There is something special in life when you can live and work with people who have no real aspirations in life, but own the title to resignation of circumstances, yet teach in their own way.
All through high school and college, I worked for a company that manufactured children’s play clothes for Sears, Roebuck and Co. I worked for minimum wage, as did most everyone else in that factory around me. I was a part timer, a person who would work after school hours, Saturdays and in the summer from June to September for 8 or more hours a day. The people that worked full-time were not educated, came from poverty, and yet had all the answers to all the worlds’ ills. Generally speaking they had families they raised on a small amount of money, and never aspired beyond their current circumstances.
They feared the owner of the company, respected him in a idolic way in his presence, and when he wasn’t around would tell me what he would really say if that old son-of-a-bitch ever said anything to him.
But they were simple, hard working people, my kind of people, who loved their families, and spent it all on their wives and children. Life was simple, a newspaper, a TV, a cup of coffee, a pack of cigarettes, their bagged lunch from home, and their favorite teams was all the joy they had in life, and all the joy they needed. No fancy cars, no new clothing, and no extravagant vacations, just work and home to the TV. At break time you could see them all with their lighted cigarettes, cups of coffee, turning the pages of the sports section, making comments about this and that.
When conversation led to politics, a young idealistic college student had no chance to explain his logic, it was all gut feeling and opinion that was buried deep in a man’s soul from years of experience and personal history. No college kid could tell him what these expert’s thought, what did a college kid know anyway?
Often I wondered why the leaders of the business world never called these fine captains of global thought to sit in on the decision-making. How could the government ignore the clear insight that was brought to a conversation about how America was going to fall to communism if we didn’t listen to Jimmy the truck driver, or Bob in shipping? Why didn’t the owners of the Mets or Yankees hire one of these guys to manage the team, why then it would surely be in first place and undefeated with a world championship to boot!
I could not help but love them all, full with opinion and yet simple in life’s ways. These were not stupid people, just people who weren’t born to luck, or for that matter taught that there is more in life than what their everyday experience was. Somehow their children never picked up on it for the most part. In the sixty’s the college population started to grow, kids became more sophisticated and rebelled against inherited poverty, ignorance and self-denial, giving birth to hope and a better future.
It was a real honor to work next to these hard workers, to share in the toil, the talk and the pain and joy that life brought them. I know that later on in life I appreciated my education, and my job, knowing I wasn’t breaking my back, working for very little, denying myself anything because I listened to them. They would always say; “Joey, stay in school, make something of yourself, don’t be like me.” I wish I could be like them; they made my generation stronger than it would otherwise be.