Apollo astronauts landed on the moon. Two hundred thousand showed up for Woodstock. It was 1969.
And I was making hand grenade fuses in a small factory in rural Pennsylvania.
In spite of cutback promises by President Nixon, the conflict in Vietnam was escalating.
I needed a summer job.
The company was Penguin Industries. Their office sat on a rolling lawn decorated with ceramic penguins. I had no idea what they made. And then I did.
If there was conflict over a “war effort” employer, it was soon resolved. There was a generous base salary and bonus potential for exceeding the minimal quota.
We were highly motivated… poor, mostly broke, facing college expenses and student loan debt.
On a moving assembly line, we built fuses for the M26 hand grenade, thousands of them.
Metal plug bodies, small springs, pins, and handles were assembled over a tube that went deep into the ground.
If the small tools slipped, the ignitor was activated, and blew into that tube.
It was loud, there was smoke, but the real danger was in a remote building where gunpowder was added.
It may have been the Summer of Love, but not for me.
***This is Day 5 of the 5 Days- 5 Photos challenge.***
Thanks to Colleen at Silver Threading for the nomination.
5 Days – 5 Photos: Foggy Morning in the Field
Intense story, Van. The military industrial complex continues to employ hundreds of thousands. I think that’s part of the reason it’s so hard to end war. When I lived in Connecticut (where people made helicopters, jet engines, and submarines) even our liberal politicians who were anti-war, would never suggest that those industries shut down. Every state has a finger in the war pie.
Sometimes we forget that connection, Diana. My hometown was built on a steel industry that made plate steel for wartime ships. ☺
Ah,the industry of war. Where would it be without desperate people?
Sad, but so very true, Julie.
Your summer of ’69 was so serious. Mine was just the opposite. I spent the summer working on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Your summer of war was my summer of ultimate peace. No parents, no rules, just love and laughter and lots of fun. Wish you had been there!
Ah, I knew there were people out there doing that, Debby, must have been fun ! ☺
I could write several books about how much fun it was. But some secrets one must take to the grave!
Maybe some day…you can share them with someone in your life…that would be enjoyable !! I have fewer secrets with every year. ☺
Good point. The time is fast approaching to let some secrets fly.
whoa, bet you take that job off your future resumes Van! My grade nine summer job was preparing nerve gas detectors for army use. When I took that off my resume a few years later, it seemed people were more willing to hire me! ❤
Once I had some professional work, all that stuff came off the resume. Was there actual nerve gas present ? that’s a bit scary as well.
No, we applied some kind of chemical to a little pad that was fitted into a helmet and changed colour when nerve gas was present
That’s much better. ☺
That’s an interesting story, one I haven’t heard anyone doing before. But it was ’69…everything was different and chaotic then.
You’re right, George, the whole decade was a bit of a mess…turbulent times and a lot of personal security was sacrificed…the early 60’s and the nuclear fire drills, for example.
Well, that has to be one of the most interesting summer jobs I’ve heard about.
Yep, I found a lot of those. I went where I could make the most $$ in a few months. After this, I washed raisins in a Pepperidge Farm bakery. ☺
Great piece, Van. Very telling of the times. Even still of our times. Still at war in far off places.
For sure, Kitt….sigh.
This is so interesting to learn about you! A few years before I was born, but so interesting still 🙂
I am jealous of your cushy job that summer of ’69. I’d just finished my freshman year at a community college. We lived on a farm 22 miles from the nearest town so there was no possibility of getting a summer job, since I didn’t have a car. I spent that summer, just like I had every other summer of my life, working on the farm, gratis. “Them that don’t work, don’t eat.” The good thing about farm life was the motivation to do well at my studies. I didn’t want to have to spend my whole life on the farm.
Yep. I felt the same way about settling in a steel town. cushy…lol
My similar summer story came 10 years later when I worked in a rag factory. Sorting rags. Inhaling toxic textiles. You blew yourself off with a ginormous blower before leaving. Working side-by-side ladies who had worked there for 30+ years was eye-opening. I would be the first in my family line to go to college.
Great writing and story as always, Van ❤
This factory had a big turnover, but the next summer, I was at a Pepperidge Farm bakery, they paid well, the smells were much more pleasant and folks stayed forever. Still…it was really hot and physical, and motivated me back to my studies each fall. I met some great people there. ☺
Down to earth life lessons. Interesting people of all stripes. Priceless, really.
For sure. I’ll never forget them.
and toxic textiles. Ugh. We have kids here who opt to work in battery manufacturers, they pay top dollar, no degree needed, but you have to shower before and after work. There’s a price in that.
Delay of gratification can be tough sometimes. Especially now when a college degree doesn’t come close to guaranteeing you a good paying job. I understand their choice but wonder if it is really informed consent? Can a young person who thinks they’re invincible anticipate the long-term consequences of such work?
They are almost exclusively 20- somethings. That says a lot. Many seem to figure this stuff out by the time they start a family, and go work for less $$.
That is fascinating, Van. 1969 caught my eye–the year I turned 16, escaped home, married a Vietnam vet, jumped from the frying pan into the fire. And there you were amidst the gunpowder. Both innocents. Both playing with fire . . . whew! Glad we’re both here to talk about it 😮
We were innocent, Mandy…just moving through what we needed to do, I guess. Not sure that it could have turned out differently..so many lessons learned in the process. But..we’re still here. 💕
We are still here, indeed! 😀
I was playing baseball and tag and going swimming and girls were something we were scared of.
I suspect, many are still afraid, very afraid. ☺
yeh, some of us just never quite learned our lessons did we???