Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Illustrious Career...Part Eleven

In 1979, I was 23 years old, and working the graveyard shift at
Rainbird Sprinklers.

One of my best buddies, who had already been working at ITT
Cannon Electric for quite some time...(in fact, he still works
there to this day!)...gave me the inside scoop on a job opening
in his department. Could I take the job? I sure could!

I don't remember exactly when in 1979, but I did interview
and get hired. I was working the graveyard shift along with
my buddy Jim. The hours were good...we got a 'shift differential',
which meant we only had to work 7 hours per night. We started
our shift at 12:00 midnight, and got off at 7:00 AM.

ITT Cannon is a pretty big company, they manufacture all sorts
of electronic and hardware components. We worked in the die
cast shop...turning out aluminum electric connectors. It was hot,
dirty, noisy, and potentially dangerous work.

We worked with a machine with two massive dies...two plates
with hollow moldings inside. The plates come together, and you
pour molten aluminum into a piston which then jams the liquid
metal into the mold to form the component. They call this
process injection molding, and it is often done with plastic as well.

We stood all day (or night) next to a large vat of molten had to be around 1200 degrees F to stay liquid.
On top of that, to protect ourselves from the flying bits of
hot metal that would shoot out of the machine, we had to wear
heavy long-sleeved shirts, protective face masks, and thick
asbestos gloves.

To scoop the molten metal, we used regular plain old soup ladles
of various sizes. Reach out, score a spoonful, pour it into a
small slot in a tube, then hit the Big Red Button. A pneumatic
piston would fire, forcing the metal into the molds, at the same
time spraying showers of sparks and hot globules of molten
aluminum upon the unsuspecting workers.

Every few 'shots' we had to lubricate the piston with black grease.
So what you have besides metal rain falling on you is hot black
oil. I still bear a few scars to this day to remind me of this job.

In addition to the heat and the grease and the dirt, there were
very loud fans blowing all the time...not that they did much good
to cool you off. The blowers from the furnaces to keep the metal
hot were even louder than that. We had to wear ear plugs on top
of everything else we had on. I always thought that it was quite
fitting that the address of the place was 666 Dyer Road. It was
just like being in hell.

As tedious and boring as this job was, we did have the occasional
fun...practical jokes including putting various odd things into
your buddy's Ram...the hole where you pour the metal.

If you poured a lot of oil into it, when they made their next
shot, it was pretty cool when black smoke came billowing out of
their machine. Sometimes we put bits of asbestos into it...the
smell was awful. You could drop pieces of smoldering glove in
some hidden part of their work area, and while it smelled bad, it
was not easy to find it.

I heard of some guys putting dead mice in there too, but that
borders on being didn't want that ram to get
stuck on anything when it was slamming the liquid metal through.

There was then a bad recession during the early 80's, and with
the slowdown of business, we began to hear rumors of lay-offs.
My buddy Jim was safe, as he had been there for longer than me.
Sometime during the year 1982, the layoffs finally got to me. I
had set a lifetime record...I had this job for about 3 years!

Peace be with you.


  1. Wow..that job you describe sounds a lot like the process for making a crown(except on a smaller scale.) To make a gold crown you must also melt the gold and use a centrifuge and have the molten gold inject into a stone die. How interesting that the same thing is done on a much larger scale. I have always been interested in the in the different kinds of machinery invented in order to produce products. The hours sounded like they suck though. I don't think I could change my internal clock to adapt to work in the middle of the night. So three year...this is a record for you up until now!!!

  2. Bet you didn't weigh more than a couple of pounds, from all the sweating!

  3. I hope no one in Dr.Soosie's office slips dead mice in there!

    Another fascinating look at a job I never wish to have.

  4. Ms. A...I did a lot of sweating, yes.
    BB, there are no mice in Dr. S's office, she would not allow that.
    Dr. S, I wouldn't want to work those kind of hours now, but back then it didn't bother me so much.

  5. The practical jokes always make a job easier to like so to say as long as you don't get yourself hurt in the process.

    The third shift was always hard for me simply because I didn't want to so to sleep when I got off work and by the time I did want to lay down it was close to time for work again.

  6. dropping dead mice into it "bordered on dangerous?" Geez...the whole thing sounds dangerous to me. Sounds like there was stuff going that hand an effect on all your senses. I hope your friend has a better job there now, then he did back then.

  7. i'm impressed that you've managed to remember all of this :)

    it's pretty interesting.

  8. I only remember all these by looking over past social security statements, and trying to remember what was going on in my life during these stages. If I can think of the music or the movies that were out at these times, it strikes a chord with me on what job I had. But a lot of it is guess-work too, and may not be 100% accurate either.

  9. That really does sound like hell - can't believe you toughed it out for 3 years!

  10. That doesn't sound like a fun job... I don't do heat very well, so it sounds like hell to me!

  11. wow, and I thought working in a kitchen during July was hell..not! You really made me laugh whith the address of the shop..666 Dyer (woahhh) I was sweating just reading through that account, I can't imagine how burning hot it was in there!