Tuesday, June 14, 2016


As a young man many years ago, working my way toward college, I worked in a factory that manufactured children’s play clothes for Sears. It was a hard job but it paid my way until I finished college, and for that I am grateful. It came at a price, working under my Dad who ran the shipping and mail order departments. I had to do the most work, the hardest jobs and I couldn’t seek any favors from Dad. It was his rule and I obeyed it.

My job was to fill in the vacancy if someone was missing in either departments and so I did. 8:00 am until 4:30 pm in the summer and sometimes after a 6:00pm to 11:00 pm shift I stocked shelves, ran up and down a ramp loading trucks and unloading trucks, packing and bringing parcel post shipments to the post office. I was on my feet all day, and weighted 120 lbs. I sweated off whatever poundage there was over that.
Inside everyone put their head down

One day a new man was hired to work in mail order and he was just the nicest guy you ever met. His name was Eddie, and he came from Italy. He spoke English and could count beyond 12, which for the plant was pretty good! (I wowed them at 20!)

Eddie would start his morning with a cup of coffee and a Kaiser roll, poppy seeded and buttered, and it looked so good! Not being a cereal or breakfast eater at the time, this made me hungry around 8:30. He would have the whole crew gathered around him and he talked about life in Italy and how beautiful it was, yet he loved America. Then the factory horn sounded and everyone went to work, the sound of sewing machines, electric cutting knives that cut piles of flat cloth into patterns that would be sewed together to make the outfits in the different sizes would all come alive.

Being a rather short man, about 5’1” or so, rounded and bald, he made for the kind of person with his manners you might want to emulate, down to his girth, he was that kind of person.

Meticulously he kept records in legible hand, clear and simple, even opting the English or American way of writing 7. He lined up large boxes with tabs on them that designated the different stores Sears needed mail order shipping to and was always on time and correct.

At lunch time, he sat on his stool and would take out a submarine sandwich about the size of the Nautilus Atomic Submarine and offer part to any takers, sausage and peppers, peppers and eggs and sometimes Italian meats and cheeses. As good as they looked, no one that I can remember took him up on his offers, it would be just too cruel and taking advantage of his good nature. The man was a saint.

Ready to be demolished!

The owner of the company was a bit of a tyrant, with a big heart. He wore cardigan sweaters, silk shirts and alligator shoes, but if you worked for him you better not be standing around doing nothing. He would throw a fit and threaten to fire everyone including the night watchman. But there were days when we were all caught up, there was nothing to do and in the heat and humidity of the summer, under a tin roof, flat that took in the sun, and the department without air-conditioning! On those days we would go into mail order to hide out in one of the many bins that stacked up each about 4’hx5’wx5deep’, that could hold one or two of us at a time. They stacked up to the ceiling almost and stood on after another next to each other.

One day I needed a break from the heat and humidity and went into the lowest bin that came up to about waist high. I crouched down and entered an empty booth to rest. About ten minutes into my rest Eddie whispered: “Watcha hout!” I look and the next thing I know I see a pair of alligator shoes and hands stuck in silk slacks; THE OLD MAN!!!

He leans against the bin and places the heel of his foot onto the edge of the bin… and my pinkie! There is pain, then there is more pain, and even enough pain to cry: “I want my mommy!” pain. It sits there for a few minutes and I am biting my other hand not to cry out, and mercifully he eases up and leaves, never looking down. Had the man seen me, I would have been done, first fired and then shot by my father.

Good old Eddie saved me and my future!

Then one morning I arrived at work and went into mail order to see Eddie. I looked and he was not there, not on the section where the bins were not at his table. I called and there was no answer. I asked someone if they had seen him and they hadn’t. The tell-tale signs of his presence, the coffee cup and roll, his long hero sandwich and his grey cardigan were all missing.

I look up and one f the Old Man’s sons enters the room and with a grey solemn face tells us Eddie had passed away in his sleep.


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