The year was 1984. I was working at a place called TranAmerica Delaval. This plant was in Monroe, NC. Today I think it is called something else. It was at that time a subsidiary of the larger TransAmerica Corporation in San Francisco. I had been working there since 1981. I came to TD from Prince Electric Company, a mom-and-pop residential wiring company in New Salem, NC, which is outside of Monroe. I remember New Salem being so far away in my mind as a kid. I had heard of it but never been there. It was only about 8 miles from my childhood home.
I worked at Prince Electric for about 2 years. It was hard and TD was a welcome relief. It was under roof, with higher pay and better benefits. I was a machine operator working under Ricky Price. He used to be a machine operator and was promoted to supervisor. I worked with David Russain, Joe Mullis, Joe Barrett, Greg Smith, Cal Pearson, Liston Darby and a few others. Cal and Liston moved down from NJ when the plant moved. It was circa 1980. They were Yankees, black and my bosses. I liked them both. A lot. Liston was more personable, Cal was angrier, but a façade that you could work through if you dared. I dared, most did not. We became friends and bike riding buddies.
Cal told me the week I was leaving for Greenville, SC in 1985 that I was the one person in this plant that they couldn’t do without. That was a surprise and kind of him to say so. Of course, they have done okay w/o me.
I was the one who stirred up things. I was always bucking the system, from what I would like to think of as a rational and logical perspective. That is a nice way of saying that I had never managed on their level and I was so stinking proud and arrogant about how they should do their job.
Even as an unregenerate young man, I was speaking out against perceived wrongs. It took the Gospel to shape my mind and mouth, though that is still a work in progress.
Down deep I was an angry young man who learned the gift of oration and used it to my detriment in most every job I ever held. One of my peers told me back then that I was the Winston Churchill of TD. That was another nice and complimentary way of putting it, but it did not add to my salary or promotional status. My mouth held me back, to be honest with you.
Nevertheless, that was my plant, some of my peers and bosses. I worked third shift for a time but was mostly on first shift. I worked in the milling department. We have a black and white picture somewhere of me milling a rotor.
The rotors went into “pumps” that pumped oil, grain, and other items off ships. We did a lot of work for the Navy. I was one of their better workers as far as quality and quantity. It was not a hard job though it did require some skill. My strength and weakness has always been my work ethic.