The year was 1984. I was working at a place called TransAmerica Delaval. This plant was in Monroe, North Carolina, my hometown. Today, the plant is called something else. Delaval was a subsidiary of the TransAmerica Corporation in San Francisco–the tall “triangle-looking” building.
I came to Delaval in 1981 from Prince Electric Company, a mom-and-pop residential wiring company in New Salem, NC, which is outside of Monroe. (Don’t tell anyone that I know how to wire a house because they will ask me to do something for them; it happens all the time. As they say, “A man with a truck has many friends.”)
New Salem seemed so far away when I was a kid. I had heard of that community but never been there. Ironically, it was about 8 miles from my home. The world was much bigger back then.
I worked at Prince Electric for two years. It was hard work–too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. And it was shocking, electrically speaking. Delaval was a welcome relief because I was working inside a building with higher pay and better benefits. I was a machine operator working for Ricky Price, my shift supervisor.
He used to be a machine operator like me. They later promoted him to a supervisor. Ricky was the one who told me that I was “going to hell,” which were the “magic words” that put me on a path to become a Christian.
My peers were David Russain, Joe Mullis, Joe Barrett, Greg Smith, Cal Pearson, Liston Darby and a few others. Cal and Liston moved to NC from NJ when the plant moved. It was about 1980. I liked these men. A lot. Liston was personable. Cal was an angry man, though his attitude was a façade that you could work through if you dared. I dared. Eventually, we became friends and bike riding buddies.
I worked third shift for a short while but was mostly on first shift. I worked in the milling department. We made rotors (large metal screw-looking things) that went into “pumps” to pump oil, grain, and other materials off ships. We did a lot of work for the Navy. It was not a hard job though it did require skill.
I assumed that I would be working at Delaval all my life. And why not? The money was good. The benefits were great. The building was heated and air conditioned. The company seemed stable, and there was a possibility for advancement.
And I had a wife, two children, a dog, and a John Deere riding mower. What more could a man want out of life?
Then one day Ricky Price told me that I was going to hell. Two years later I would be sitting in a Bible college in Greenville, South Carolina. Be careful what you say to people. It could change their lives.