Friday, May 22, 2015

My Way. . .

From Social Security, I recently received the summary of my wages since I began working. I keep looking at it. Jackie has noticed and commented on my picking it up several times over the past week, and perusing it. . . I takes me back. . . mile stones in my life. . . 45 years of work. . .all on one sheet of paper. . . but each of those years have treasured memories of faces, friends, and travels. . .

My first job was as a bag boy at Kelly's grocery store. I made $1.60/hour. For that first year, working after school, I made $1,237. My first year of full time wage after graduating high school in 1972, I made $6,465. I took a considerable pay cut when I went in the army. My first full year there, 1976, I made $4,885. My last full year in the U.S. army, after 3 promotions, I made $6,030. After the Army, my first full year at Speedgrip I made almost 3 times as much, $17,944.

I took a big pay cut to go into engineering a couple of years later. 2009 was a trying year with the economic troubles and my wages were some 20% less than the year before.

It's interesting looking back on your life in this way. Recalling milestones and life changes. I can truly say that I have loved every job I've had. My first job at Kelly's , a little neighborhood grocery store was great. I still treasure the memories of the people, and the experiences there.

From there I went to Dometic Corporation, repairing RV refrigerators. By almost any measure this was a horrible position. . . the air full of heavy ammonia fumes burning the eyes, lungs, and skin, no air conditioning. . . poor ventilation, rock wool insulation particles sticking to the skin. . . but in spite of that I greatly enjoyed my position there of filling the units with a mixture of hydrogen gas, ammonia, water, and a corrosion preventative.

From there I went to a fascinating job of managing Elkhart General Hospital's stock room. That was an amazing experience. I was in charge of stocking and distributing all non-drug items required to run a hospital. . . everything from IV solutions, to sutures and needles, to nitrous oxide, pharmaceutical alcohol, to gloves to mops and cleaning solutions to toilet paper. I was also responsible for printing many of the hospital’s forms. It was a really interesting and challenging position, but my word. . . the politics and intrigue at the hospital were unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and that wasn’t for me, so I went back to Dometic.
They took me back in spite of my being one of the leading participants of an unsuccessful unionizing attempt. In general I am not in favor of unions, but if a company does not treat their employees fairly, and provide a safe work environment, etc., then there is really no other recourse and that was the way of Dometic. The working conditions, as I mentioned above were bad, and even moving from an old plant into an new plant designed and built by Dometic in their present location, the conditions did not improve. . . in any respect they took me back and I worked there until the fall of 1975.

I had only been there a few months, when my wife Kristine was laid off from her job on Monday, and I was laid off on Wednesday (or vice versa) of the same week. Neither of us had been at our positions long enough to qualify for unemployment, and there were very few openings available, so as a matter of necessity, I joined the U.S. Army. I tested well enough, that I had my choice of any job the army had to offer. . . I had selected as my MOS (military occupational specialty) a missile repairman, but there weren’t any openings for that school for six months, and I could not wait that long. . . I needed a job now, being in a quandary, as I had to make an on the spot decision, I was approached by a recruiter for the Army Security Agency. This was the Army’s military intelligence unit. I looked over the various jobs they had. There were no in depth descriptions of the positions, just names as everything about them was classified. I selected 05K, the Army called it a non-morse intercept operator, as my MOS. The Navy name for the job was a cryptologic technical technician. . . The Air Force informally called us ‘spooks’. The FBI sent agents to talk to family members, neighbors, and co-works as part of my background investigation, and I was interviewed. . . interrogated might be a better word, a couple of times by Army CID agents, during basic training. . . as an aside while in basic, I was offered a chance at job working for the White House Communication Agency. . . handling phone calls, and message traffic in the White House, and traveling with the president wherever he went. It was flattering to be asked, but I declined that. It would have meant being gone for extended lengths of time, especially during election years. It just didn’t feel right to me, so I turned it down. Everything went well with my background investigation, and I received my Top Secret - Special Intelligence access.

I went to an Navy base, Corry Field, for my AIT (advanced individual training) school in Pensacola, Florida. I loved it there. We were there for six months. I loved the ocean. . . I really enjoyed myself. From there I was stationed at an Air Force base, Kelly Field, in San Antonio, Texas. . . again those memories were grand. I loved my job. . . I loved Texas. . . everything and again from there I was levied to my first Army base, an old WWII Luftwafe (German Air Force) base, Sheridan Kaserne, in Augsburg, Germany. . . I loved Germany. Colin, my son, was born while we were in Germany. . . I loved everything about it. . . the food, the people. . . I loved my job. I arrived to work early, and I stayed late. It was fun doing what I did. I probably would have made the Army a career, but Kristine was miserable. She missed her family terribly, and was very depressed in Germany, so we came home when my tour of duty was up.

I worked as a machinist for a few months at Excello Corporation, in Goshen, before they closed the plant down, and from there I began work with my present employer, Speedgrip Chuck, Inc. I began as a machinist, working nights, while going to college during the day.

I was primarily a grinder. This is a finishing operation, holding very close tolerances of less than .0002 of an inch. I enjoyed grinding much, but after working in the shop for several years, I went to the shop management, and told them that I enjoyed working there, but that I wasn’t taking college courses just for the fun of it, and that I wished to move into engineering.

Within a few months, I was brought into engineering as a detailer, and my career as a designer of chucks began. I love my job today. I don’t ever plan on retiring. It’s fun. I enjoy my days at work. . . I love what I do. . . but then. . . I have greatly enjoyed every job that I have had. I have found ways to make every job enjoyable. . . a game. . . a challenge. . . a puzzle to solve.

Not to be maudlin, but in reflection I can strongly relate to of Frank Sinatra’s swan song,

My Way

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case of which I'm certain

I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets I've had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes it was my way. . .

I in no way regret where I am today. I would not go back 1 day, 1 month, or any number of years. I am 60 years old, and I only want to move forward. I have absolutely no desire to be 20 or 30 or 40 years old again. I love this stage of my live, and I greatly look forward to what the future brings. . . I have God. . . I have peace in my heart. . . the changes. . . in my life. The beginning as a troubled youth. . . not at all successful in high school. . . from completely godless. . to where I am today . . .my life has had its ups and downs, but as Frank crooned. . . regrets. . . I’ve had a few. . . but then again too few to mention.
I love you my God. . .
Thank you for watching over me, even when my back was turned to You. . .
I love you my God. . .
I thank you my God. . .

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