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 21, 2016

Train Wreck in Traffic Control

My cousin-in-law, Carman LaFreeda (left) made the repairs to my car that the giant rock had left behind. He happened to be the owner of Tony's Auto Parts in Phoenixville. He was able to give me a good deal, but it still cost $210 and I wasn’t even able to get the work done until June. (Carmen died in 1999 at the age of 82. My First Cousin Milly was 78 at the time.) The saboteur stone had crushed my front end in its night sneak attack back in January. My parents picked up my car for me when the repairs were complete. I don’t know if they helped with the payment. That $210 was the equivalent of over $1,600 today. The rock didn’t pay a pebble, and neither did my insurance company didn't pay a penny. They said it was my fault because I didn’t have my car under control. Baloney! I had it under perfect control, there just wasn’t anywhere to control it to on that narrow stretch of road.
In good hands, my some-other-body-part. I jumped out of those hands and went to an old school teacher, “Bugsy” Moyer and got the “Careful Driver; Careful Buyer” insurance; that is Sate Farm. I figured I could trust “Bugsy”, after all that was the same nickname Jack Swarner called me way back in grade school and kind of for the same reason. I was collecting insects due to my interest in entomology; Mr. Moyer was a retired science teacher from NORCO, who also had an interest in crawly things.

But since rolling stones gather no moss, let’s move on with my life.
Moving on was the problem. I was stuck in the Addressograph Unit and it was going on four years. Everyone else who had been there when I came was gone. Even Dave Claypoole had escaped to Payroll and there I sat thinking I might be another Ron Paul.  It was time to make my move, too.
Atlantic Refining had a posting system of jobs. Every week Personnel tacked new openings up on the bulletin boards and anyone was free to apply. I checked the boards every week until in early June I saw a Level 6 was open for something called “Traffic Control Clerk”. Well, I knew we didn't have any airplanes circling the Flare Stacks at the refinery, so it must be something else.  That something else was trucks. It would have been called a Lading Clerk elsewhere, but Traffic Control Clerk sounded more impressive,or at least I thought so. It also sounded pretty clerical. The only machine I would be operating was a ten-key calculator. Duties included preparation and maintaining of Lading Sheets, assigning loads for pickup or receiving loads in for storing. I applied.
I got the job.
Freedom, free from Addressograph at last. Ah, the air of freedom would small sweet!
It was sweet if you liked the stinging odor of oil and natural gas. My new job was located in the center of the refinery itself.

On July 5 I was at my parents for a delayed birthday dinner and the whole family piled in my parent’s car and we took a ride to where my new job was located. My dad drove us that day, but on the other days, after I had taken this position, I had to drive. That’s right, no more relative comfort of jumping on a train at Paoli and reading a novel while I was hauled to my work destination. The only way really for me to get there now was drive myself over the highways and byways of urban sprawl, 30 miles of it.  here was nothing comfortable about the drive at all; it was downright hair raising, both going and coming. Even 52 years ago driving in Philadelphia at rush hour was a hassle. Besides ducking the speeding cars and trucks surrounding you as you made suddenly appearing lane switches, you would often be delayed by accidents and breakdowns on the throughway between yourself and your destination. My drive started out straight down Route 1 (The Baltimore Pike) into the city and then wound through various ever narrowing streets until I reached Passyunk Avenue, crossed it bridge and wended my way around the Flare Stacks of the Point Breeze Refinery to its very heart and my new office.
I use the term office rather loosely.  There was a room and at one side an indentation that pretended to the status of an office. A desktop with some under shelves was built halfway up into the wall just below a window, one of those affairs that slid back and forth instead of up and down.
It was always dark in the room. My “booth” jutted off of on one side, the window didn’t afford much light from the outside. Actually, the outside didn’t afford much light outdoors either. Directly on the other side of the window was a loading dock and this was hidden in the shadows of a bunch of huge pipes and other metal constructs. What light squeezed in around the yard structures was usually cut off by the trucks that lined up outside either bringing something in or there to take something out.
The drivers would press up against my window, yammering for their lading lists and orders, which they demanded and described in an unending stream of curse words during their impatience of having to wait 10 seconds. They had schedules to keep; oops, I mean, they had f------ schedules to keep. There was not a great deal of variety to their vocabulary, most of it was some form of conjugation of an old Anglo Saxon word beginning with the letter F. It appeared to be their favorite word and one used for every point they wished to make.

There were a couple of other men who worked in the place with me. I guess they would be called warehousemen; I mean we really were in a warehouse. It was hollow and dingy and echoed and had a bunch of stuff up on shelves or on pallets. My workmates were very handy with folk lifts and those hand jacks you pump up to move things with. Their language wasn’t any more literary than the truck drivers who constantly came about.
The room immediately behind me also served as the break and lunch room. There was an old table against one wall and some battered chairs here and there. I was usually sitting at the window atop a tall stool. I had to bring a brown bag lunch in with me, there was no place handy to buy food. There were a couple vending machines along the warehouse wall out on the dock that held candy bars, small bags of chips or in the case of one, sodas. Half the time these machines would jam and you’d be out your coins.

The men in the place weren’t hostile toward me, but you would never mistake them for warm and fuzzy. Well, maybe fizzy, their grooming left a lot to be desired. Whenever they had a break or lunch they would come in and hang behind me. There was some reading material upon the table, a couple of battered ancient men’ magazines like “Stag” or “Adventure”. There was always a new tabloid newspaper, but oddly not one from Philadelphia. It was a New York paper, perhaps the New York Daily News or New York Post.  I am not sure what paper it was, except it had a page in it that displayed some pretty women posing in bathing suits, the daily fix of cheesecake. These other men had a real sweet tooth for cheesecake. They always turned right to those pictures and made their daily obscene remarks. I remember one such instance. One guy held the paper up, showing everyone in the room the photo of this young woman in a tight one-piece suit.
“Look at that b---,” he said pointing to the girl’s lower half. “Man, she could have a f------ c--- under there!” Everybody laughed, except myself. I was trying to look busy and engrossed at some tickets on my workspace.
I wasn’t shocked by the language these men used nor their gross and childish jokes.  I had grown up around a lot of guys who were just as vulgar and I had heard about every word you could think of before I got out of junior high; I just didn’t like being around this kind of atmosphere. I had flashbacks to the day Dad had me draw the naked woman on the garage door and how the mechanics laughed at my na├»ve knowledge of the female anatomy.
Maybe the problem was the truck drivers reminded me too much of my father.
I came to work the second week and halfway through the morning I began to cry. I couldn’t stop. I sat on my stool with tears running down my face. Ain’t that a manly picture? I sat there shaking, waiting for the mocking to begin, but instead the warehouse guys came over to me. One took hold of my shoulders, very gently and they talked to me quietly. I was led over to one of those battered chairs and bid to sit. I still couldn’t stop the crying.
In a few minutes the boss showed up. He came over and asked me if I was all right. Sure, I was. Nothing more cleansing than a good cry.  It was pretty obvious I was falling apart. He suggested I go home. “Take the next few days off,” he said. “Relax, get some rest.”
I got home somehow without crashing the car and took most of the next week off. I don’t know if I rested any, but I sure didn’t relax. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but expected it would be bad. I thought my career at Atlantic was over. When I got a call to come back in I was terrified.
On Thursday, July 9, I shuffled into the Personnel Department at 260 South Broad Street. I fully expected to be handed my walking papers and I wondered what the heck was I going to do after today. We were already struggling financially and who was going to hire me after such a pathetic display?
But the people in Personnel didn’t hand me a pink slip. They led me down to the Mailroom on the first floor, the area I had so joyfully exited only a few short weeks before, dropping me off at Bill Mayberry’s desk. It was explained I was being given the job of Parcel Post Clerk for the time being. It was only a Level 4 position, but I was told my pay and grade would not be lowered, I’d keep the Level 6 salary and they promised as soon as another Level 6 job opened I’d get it.
I wasn’t a very religious guy at the time, but I did thank God for this.

Three days later, on Friday, I wasn’t walking into any church, though. I was driving into Darby and taking Lois to the hospital to get a blood test. Come the 17th day of July and we were back to Philly for her to see the doctor. This was follow up to news we had gotten back on May 19. At the time Lois had been getting sick, and of course, it turned out she was two months pregnant. Now it was mid-July and she had reached four months.
On the 24th she was bleeding some. I went to my parents the next day and my grandmother went with me to help me get groceries. Lois stayed home feeling she shouldn’t ride in a car. Her doctor was no longer the dreaded Dr. Lewis, by the way. We had ditched that butcher. This doctor was not in Malvern, but somewhere in Upper Darby. He was associated with Fitzgerald Mercy (right), a place I would eventually work.   The doctor told her to stay off her feet and told her to get Paregoric and put it on her stomach.

Before 1970 Paregoric was fairly easy to obtain, even without a prescription. It was really camphorated tincture of opium. Camphorated meant it came in a waxy and flammable solid substance called Camphor. A tincture is usually an alcoholic substance extracted from a plant or animal. Opium is opium. After 1970 Paregoric went through a variety of classifications as a controlled substance.
My mom and grandmother came down to help out as Lois was getting worse and still bleeding some. She was ordered not to do anything. Still, she continued to feel sicker.
I took her to Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital at Midnight on August 3 and soon after she loss her second baby. Since the fetus was just short of five months when it aborted it was classified as a miscarriage. The hospital took and disposed of the body. Lois’ father brought her home from the hospital on the 5th and my mother and grandmother came down and stayed a couple days to look after her. They did the cleaning and cooking.In case anyone is wondering what a 4 ½ month old fetus looks like, see the picture on the right. Looks like a me. Some people say this isn't human life yet. Those people be wrong.

Although Lois was very weak, by the 6th she was able to get up. The doctor said she could ride in a car so I took her to the Exton Drive-in on August 7 to see the Beatles movie, “A Hard Day’s Night”. It was an apropos title, we had certainly had one, more than one actually, hard days' nights, that is.
Lois snapped back to normal rather quickly after the loss this time, almost putting it out of her mind completely. Her physical recovery was very rapid. On August 8, five days after losing the baby she felt strong enough that we went to the Ridge Carnival for the evening.
She was raring to get get out and go now. We were up to my parents several time, bumming some money on at least one such visit. I took her to the Philadelphia Zoo and did some filming, then on August 30 we spent the day at the annual Wilson Family Reunion at my cousin Bob’s. On September 19 we took our second trip to the New York World’s Fair, going again via Werner Bus. I guess this trip was close enough to count as a celebration of our third wedding anniversary.  as well. The rest of the year was pretty well without incident, unless you count the shock I got at my 5th Year High School Class Reunion.
That was out first reunion. One would be held every five years thereafter. This first one was held at the American Legion Lodge in Pottstown. It was very well attended and no one had died yet. The ballroom was off an entry hall. It was filled with round tables with space at the front for dancing. There was a live band that year, the renown stylings of Bob Eppeheimer, yeah, right! Fellow classmate, one of the popular, cute guys, Galen Lloyd was the Toast Master. Dancing went on until 2:00 AM. 
Lois and I came in and choose a table. Lois sat down and I excused myself to get us some drinks.

The Bar was in a side room. Let me use a passage from a story I wrote about this because it describes what happened very clearly. The story was titled, Modesty”.
He came to the bar. He stopped next to her and motioned for refills. One glance her way and his face simmered with lust. He peeked down at the roundness peeking from the bodice of her dress, then at the long smooth thighs more than peeking from the hem.
“Well, hello,” he said.
“You don’t know me, do you?”
He shook his head.
“I’m Maggie.”
He froze. The fresh drinks in his hands splashed dark spots across his tie. He walked away in a slump of defeat and embarrassment.
Her mother said if a woman displayed modesty men would show respect. She displayed what modesty hid and the men showed regret.
And that was so much more satisfying.

Excerpt from “Modesty”
“Creative Writers”
Barnes & Noble
Joe , Editor

Of course the “Maggie” here was really Peggy and boy what a transition since high school. I didn’t really walk away feeling defeated and embarrassed, but I was shocked, I’ll tell you that. Remember, this girl had once been my steady until I did her dirty at a dance where I paid too much attention to a young lady named Carmella. In a way, then, Peggy did have her revenge.
Peggy passed away from Cancer on October 22, 2009 at the age of 67. She left behind her husband and their three children.

On Thanksgiving we ate with Lois’ father at the Fisher House on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. It was once a landmark establishment, huge and designed like a Bavarian Tutor Vastle, columns and all, and those hard round oyster crackers on every table. We had Thanksgiving with her father and we spent Christmas at my parents. And thus 1964 became history. The Fisher House became history as well, disappearing eventually as Temple University expanded, took over the entire block Fisher's stood on and tore it down.

1 comment:

Ron said...

The year 1964 was a very eventful year for both of us. I didn't realize the extent of your nervous breakdown in your job until I read this posting. It was a good thing your Mothrr prevented your from going in the Army with me. You would never have lasted through Basic Training, which was 1oo times more brutal than your swearing truck drivers. At least they didn't punch and kick you and call you f--cking trainee 24/7. The pressure was intense both physically and mentally. Basic training either gorges you or breaks you. Best thing that ever happened to me. I'm glad Atlantic didn't fire you but put you in a job more suited to your abilities. We all have our place I. The world. Tha's what life is about, finding our place.
Another very interesting post Lar. You laid it all out there. Few blogs are as honest as yours.