The Old Man

The Old Man
My Passport Photo

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I should have mentioned the Franklin Printing House was founded by James Franklin (Ben's brother) in 1727. The building I worked in was the original structure complete with wooden pegs as the nails that held everything together. The stairs were steep and narrow. Bringing materials down from the second floor was sometimes pretty tricky. I fell down the stairs more than once. I spilled the page setup I was carrying all over the place. Obviously, a redo was in order. There was a basement in the building as well which flooded whenever storms hit the area because the building was on a street that bordered on Narraganset Bay. I finally left the Print shop one day after an altercation with the boss. Aaron was always trying to help out where he could. He often helped me take the lead forms for the newspaper setup down to the printing press on Thursdays. I had been employed there for 18 months by now. I was firmly established as a valuable employee even though I was only 17 at the time. A new offset press was being delivered that day that was to be mine. I was moving up. The setup for a run on the Babcock took a couple of hours, so it was a significant part of the cost of running a job on that press. I guess I was lax in not checking everything thoroughly before I submitted a final proof to the foreman for his OK. He was irate when he noticed the pages were in the wrong sequence. The setup had to be completely redone. He was all over my butt. How could I make such a mistake???? That was his question. My response was to shift the blame to the boss. It didn't make any difference who did it, it was my responsibility to check everything before moving forward. Now I had two people yelling at me--the foreman and the boss. I did the only thing I could think to do--I walked out. I went home. I didn't even bother to change clothes; I just left. My hands were dirty; I had on my work boots and my work uniform. I didn't care. I was mad and I was hurt. Blaming me for a mistake someone else made--how dare they!! I returned the next day to pick up my clothes. The boss met me and informed me I wasn't employed there anymore. That was no surprise. I had quit by walking off the job. He gave me my final paycheck which covered a full week even though I hadn't worked a full week. He also had to pay dearly to get someone else to finish my job. And he had to hire someone else to run the new machine that was supposed to be mine. He was also nice enough to secure another job for me in Providence. He said he didn't want me working for his competition in Newport. I interviewed for a job with the Thompson and Thompson Printing Company on Broad street in Providence, RI. It's amazing that I can remember details from nearly 50 years ago, but I sometimes can't remember things that happened the day before. I was hired on the spot. I believe I started for $1.60 an hour. The duty day started at 7:20 in the morning, giving us 40 minutes to get the machines running so we would have 8 hours of productivity every day. Having the 40 minutes each morning meant we could skimp on cleanup at night. I ran a Miehle vertical machine at T&T. There were two machines in my section, a pre-war version and a post-war version of the same model. On long runs, I would crank up both machines. The bosses loved that; they were making twice as much money. That was a very rewarding job that lasted only six months. One fact that I failed to mention was I was only the second black printer in the area. Charlie Minor preceded me at Franklin; he moved on to The Newport Daily News long before I started at Franklin. No other black person had been employed in Providence in that profession before me. So, everyone that visited T&T were somewhat surprised to see me there. From sales reps down to the trash collectors; everyone had something to say to me. It was quite interesting to be such a novelty. And it was a curiosity to me as well since I was raised to believe I could aspire to be or do anything I was qualified to do. Anyway, after six months I embarked on my life's dream--a career in the United States Air Force. I also moved to Providence. While it was possible to commute every day on the bus, it made for a shorter day to live in Providence. I found a nice room in the home of Norma and Howard Cline. I paid $10.00 a week for a very large room. I had the use of the bathroom on the floor below and I had kitchen privileges. However, it wasn't long before I was included as part of their family (they had no children) and I started taking my meals with them. We spent the evenings watching TV together and doing the things a normal family does in the evenings. On the weekends I would travel back to Newport to hang with my friends. On to the USAF...

1 comment:

  1. $10 a week for rent! WOW! "I was raised to believe I could aspire to be or do anything I was qualified to do." Thanks for passing that on to your children!