Our Promised Land

Chapter 12.     JOBS


Arthur G. Thayer

Thayer Coat Of Arms

Copyright © 1983 with all rights reserved by Arthur George Thayer


12.   JOBS

      My first engineering job was with the Hill Diesel Company in Lansing. They were making diesel generator units for the Armed Services. Then I received offers from Carnegie Steel, an affiliate of U. S. Steel, and Dow Chemical Co. Eva favored Pittsburgh, but Midland was close to home. Since I had never enjoyed chemistry, it seemed wiser to work on steel. After a month, I dropped my job at Hill Diesel and accepted the job in Pittsburgh.

      Eva and I were married at Peoples Church in East Lansing by Reverand McCune and the reception was held at Eva's parents' home. We used her Dad's car on our honeymoon and camped at Houghton Lake for a few days, then went on to Hubbard Lake to see Dad and Mom and returned to East Lansing, put our stuff in suticases and went to Pittsburgh by train.

      The job was at the Carnegie Steel Lab, just off Forbes Avenue near the old Pittsburgh Pirates field in Oakland. They were perfecting the process of electroplating tin for tin cans.

      One coworker, Jim Stevenson, was a cousin of Uncle Arthur Dow Thayer's wife. Another coworker was a Purdue graduate and he knew a footballer, a fullback named Yunevich. Mr. Yunevich was the coach at Central State in '34 when I tried out for football. Well, my coworker at the lab mentioned that he had watched Yunevich play at a game Mr. and Mrs. Yunevich attended. Some fellow in front of the father and mother said, as the son burst through the line, "Look at the son of a b#%$& go!" Mr. Yunevich tapped the fellow's shoulder and said, "The name is Yunevich, not son of-a-b#%$&!"

      Lab work is very tedious. You test, test, test, and you receive the results slowly. One day one of the bosses, Mr. Romig, came in with a quart of shot, ( small BB's). Mr. Romig was a heavy man, had a ruddy complexion, and was nearly bald (fringes of hair above his ears). He was a pleasant man and would smile easily. I picked up the quart jar -- it was quite heavy -- and I said, "Do you want them counted?" He roared. When he could control his laughter, he said, "Store them," then went upstairs chuckling all the way to his office.

      We did mechanical testing to find tensile, compression, hardness, and bending strength. We were a laboratory so our findings had to be true. Soon a problem was presented: Why does sheet metal being formed into automobile car fenders tear or crack -- some sheets usuable, others not? Two testing methods were selected, tensile and hardness. Starting on the tensile testing, I soon found that the milled samples were not properly made. This I corrected and our results were uniform and consistant. Furthermore, after our testing, there were indications of why some sheets were not usuable. Changing to hardness testing, we plotted the hardness on the steel sheets, square inch by square inch, and found regular and compatible agreement, again showing why a particular sheet would be usable. The results were welcomed by our bosses and we were frequently royally dined and treated to shows or trips to Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York.

      In 1945 I changed jobs and went to the National Metal Products Company on Chateau Street. They made door and window weather strips and, during the war, made window frames for quansite buildings used by the Armed Services.

      It was a busy shop with its rolling machines, steel presses, baking oven, and a painting tank large enough to hold the window frames. Freshly painted window frames ran on a conveyor system that extended along the ceiling area of the shop. One day a fire truck came, lights flashing and siren wailing. A foreman burst into the office and I asked if we had a fire. He said, "Hell no, there's no room for a fire in this shop!"

      Eva and I rented a third-story apartment on a very high hill on Iowa Street near the Herron Hill Reservoir. Our view overlooked Schenly Park, Carnegie Museum, the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning and Forbes Field. When there was a blackout for an air raid, we could watch the lights go out all over our valley.

      Four couples played bridge regularly, the Rotz, the Spotz, the Heapes and the Thayers. We still write them at Christmas time and in 1979 we met the Rotz, the Spotz and Mrs. Heape at a reunion in Pittsburgh. Dr. Heape had passed away and last year Mrs. Spotz died.

      William Vance, our first son, arrived on April 17, 1942. Our friend, Dr. Robert Heape, a dentist gave him a tiny set of false teeth.

      The family we rented from indicated they were going to move so we scurried around and bought the last available house in Pleasant Hills near the Allegheny Airport. War had stopped building and houses were scarce. It was difficult obtaining enough cash to make the downpayment for the house, but we did it.

      On a rainy August night in 1944 while Eva and I were canning two bushels of peaches, Eva felt the baby stir. We waited and then went to bed. In the middle of the night we woke some neighbor friends who came over to pick up Bill and we rushed to the hospital in the triangle area of Pittsburgh near where we lived. At the hospital I carried Eva into the emergency room and put her in a chair. The nurse grabbed Eva's legs and I sighed a bit of relief. Jean Rebecca arrived twenty minutes later on August 14, 1944. Why do women wait till the last minute?!

      The war was over, it was 1947 and the work situation at the shop did not look good. We decided to go northwest, nearer our folks. I was offered a job at Carnegie Steel again and two jobs in Toledo, Ohio. I accepted a draftsman position at the Libby Owens Ford Company in their Technical Building. I never wanted to be a draftsman, but the work was interesting and challenging. The company was known as a bank that made glass.

      Early cars did not have glass, but soon people discovered it was nice to have a windshield. Later, people thought it good to have glass on the sides as well and a back window. When there was an accident, though, glass could be dangerous.

      Factories laminated the glass and that was expensive. Then heat-treated glass was developed, which was cheaper.

      For vacations each year we would go to Hubbard Lake for haying time early in July for two weeks. In 1948, the year Ted was due Eva did not go north, just Bill, Beccy and I. The turnpikes and super highways did not exist. It was a long drive, but when you're young, you can do it.

Blackie, Maude, Dad,  Mary and the second Collie

An earlier haying vacation before Beccy and Bill

      Back to glass making: next, it seemed well to streamline the box-like shape of the car and glass.

      One of my bosses, Bill Hasselback, who later became vice president of engineering, liked my work and asked me to be a project engineer and work for Gerry White, assistant plant manager at the Rossford factory. Mr. White was a leader in the development of heat-treat bending furnaces, which process glass for cars. He'd compliment me on my work and, from him, that was praise extra-ordinary. In 1951, they made me Assistant Plant Engineer and in 1960 I became Plant Engineer at the Rossford LOF Plant .

Gerry White, Assistant Plant Manager, Chris Cervac, Forman, _______, Radiant Furnnace Engineer, Steve Thompson, Forman, Carl Binkert, Bending Superviser, Art Thayer, Assistant Plant Engineer and Frank Carson, Assistant Bending Superviser in front of the first of the radiant furnaces.

Gerry White, Assistant Plant Manager, Chris Cervac, Forman, _____, Radiant Furnnace Engineer, Steve Thompson, Forman, Carl Binkert, Bending Superviser, Art Thayer, Assistant Plant Engineer and Frank Carson, Assistant Bending Superviser in front of the first of the radiant furnaces.

      Several tube firing-type bending and heat-treating furnaces were in operation making windshields and heat-treated back windows. By designing adjustable radiant brackets located in critical locations, the processing of car glass was accelerated.

      Automobile back window glass was heated, bent to shape, and red hot when it left the furnace and mold. Cooling the glass required some new ideas. I designed a glass hanger usable on a chain conveyor, then designed a cooling system requiring a large blower. Presto, the back window glass was delivered at room temperature.

      In one of our operations, one sheet of glass needed to be put (flopped) over the second sheet on a wide conveyor. L.O.F. patented a device that flopped the first sheet onto the second sheet. It was a simple innovation costing less than a hundred dollars and it released two men from the crew.

      In another part of the factory, large glass sheets were heat treated on my newly designed blast head. It is called "Big Bertha" and continues to operate even today.

      To speed the back light operation, our development group designed a radiant furnace. It was successful and more were installed at Rossford and other L.O.F. plants and they run today.

      As a cost saving measure, it was necessary to replace laminated with heat-treated glass. Therefore, a furnace was designed with special rolls and a controlled driving system that eliminated molds. Once tested and proven, furnaces were installed here and in other L.O.F. plants. Gerry White was pleased with the work and continued to urge further development.

      It was interesting to work with Mr. Hasselbach and Mr. White. Both men, Bill an engineer and Gerry a development man, had ~the pull~ for money. Because the jobs they did were successsful, management was receptive to quick improvements in glass production. Whenever they asked me to do something, the money was always available. At first I was the only engineer working on the new radiant furnaces. As each was more successful, everyone wanted in on the act and, indeed, more men were brought in to design and develop the cutting, seaming, and handling of the glass. Today, even in the '81-'82 depression, the bending furnaces are running with six and seven day operation.

      The Twin Grinders were brought in and started and the Grinder-Polishers revamped to Fast-Polishers in 1954. Problems arose on the design, oiling, gearing, and bearings on the polishers. They would break down for sixty to ninety hours at a time in spite of the yearly two-week shutdowns for repairs and the Oil Companies appreciated our use of their oils in 1000 gallon gulps.

      One of my bosses corrected the table slide problem by selecting another Oil Company with a better grade of oil. A cohort, Jack Grosskopf, corrected the pillow block bearing problem on the synchronizing line and I pressurized the oiling in the bearings on the 1000 gallon gear boxes. In addition, the bearings were redesigned and, thus, the use of oil became minimal.

      Another design change was made to enable the tables to enter the line smoothly and broken teeth on the spur gears ceased. A plaster spreader was devised, then a laying conveyor scheme which allowed the glass to slant down and meet the traveling polisher tables. The polishing line speed was more than doubled. Monthly lost time dropped 90% and in one month there was no lost time.

      I also designed and had a machine shop construct a shear pin tester that L.O.F. patented. It enabled us to determine the best source of steel and best fabricating shop for the shear pins.

      Bearings on the twin grinders broke down due to heavy loads and lubricating problems. I was designing a special "floating bearing" when the Twins were discarded for the Float System.

      In the early '50s, long before pollution problems were recognized, L.O.F. and the Village of Rossford corrected sewer and drainage water separation. Waste waters were often a problem as debris would collect. Men from various companies were brought in to correct the problem, each outfit having their own way for a particular problem. I had men install a sewer in the basement of the Casting Hall to prevent water seepage in the foundation. The hearths were no longer fired and the area was used for storage.

      We maintained railroads in the factory and road crossings could be rough. By designing solid supports, railroad crossings were improved.

      Improvements were needed in many different areas. The stores department was out of date so I implemented bearing organization -- in later years I catalogued the wooden patterns. At the machine shop, high-speed drills were ordered and racks installed to sort steel bars. Sewer and water lines were repaired at night or on holidays (dog gone it). The problem of the poles on the electric lines catching fire when the insulators were crusted with dust and moisture was corrected after discussing the problem with William McDonald, the man who fed and boarded me in high school days. Two long couplings were made for the plant's freight engine to relieve wear on the wheels caused by the sharply curved railroad track. Blueprints were organized and catalogued in the plant engineering files and the overhead doors and their locations were numbered on a plant drawing along with trucks, tractors, forklifts, etc., as it was the only way to identify the several hundred that existed.

      Men like Mr. Hasselbach or Mr. White carried the load of developing new ideas and improvements to make the company prosper.

      I started the salaried golf league and we played one evening each week during the summer season. Playing crosshanded (I once chopped trees), golf came easy to me. Two or three times my partner and I won the trophy. Once I had an eagle against two of my bosses, and another time I tied with another boss for low ball -- that really doesn`t make points with the powers that be.

      At the plant, a tall unused building was the right place for pigeons to enter and become a nuisance. In a magazine advertisement I saw a bird light which was supposed to chase pigeons away. For $94.00, it seemed the answer to pigeon elimination so we bought one. It had a revolving light like a police warning light flashing red, green and white as it revolved. An electrician set it up in a suitable spot. A day or so later I asked the electrician if the light was effective. "Oh, Yes," he said, "One night it scared the hell out of the watchman who thought there was a fire!" He also said that every time the red light swung around, the pigeons thought it was colored T.V. and made their deposits. In fact, the electrician felt the light would soon be covered by the deposits!

      Obviously, it takes water, electricity, gas, and raw materials to make glass for a customer. Buildings, machines, tools, and know-how make it challenging. It was amazing to see the Casting Hall Hearths, Twin Grinders, Fast Polishes, and Sand Ponds come and go. Someone would come up with a better way and it would be investigated and implemented. Markets, workmen, and materials are always fostering other changes.

      A retirement party in 1977 brought out one hundred fellows to wish me well. Concerned about giving a speech since I had difficulty talking after having had suffered a minor stroke in 1973, I borrowed short bits of verse that reflected my feelings:

      * One of the few innocent pleasures left to men past middle life is to give advice and temptation to give advice on occasions such as this is as irrestible as sneezing.

      * Successful engineers, problem solvers from the start, are paid to have an abundance of free advice, but free advice is best described as being like playing tennis with the net down.

      * There is no such thing as new advice -- only new advisors giving somebody else's old advice.

      * As I have worked patiently for years, I know that after all is said and done, more is usually said...and after all is said and done, more is said than done.

      * Confidence is what you feel before you understand the problem.

      * It's a confusing world to be sure. Already we're running out of electricity and we don't even know what it is yet.

      * There's no subject however complex which, if studied with patience and intelligence, will not become more complex.

      * I like the person who puts 2 and 2 together and gets curious.

      * Don't take tranquilizers; you'll find yourself being nice to people you don't even like.

      * The best tranquilizer is to make it a point to laugh at yourself about once a day.

      * Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring.


                      Other Chapters

                        1.     Atlantic
                        2.     Silica
                        3.     Oil City
                        4.     Boat Trip
                        5.     Chris's Home
                        6.     Hubbard Lake
                        7.     Hunting and Fishing
                        8.     Our Farm
                        9.     Schools
                      10.     The Depression and the 30's
                      11.     Michigan State University
                      12.     Jobs
    Next - - - 13.     Our Home
                      14.     Boating
                      15.     Trips
                      16.     The Tropics
                      17.     With The Kids
                      18.     It Is Written


                      Thayer Letter


                      Tree Page


Copyright © 2001 with all rights reserved by William V. Thayer

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