A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Make Me Smile #atozchallenge

Chicago  "Make Me Smile" (1970)

Make Me Smile

         During the early seventies I spent a few summers working at the equipment yard for the industrial contractor where my father was the bookkeeper.   There were a few other fellows my age who also worked in the same place.  Their fathers were bigwigs at the aluminum plant where the industrial contracting company always had a big job going on.   I guess all of our fathers felt like we needed to be doing something during the summer besides just goofing off.  Back then in Tennessee young men out of high school were expected to work during the summer to pay for college the rest of the year.  That is, if they went to college.

         The work was often tedious hot summer labor.  We'd clean equipment, help cut rebar rods for the building jobs, or spend hours out in a large expanse of land cutting weeds that threatened to take over on an almost weekly basis.   The weed hacking was probably the worst job since we swinging scythes under a blazing sun.  It was a time for letting my mind wander or listening to the inane blathering of the guys I was working alongside.

         One summer it was Tim, a lanky blond fellow with a cheery face.  He was a talker.  Mostly he'd talk about women and his sexual exploits, most which I doubted ever happened.  But he'd tell his stories in an amusing way that would give me a chuckle.   I don't think I ever saw him when he was being serious.  He did a spot on imitation of Terry Kath of the group Chicago singing "Make Me Smile", a song which was played widely on the radio that summer.  Especially the vocal part that had the "WhoooHooo!" sung after the lines of the chorus.   Now I can't hear that song without thinking of Tim out in that field cutting weeds and singing "Whoooohooo!" in a loud voice.

           Then there was Jackie whose father was a pipefitter for the contracting company.  Jackie was a braggart like no other guy I've known.   His stories weren't about women or the women he'd had as much as they were about him and how great he was or his older best friend and how great that friend was.  I always kept pretty quiet around Jackie because I knew I could not top any of his stories with any honesty involved.

            Like the time when Jackie was still a senior in high and went over to sit in class with his friend who was going to the nearby university.  Jackie told about all of the good looking college girls in the class and how they kept sneaking looks toward him.  Then his buddy started poking him in the back and in a reflexive reaction Jackie scrunched his arms together leaning forward which in turn caused his shirt to totally rip down the back.  He attributed the tearing of the shirt to his fine muscular physique and his powerful strength.  All of the girls now gazed at him with mouth gaping wonderment with him beaming back at his new admirers.

          Whether his stories were true or not, they made for entertainment to pass the drudgery of the physical labor.   Especially when we were working in the pipe shop with Jackie's father cleaning the rusty pipe fittings from job sites.   This was some of the dirtiest work I've ever done.  It was not hard work, just dirty work.  Jackie, his father, and I would sit on overturned cans around a big bucket of diesel oil scrubbing the fittings with a wire brush and then dipping them in oil to be put back into storage   His father was a soft spoken man who didn't say much.  He and I would be cleaning pipe fittings as Jackie rattled on about this or that.

         Jackie was always talking big boastful talk.  Then there was the time he was talking about some guy who had pissed him off something powerful.  Jackie said how he was going to "whip his ass".  That's when his father quietly stated, "Son, you're not going to whup anyone's ass."   I'd never seen Jackie get so quiet.  I wanted to laugh but I didn't even crack a smile.  I knew Jackie had a hot temper and I didn't want to be on his bad side.  Jackie was quiet for a while after that, but then a while later was back to his old braggadocio self.

         Those fellows that I worked with on that construction yard were not the kind of guys I would have hung around with during off work hours.   I didn't keep track of them after those summers were gone.  Tim probably finished college and got a job in a similar line of work as his father.  I easily picture him settling down into marriage and family.

          Jackie on the other hand probably had a wilder time of it.  I did get wind several years later that he'd been in a fight at the local American Legion and had been stabbed.   He'd probably opened his mouth shooting it off to the wrong person.  So far as I know Jackie survived the stabbing, but I never heard anything after that.   His father died from a heart attack several years after Jackie's fracas.   The old man had probably held a lot inside throughout the years and had a lot of stress built up.

           The construction yard is still there but it was bought out by another company.  The aluminum plant cut way back on production and there's probably not much contracting work to be done there anymore.  At least not like there was thirty years ago or more.

          That summer job paid for my college for a couple years and then I found a different job that was more to my liking.  The construction yard work was an experience that in retrospect was good for me, but not something I would have wanted to do for much longer than I did..  But when I think back on it, looking from my current vantage point, those summers make me smile.

          What was the hardest job you've ever had?   Were you friends with your co-workers during off hours?   Do you have good work stories to tell?

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  1. I have lots of work stories to tell but I just always figured no one was interested in hearing them, other than the people with whom I'd worked. BTW, LOVE Chicago. I saw them in Boston, summer of 1984. They were awesome even though I do feel that Peter Cetera kinda ruined the band in the 80s.

  2. I had to work at a McDs during summer break my freshman year of college. It was located right next to a beach in Florida. Everyday, I watched the people play and I had to go to work!! :)

  3. Aww, Chicago is the bomb, for sure.

    Every work place has "those" people. People I want to get away from. However, I am not an island or so my daughter tells me.

  4. I often thought I could have written a pretty funny novel over the stuff that happened at my last job... but as time goes on, I see the same things happening everywhere, so if I had wrote any of it down, I might just as well have titled it, "So What?"

  5. JoJo-- I mostly stopped keeping up with Chicago after the truly great second album. Peter Cetera got them on a sappier track I think, but he also got them a lot of new fans.

    Jennifer -- I never did any restaurant work. I guess for a young person that beach location could be a drag, but then again I guess there might have been worse locations to be at.

    Teresa-- There were some jobs where I enjoyed hanging out with my coworkers but not that construction job.

    CW -- I think the funniest stuff are the situations that we can relate to. Your idea would be a good one and it wouldn't be the first novel like that.


  6. How nice you have those memories that make you smile. Your friend sounds like a fun character.


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