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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Job Roulette With Egg

We went to the Downingtown Motor Inn with my parents for New Year’s Eve. 

The Downingtown Motor Inn was built in 1960 and opened as a resort in November 1961 across from the Downingtown
Farmers Market along Route 30 east of the town. It covered 100 acres and could accommodate up to 2,500 guests. It had two swimming pools and the 1896 Restaurant.  Later, after an 18 hole golf course was added, it became known as the Downingtown Inn and Golf Club. As you approached it the cheery face of Mickey Rooney, dressed as a leprechaun, smiled out at you. His likeness also appeared on a number of the buildings. His name and features were so prevalent people came to believe he owned the resort. Actually the owners were the Tabas Family, who were friends of Mickey. He became the figurehead for the resort and only owned held a small investment in it.
It is interesting they advertised as “Pennsylvania Dutch Amishland’s Foremost Year ‘Round Resort”. Downingtown was hardly in Dutch Country and you didn’t see an Amish person about, except perhaps behind a stall in the Farmers Market on weekends, and then it was more or less likely the vendor was Mennonite. The Tabas Family unloaded the resort to Ramada in 1983 and it was eventually torn down in 1994. Since then a large shopping center occupies the site.

I might have mentioned to my parents that night that I had quit Lincoln Bank; perhaps after a few drinks.

I quit at ARCo because I saw nowhere higher to go and I wanted to try writing full time. I quit Philadelphia Gum because it was a part-time position and after I had obtained a full time one. I quit North American Publishing because I didn’t care for the way they treated the employees. In all those places I was doing well personally, but I was something of a man of principle. I quit Lincoln Bank because they lied to me.
In the fall of 1971 the management had asked me to learn this Assistant Treasurer’s job, because they planned to fire him. I was promised his position and his private office if I did so. I did so. When he returned from vacation, I began visiting with him several times a day and convincing him to teach me his duties as a backup, while continuing my own duties, of course.
This preceded over almost two months and in that time I not
only became proficient in his work, but he and I became friends. That alone was a strain on me. I knew they were going to terminate him, yet I couldn’t even give him a hint about that. If he had been some nasty guy or something, it would have been easier. But I got along with him, began going to lunch with him, learned about his family; a wife, two kids and a Saint Bernard. (Lilly is pictured on right.)

The fateful day came in December and they told him to pack up his personal belongings and go, and have a Merry Christmas. He didn’t resent me for my part; in fact, gave me his phone number and suggested we get together. I waited for the indication from my bosses that I could now move into his office, but nothing was said. After two weeks, I confronted them and asked about my promotion. They told me they couldn’t give me the job as promised.
“Why,” I asked.
“Because it requires a college degree and you don’t have one.”
The stupidity and duplicity of this. They knew I had no degree when they promised me the position. And I knew the job and could do the duties. I had several years of college and my marks were good. They were only sticking to a requirement written on a job description, not reality. At lunchtime I walked up the street to an employment agency. Within a week I was hired by another company. On Christmas Eve I walked into my boss’s office and quit.
Dick Mason (left), which was the man’s name who they fired, and I continued as friends. We visited back and forth over the next three years. Dick was a big guy and had an aggressive personality, but this didn’t bother me. He and I got along fine.
The hitch was Lois came to not like the Masons. She felt they were pretentious and showy. They were always pointing out their possessions. Pat right) was always acting so smug and superior, Lois claimed. Lois’s Bipolar makes it difficult for her to accept change and people. We didn’t know Lois had this back then, so just wrote it off as a personality conflict between her and Dick’s wife, Pat.

It was true that the Mason’s liked to dazzle you with their latest acquisition or vacation trip, but so what. For instance, their house was the first place I ever saw Pong. This electronic game based on table tennis came to the public in 1972. It was very simple, using a controller you tried to return a white dot hit by your opponent across the TV Screen. (Left, playing pong with Dick’s son.)
By 1974, we and the Masons went our separate ways.

I had expected to start my new job right after Christmas, but no one called for me to report. I tried calling them, but couldn’t get hold of the man who hired me. He was the General Manager of the operation. I believe his name was Lobowski or something similar. I just can’t remember. By New Year’s I was getting very nervous. I was no longer with Lincoln Bank and I needed this job. Had something fallen through?
But then I got a call to report to work on January 5.
The company was Olson Brothers, sometimes known as Olson Farms. They were headquartered in Utah and owned by
Mormons. Their company was divided into regional plants. I was hired into the Northeast Division, which served the Mideast from Maryland north throughout all of New England. Our division headquarters was located in North Philly. It was a trip and a half to get there. I would take a bus to 69th Street in Philadelphia, catch the El into center city, where I would ride the Market-Frankford Line North. I’d get off at the Tioga Station and walk down Tioga Avenue to Tulip Street, probably a mile, where Olson Brothers was located.
Right next to Olson, sharing the dock, was a pig rendering business.  We were egg breakers. Eggs can have a bad smell, but it is nowhere near what comes from a rendering plant. I didn’t have problems finding the place, you could smell it blocks away. It goes to show you can have too much of a good thing. The odor was like bacon magnified a 1,000 times. It was a breath-taking stench.

When I arrived on my first day I was caught by surprise. Lobowski, who had hired me was gone, no longer with the company. He had suddenly quit and went elsewhere. The original plan was to have me start while the person I was replacing was still there to teach me, but he was gone by the time I actually reported as well.  The new General manager wasn’t there either; he was in Puerto Rico allegedly on business getting a contract sell our frozen egg white to a meringue maker. The only people besides the employees breaking eggs, were the secretary and the production manager, Nick.
I was basically thrown in to learn my job on my own. Some say that is the best way to learn.
What was my job? I was the new Office Manager and Cost Accountant. Now, even though Olson Brothers was considered the biggest egg processors in the country, the local operation was similar to a small business. As such, my duties didn’t necessarily stop at the office door. In my time there I sometimes unloaded trucks and stacked egg cartons, met with USDA inspectors, Rabbis and Teamsters. For a period, I even bought raw eggs and sold finished product, two functions involving haggling. To be honest, the period when the Production Manager and I had to do the purchasing and selling functions, was the only period during the time I was there that we actually turned a profit.
Eggs came in by the truck load from various farms in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  They were in what we called flats (pictured right). Once unloaded and brought inside the plant, the eggs had to be candled (and yes I did that sometimes, too). Each egg was held before a strong light so you could see right through the shell. You were looking for unusable product. It might be a fertilized egg, it might contain blood, it might even be going bad. These were discarded, much of it being used in dog or cat food, which is something I've thought about when I've heard of old people eating cat food. The rest was stacked in a very large cooler as raw material. Eggs can be kept for up to six months at a temperature below 40 degrees.
There are different type eggs, designated by letters, A, B, etc. and Chex. All the eggs we purchased for processing were unsellable as retail product, the eggs you buy at the grocery store. There was some defect that made them unattractive to those buying for their household, spots, discolorations, odd shapes, nothing that made the eggs bad, just not pretty.
The eggs went onto a conveyor belt, where USDA agents
looked them over as they traveled into washers. After washing, the eggs passed through into another room where the workers sat at egg breaking machines.
Now here is an interesting job. Each machine had an operator. The eggs were funneled down as they entered the room and dropped one at a time in cups on the arms of these machine. Each cup came around in front of the operator who would use a lever that made a knife blade crack the eggs and then the cup would pull apart, like a pair of hands, and let the liquid inside the shell fall into a great receptacle. There were also settings which allowed the yolk and white to be separated if need be. There was a rubber hose that ran from the machine to just below the operator’s nose. This allowed the operator to detect any off odor signaling a bad egg.
The liquid egg product was then Pasteurized (right) and packaged in large metal cans for sale or storage.

There was different product, whole egg, yolk, whites, mixed egg, which might contain gums, salt or sugar. These were sold to large bakeries, restaurants and so forth. Whole egg might be purchased by restaurants to make scrambled eggs. Whites would be sold to bakeries who made meringue. We sometimes sold liquid egg, but most of the product was frozen and inventoried. And there was where some mysteries were solved.
As Cost Accountant, one week I went into the freezer and took a physical count of our inventory. Up to this point the reports I had been sending to home office were very positive. We were at full production and thus our costs were coming out low and we showed gains on our sales. It was a façade, a fraud put in place by the former General Manager, Lobowski, the man who had hired me. It was the reason he suddenly resigned and disappeared. He skipped out before his scam could be found out. I was the one who found it out.
Inventory goes onto the books as an asset. Running a plant at full capacity lowers the cost of the finished product. When we set the price of product it was based on this full capacity and that gave us better margins on the sale price, so we had been showing a good profit on the monthly Statement; however, what Lobowski had done was run the factory beyond demand. He wasn’t selling off all this product produced, he was inventorying it. The value of the product was way over valued. When I did my calculations I discovered there was no way we could ever unload all the back load of frozen egg.  And it meant our cost base was artificially low. We were actually losing money on every sale.
Production should have been slowed to only what we sold immediately as liquid egg until we could reduce the inventory, if we ever could. Perhaps we could have done okay, because when Nick, the production manager and I, had taken over purchasing and selling we were bringing down the cost and moving produce.
But why in the world were Nick and I doing this? It wasn’t our job, it was the General Manager’s responsibility to make these deal, except the General Manager was absent frequently, just as he was when I first started. He was missing that entire first month I worked there.
The general manager was a man named Gailey, a Mormon, just as the Olson brothers were. He appeared to be a nice, upstanding gentleman; however, it was discovered the reasons for his many absences was he was running his own business venture on the side and giving more attention to it than his General Manager duties. They fired him. A new General Manager came on board, a young man about my own age. (I was just thirty that summer.) He came in with big plans from the home office. They planned to expanse their Northeast Operation, including building a new modern plant in Blue Anchor, new Jersey. I was told I would be promoted to Assistant General Manager and went along on the scouting trips out to the site of the new factory. I was pretty excited. My career seemed full of opportunity.
During some time off, I visited my old headquarters at Lincoln Bank. Most of my fellow workers were still there, but the two managers I had reported to, the ones who had promised me the Assistant Treasurer job, were not. They had been terminated. The new boss was a man who previously had been a bank auditor. As Operations Accountant I had worked with him during his audits and he was a pretty nice guy. He saw me and called me into his office and asked me to sit down. He then asked how much I wanted to come back to work there.
I was flabbergasted and flattered and didn’t know quite what to say. However, I also believed I had more opportunity at Olson Brothers, so I turned down his offer.
I was learning a lot of interesting things at Olson Brothers. One time a sales rep from Perdue Farms came in to get us to buy their eggs. Eggs weren’t the primary issue with them, it was chickens, but where you have chickens you also tend to have eggs. He sat with Nick and I, Gailey was off somewhere again. He was a good ol’ boy from Maryland, dressed more like a businessman from Texas. He invited the two of us to stop down at the Maryland location sometime, promised us a good bottle of bourbon and some pretty women, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
Another time we spent a day going around and cleaning areas, especially if any spot of blood might be showing, and moving some things away from their usual spot. The next day a Rabbi from New York showed up. He was there to inspect our plant in order to certify our products were Kosher. He wandered about for perhaps a half hour, then approved us and issued the certificate in exchange for a $1,000 fee.

The year was passing and the talk of going to Blue Anchor was that it was imminent. Blue Anchor was pretty far down in New Jersey, about halfway to the shore. It’s be a long trip from Aldan, so Lois and I decided to move to New Jersey. We drove over and took a lease for an apartment in the Cherry Hill Towers, along Route 38
just across from the Cherry Hill Mall. It was still over twenty miles to Blue Anchor, probably a good forty-five-minute drive in Jersey traffic.
We gave up our nice, plush apartment at the Lansdowne Towers and moved hurriedly into the Cherry Hill
Apartment on the first of December.
Meanwhile, more things were coming to the surface at Olson brothers. We started to get dunning notices on purchases and egg producers refused to sell to us unless we paid a premium. It seems the company wasn't paying their vendors in a timely manner and no one trusted us so wanted extra for what they sold. Maybe we could have straightened all this out with a bit of time and luck, but luck was not with us.
In June, Hurricane Agnes came. It especially hit hard in the
Wilkes Barre area of Pennsylvania. The region was under a flood and many businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed. One of the businesses hurt was Interstate Bakeries, whose Wilkes Barre factory was ruined. They decided not to rebuild the plant in Pennsylvania, but expand in upper New York State.
Interstate was our largest customer, maybe making up nearly half our sales. When they decided to move they also decided on new suppliers and we loss them. This is a lesson to all businessmen, don’t rely on some single purchaser; in other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Olson Brothers moved ahead with their grandiose plans, but by December they threw in the towel. Suddenly there would be no Blue Anchor plant and the Philadelphia Plant would close.  I was made Assistant General Manager, but my duties were now helping to oversee the closing. It was soon a lonely place to be. All the production workers, including Nick, were let go.
One day, the secretary and I, two of a handful of people still working there, were startled by a loud pounding on the office door. I open the door and these large men stepped in. They looked like perfect fits to be in the future TV series, The Sopranos, except they didn’t dress as nice. They were union representatives from the Teamsters. This was the first I ever saw them around. They were there to make sure we still collected union dues from the laid off workers. That was their only concern.
By the end of the year I was one of those laid off workers needing a new job and living in a not so great apartment in New Jersey.

We did have a great view from our 12th floor balcony.
But we hadn’t lost any friends in the move and we hadn’t changed what we were now living for, booze and sex.

1 comment:

Linda said...

That was entertaining and telling. Loved it!