We were just teenagers when we met in 1967. We married in 1969 and the following year when I was nineteen, we had our son Steven; then Carrie Ann arrived on Mothers Day, two years later. Young people definitely matured a lot earlier and took on adult responsibilities much sooner in those days because jobs were readily available with which to support a family, even without a university education or a college diploma. Rolly spent most of his working years in the Ford Talbotville Assembly Plant because it was steadier work than carpentry, which he would have much preferred doing had it provided a more reliable income. However, during the first few years of our marriage there had been frequent layoffs from the construction company he was working for, during the winter months or when housing sales in the area slumped. Those times had been quite hard to deal with, as the unemployment insurance system at the time was quite inefficient and would sometimes leave you waiting for a cheque for as long as a month.
The Ford Motor Company provided a good steady income, but took more than its pound of flesh in return for the job. In fact, Rolly actually lost 25 pounds off his already trim frame in his first month there. It was four ten-hour shifts then eight hours on Fridays and Saturdays — lifting 60 lb. doors off a moving chain and manhandling them onto cars, bolting them on in seven different places fast enough to get back to the moving overhead chain again for the next door, and starting all over again. And again, and again, and again. One every 53 seconds! There was no time to look around, no time to talk—even if you tried to, you couldn’t be heard—only time to think…to think of the guys who came in to work at the position next to you and threw down their tools and walked out, after the first hour! I’m sure at times, Rolly must have thought “They obviously don’t have a wife and two kids at home counting on them.” The job was merciless. I knew that it was hard, although Rolly never spoke about it any kind of sympathy- seeking way. Only years later did he admit to the inner turmoil that it caused him, the boredom, the sense of not actually even being awake as you worked, a good part of the time.
After a few years the Saturday work ended, but still the two shifts were almost total reversals of one another’s start time every two weeks, meaning that for two weeks Rolly went to bed at close to the time that he got up during the next two weeks. On weekends he stayed awake when his family was awake, otherwise the kids would barely have seen him at all for long stretches when they were small. His doing so was an indication of how much he loved the kids and me, our families, our friends and our church— more than getting those extra hours of sleep that I’m sure he really would have enjoyed getting. I thank him for the stamina that it took to be there for us under those difficult circumstances, when I think of how many Sunday afternoons he struggled to stay awake when I insisted on asking company to dinner.
Eventually’ he bid on a less physically grinding job. It was in the paint department, on the sealer line. For many years his job involved handling toxic chemicals unawares, before Government Health and Safety legislation forced Hazardous Material listings to alert the workers, and insisted that proper handling regulations to be followed. Up to that point, no protective coveralls, or gloves, or even masks were issued— not until the law was enforced. No one gave any credence to the thought that anything they were handling could be dangerous, simply because they weren’t given any protection to cause them to believe that it might be. This would make us angry if we chose to dwell on it, so we choose not to. It would be worrisome if we chose to worry about it, so we don’t. I just have to be thankful that the man I am married to has always taken very good care of himself and has no personal habits that might be remotely dangerous otherwise— with the exception of running out to the yard to get a better look at every approaching electrical storm, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Right Sparky?
The following poem was written way back in 1979, when Rolly had only been at the Ford plant for five years. I anticipated that his career there would last a total of 40 years ending at age of 65. However, changes in the North American auto industy led to pensions being offered on a new “30 years and out” plan at Ford Motor Company. Taking advantage of that, Rolly was able to retire with a pension from Ford ten years earlier than expected allowing him to pursue other life plans.Well deserved, I might add!
Again that heartless sentry harshly scolds me,
Haranguing me with strident admonitions—
“Get up! Get up! You indolent impostor!
Begin your ritual of repetitions!”
“Enough! Enough! You cold unfeeling monster!
For forty years I let you rule my life!
For forty years I weathered your abuses
As sharp and cutting as a traitor’s knife!
Today I finally gain my long sought freedom;
From now on I’m a liberated man,
And now that I no longer am in bondage
I’ll turn you off and throw you in the can!