"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Sunday, December 12, 2010


This is a piece my dad wrote for an adult ed writing class he was taking some years back.   Dad is the ultimate storyteller and can always be counted on to come out with some good stuff.  He's a gifted writer too.  Hope you enjoy it.   If so, check out Dad's blog, "Papa Bob's Potpourri," for some other favorites.

Except for some early years when I bounced from job to job I have been employed in some type of sales work. The shortest early years job was in Middletown, CT. It was second shift at a machine shop. Lots of parts in pans of oil. I signed in, was told to sit at a bench and separate oily parts from bad ones. I knew immediately that this was not my career. When the shop foreman went to the men’s room I quickly ducked out, never to return. Total time on job 47 minutes.

Another boring job was at the Russel Weaving Co. in Middletown, again second shift and I didn’t dislike the place as much as the machine shop. There were circumstances that ended that job in 8 short hours. At midnight I stepped out of the warm factory into the sub-zero weather. My car wouldn’t start as the gas line was frozen. Nothing left to do but go back into the factory, get into a big cardboard box and try to sleep until morning, when I called a wrecker and had the car towed home, a net loss of $15.75. I don’t remember what I did those 8 hours of work. I never went back.

A new job opportunity closer to home at the Verplex Factory. This was a lamp shade manufacturer in Essex. I got the job of spray painting the shades in a three sided spray booth. I kind of liked the job and stayed with it. When the front office posted a job opening for payroll clerk, I quickly applied and found myself taking care of paying 150 employees, most who were on piece work and would run you out of town if you shorted them one shade in 10,000. I learned all the machines and became good at the job. I remembered everyone’s name and number.

I was engaged and needed more money. Someone talked me into leaving the comfortable job and becoming an apprentice to a mason contractor. They talked of big money. The work was heavy and dirty. No ready mix cement in those days, everything was done by hand. I stayed until I learned enough to build a chimney for a friend on his Quonsett Hut. (Quonsetts were built after the war from the military – they were made of galvanized metal and looked like 3/4 of a barrel cut horizontally and turned with the corners upward – many people used them.) Unfortunately a neighbor of my friend thought that my building of the chimney was secondary to me being there and told a few of his friends that it wasn’t proper for me to be there with the wife of my friend being home, and her husband away at work. I can only say that I built my first and only chimney of my mason career for experience.

After the mason job I thought it best to get back into some lighter work, thus my sales career and the political job which I retired from 1989. The job, First Selectman was held for 22 years and was in my opinion an extension of my sales career. Know your product or business, work hard at it, take care of complaints and do the little extras.

I have sold shoes “mail order,” seeds, Cloverine Salve at age 10, building materials, real estate and cars. I had a brief career trying to sell White Magic Soap through some type of chain whereby if you get other people to sell for you there is a profit. I didn’t like the set-up and didn’t stay with it. The same type of deal was offered with a vitamin company. I smelled something fishy and wouldn’t touch it.
After retirement I spent 3 years cooking, built a deck and shed for my son, painted my house, answering questions from well meaning friends such as is there life after retirement? and how well you look, even though they are thinking God, he’s aged. My wife Mildred reminded me that I was quite healthy and perhaps a part time job would be good for me, and under her breath “and for me too.”

I looked at the paper, the news wasn’t good. Lots of lay-offs. How lucky I was having my work years behind me. Six months ago I started to get more serious about a job. I saw an ad in the Press for a part time older person. Send resume, they said. As I had no resume I simply replied that I was retired, healthy, didn’t need benefits and could work flexible hours. A call came in two weeks later. The sales manager talked with me and asked me to come down for an interview. I was scared, I hadn’t applied for a job in forty years. What would I say? Should I wear a tie? Suppose they hired me, could I do the work? I kind of hoped they would say “Sorry, you’re not qualified.” Also it was rather unnerving to hear that the guy who had the job before me had died.

They showed me around, introduced me to everyone and I promptly forgot all the names. It was mostly family – father, two sons and two daughters.

A call came on a Friday, report for work on Monday about 9:30. The job was making training films and shipping them. There were a million things to remember – U.P.S. to Australia and Second Day Air, running the films, putting on the stickers. I learned and made mistakes. I brought my lunch, and liked what I was doing, especially the people who worked with me, who accepted me, helped me and trusted me. I’m looking forward to retiring at some point if and when it comes around again.

1993, Robert J. Blair

Note: it is now 2010. Papa Bob (at age 88) is still working for the same company — they are truly the best group of people anyone, anywhere, at any point in their career could ever hope to come across, and that is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! “Live long and prosper,” Paulson Training!!

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