trail. I was actually getting near the top where I would see a new path to follow in the year ahead. I was getting near the peak on March 3 when I finally got moved out of that mailroom. I was made a Ledger Clark in Accounts Receivable. It wasn’t really a promotion. I was still a Level 6, but who cared, I was back in a clerical department where opportunity existed.

I sure didn’t know anything about accounting or bookkeeping when I took this job. I would know a lot by the time I got around to studying this field in college. Atlantic Refining dominated the oil and gas market along the East coast in close competition with Sun Oil Co (Sunoco) of Newtown Square and Gulf, the Mellon Family's oil company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Of course, overshadowing all was Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, known by its initials, S. O.
Despite many nearby giants, Atlantic really viewed Esso as its main rival. I never forgot a promotional meeting we had. Esso (today known as Exxon), the speaker claimed, had not originally intended the tiger to be their symbol. Instead they were going to use a bee. That is until somebody decided the Esso Bee might not work well.

If you worked as an accountant or bookkeeper in a small company, as I eventually would, almost everything regarding the financial records would fall into your lap. You might not be making the investment decisions, but you most likely were tracking and noting each jot and tittle of the business. You would maintain a number of journals and ledgers in your work and among these would be a ledger of accounts receivable, where you would show each customer, what they owed and what they paid.
Atlantic was much too large for such a system. They had thousands and thousands of customers and vendors that owed them money, way too many for some poor clerk, such as Bob Crotchet  to sit about on his high stool and make jot of each transaction. You really needed a computer, but desktop computers did not yet exist. There were ten-key adding machines and comptroller machines on many a desk, but no smart device such as Compaq yet. An apple was something you might bring in your lunch bag, but you couldn’t do any calculations on it.

Ah, but there was a computer. It was this mysterious giant box lurking in a cold room somewhere on the sixth floor. It sucked in the impulses from many, many keypunched cards and returned updated cards. The processing of all these cards was done by the TAB Operations Unit of the company. Irony abounds, because it was for a TAB Operator job I had initially applied.  Furthermore, this unit existed on the 6th floor. A TAB Operator's job level was a 6. I was turned down for a starting job there because Atlantic didn’t start new hires at Level 6. Now here I was a Level 6 Ledger Clerk being fed my daily work by this very TAB Operation Unit.
My Ledger Clerk duties were relatively simply. I would receive big batches of punched cards at different times during the day. I would sort these by the Customer Number stamped upon the top and file them into trays stacked in cabinets surrounding out workspace. I always knew a good education would come in handy...oh, wait. I knew my alphabet before I ever began even Kindergarten.
A secondary duty was sorting mail. Mail would arrive about four times a day. Mailboys (there were no Mailgirls, remember) would dump mail in a central location and all we Ledger Clerks would go to a centrally located table and sort the bundles down into mail by region.  We also went to that centrally located table to do the bank deliveries. Big mail sacks would come in a couple times a day from a Post Office Box (called  lockbox). These would be payments, usually a check or checks. We would again sort by region, run adding machine tapes to make certain the total received agreed to a summary sheet supplied by the banks and then send the payments on for processing, which meant getting them punched on cards. At the end of the day we would assemble for a last time and match the reports from the Ledgermen to the Summaries from the Banks and hope the final tallies equaled. If there was an unbalance situation, then we had to stay and find the difference.
Sorting and match, I was good at this. I had been fast and accurate when doing burner oil tickets in Sales Accounting. I had been so with cutting and sorting plates in Addressograph. I was good at this in Accounts Receivable. I think sorting was my destiny.
I felt very confident by April and started saying we needed a new car. I was at my parents on April 3 saying "I think I need a new car" and on April 4 I was at the insurance agent, a former science teacher, names James “Bugsy: Moyer saying "I bought a new car" and buying insurance on a new 1966 VW Beetle. On the 8 th I stopped at my parents and gave my mom and grandmother a ride. I was careful to pick a night when my father would be on the road. Oh, he was unhappy with me. I had dared to buy a foreign car; not just any foreign car either, but a Nazi Automobile. This was Hitler’s car; he had ordered it up.  My father believed we should not buy anything not “Made in the USA”. We should especially not buy anything our enemies made (some people could never let go of World War II). The only thing I could have done worse was buy some “Japmobile”. His words, not mine.

People scoffed at the Beetle. Where were the pedals?. "Did it run on gerbil power? Did we have to get out and push it up the hills? Sometimes it ran a bit slow up those Pennsylvania hills, but it always made it up them. Lois and I had our struggles, too, with the hills of life, but we always made it up them.
I liked the blasted car.
There were some humorous instances with the VW Bug. One time I came out of my father-in-law’s house and there was this stranger sitting on the road surface behind my Beetle. (It was a blue, by the way 00 see the photo.) He had the hood up and appeared to be tinkering with the engine (which were in the rear of Beetles). I walked up behind him, leaned over his shoulder and asked, “What are you doing?”
He picked up another tool and said, “I’m checking out my sister’s car. She’s been having some problems with it lately.”
“That’s nice of you,” I said, “but by the way,  this is my car.”
He was very flustered and apologetic. I told him not to worry about it, all these VWs looked alike, honest mistake. I said to Lois afterwards, “Maybe I should have let him tune it up before telling him anything.”
Another time Lois was out in the thing and she picked up some coffee at a deli. She was coming back on State Road when the person ahead stopped suddenly for a changing light and she had to slam on the brakes. When she did, the coffee cups began to flip out of the cup holders and she reached to grab them, let her foot up, and slammed into the other guy’s vehicle. No one was hurt and his car didn’t have any damage so they just went their separate ways, but the VW had a large dent in the front fender. Lois drove home, went straight into the garage on the back alley and the next day she got a rubber mallet and pounded the dent out. I would have never known if a couple weeks later she didn’t confess it to me.

Once she was out driving and as she crossed the Trolley Tracks along Garrett Road the car stalled. She couldn’t get it started. There she was stuck broadside across the Trolley Tracks. On the corner was a pizza shop with a number of its usual local loiters hanging outside. Four of these men walked over, picked up the VW and carried it off the tracks. Then they helped her get it started.
We were coming home one night, very late. Cruising up West Chester Pike. We had arrived somewhere around the Riddle Creek State Park. The whole area was deserted and dark, except for two eyes staring at me from the middle of the road ahead. It was a very stately Buck standing in the lanes. It wasn’t moving. I pressed hard on the brakes and all would have been well as I came to a stop just short of this animal. But like that infamous rolling rock, the deer did not remain frozen in place. Just as I stopped, it leapt forward, rolled up on the front hood and then rolled down out of sight

 I bolted from the car to see if it were hurt, but there was no sign of the beast. Apparently it had simply rolled up that rounded slant that was the front end of a Beetle and off again, picked it self up, dusted it self off and took off for places unknown. I drove on and at Newtown Square I spied a police car in a gas station. I went in and told the officers of the deer and then we went home. I am sure that deer was fine, but my VW suffered a huge dent in the truck lid (which is actually the front of that car.) This one Lois couldn’t hammer out.
It wasn't always humorous, such as the time that car nearly got us killed, murdered...but that is a tale for later, not now.
Other than a few hitches with the car, life was zinging along on a smooth path, but remember those easy path of often headed downhill. One of the speed bumps ahead was we had to take Lois’ grandmother, Zoe Schnell Rabb, to the hospital to have her breast removed.
And of yeah, on October 30 we spent the evening at my parents, until 11:00 PM. Lois was announcing she was pregnant for the fourth time.

Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

Ron said...

We all lead interesting lives and yours is very interesting. I'm loving your narrative. There is definitely a book here Lar❗️👍