No, not Walter Johnson the great pitcher, but Bob Train the great picker and shipper.
It all started in the summer ’64, as I worked at Rollic in Patchogue for my Dad in a factory-shipping department. Climbing wooden bins that went to 20 or so feet, reading from orders, I would select different sizes, colors and styles of children’s play-clothing that was sent to a Sears store near you. I would seal the boxes after the packers sent them down a long conveyor belt and there I taped and glued labels on them, then weighted them for shipping and marked them for the different trucking firms that came to pick them up.
Standing one day at my station, my Dad appears suddenly one Monday morning with this tall, gangling handsome fellow and introduced him to me. We became instant friends. Bob had an accent that came from somewhere out west in these great United States, but where I can’t recall. With his height and good looks, he also took to work a very intelligent mind and a great sense of humor, which we would put to good use, over and over again.
Bob was attending Stony Brook University that coming fall, while I would be attending The New York Institute of Technology. We were the only two college kids there that summer, as everyone else barely got out of second grade, coming from poor families, and having to work early in their childhoods.
Between conversations about Debussy, Dave Brubeck and famous film makers and artists, we would scheme ways to amuse ourselves and make the hard long and hot days of labor fly by. Both of us were working to pay our tuition and a little spend money. After hours on a Friday we would go to Patchogue and eat at a Chinese restaurant, or go to a club where music was playing for a few beers.
One day things were getting kind of quiet at the old factory, and we had to “look busy” as Dad would say, when we decided to make empty promises to Sears. There was this special deal that Rollic made with Sears where we would ship at a discount certain styles in quantities that were called; “Pre-Packs.” We decided to make a bunch with nothing in the boxes, stack and mark them up for shipping, and put them in the shipping lanes for trucking.
After admiring our handiwork, we had a good laugh when all of a sudden the “Old Man” comes, THE BOSS himself, owner and Lord of the Universe called Rollic. Seeing all these pre-packs standing there, piled up and ready to go, he decided to pull one down! Expecting to find about 25 lbs. of clothing, and bracing himself for it, instead he almost pulls a muscle as the box comes off so easy he almost falls back. Grabbing the box now in two hands he raises it over his head, and yells: “Goddammit Tony, I don’t think this is funny,” and slams the box down.
Poor dad, if I had worked alone, and it happened, you would not be reading this now. But being how I was assisted by my protégé Bob Train, all had to be forgiven, because Dad had a high regard for Bob. It was my idea, but was Bob’s enthusiasm that made my day. Of course, it almost killed the “Old Man.”
A few years later, after we were ready to graduate from college, Dad was notified that the FBI wanted to speak with him in the front office! Dad of course wondered if I was behind this inquiry. It seems they were running a background check on Bob who applied for aviation school with the U.S. Navy or Air Force.
I wish I had kept in touch with Bob; maybe he would have given me a ride in his jet.