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First job after getting out of Navy

February 11, 2013

This is another excerpt from my first book, From Sharecropper’s Son to Tracking Missiles.” I have lowered the price of the digital version of my book on Kindle. This anecdote is about the first job I got after getting out of the Navy and before I married my wife.

I worked for a store in Lawton for about two months. I was paid $35 per week for nine hours a day, six days a week. If we were around the shop area during lunch hour, one of the owners, an older man would put us to work. He could not stand to see us sitting around, even when we were supposed to be off duty.

If we worked more than 30 minutes of overtime, we were paid $1 per hour overtime pay. If we worked less than 30 minutes, we didn’t get any extra pay. Many days we would be installing a TV antenna and work 15 or 20 minutes after normal quitting time. Then the foreman would tell us we were off duty and he would finish the job. Of course, we had no way back to the shop until he finished. Dad also worked as a salesman at the store. He and I talked and he started showing up wherever I was at normal quitting time and I would leave.

The older man decided that I might cause others to become as independent‑acting as I was and cause problems, so he sent me out to work on phone lines at Medicine Park. They owned the small phone company at Medicine Park. An old‑timer named Ralph, also independent acting, and I kept those phone lines up using surplus twisted-pair wire. The nice part was that we started at the shop at normal time, drove to Medicine Park, worked all day, drove back to the shop and quit at normal time. We weren’t working unpaid overtime.

Ralph and I were working on telephones at Medicine Park.  The phones were old hand crank telephones, a magneto system.  Once we had an open line to check and the wire was running between two large poles near the office.  Ralph knew that there was a splice midway between these two poles.  He assumed that the splice was bad.  The twisted pair ran along a steel cable between the two poles. 

As I climbed the furthest pole to check with my handset, Ralph took our 10-foot wooden ladder, which had a large nail near the top of one rail, and hooked the nail on the steel cable.  With the ladder leaning against the cable, he climbed about four steps up until he could see the splice.  About that time, I told him that we had signal at the pole the open had to be further down the line.

Ralph reached for the steel cable and unhooked it from the large nail, leaving the ladder standing vertical in the air with Ralph balanced as he began to climb down.

I was in shock for a moment, knowing that the ladder would fall.  Ralph took about one step downward and realized what he had done.  The ladder fell backwards with Ralph.  When I saw that he was all right, I started laughing.  Ralph became very angry at me.  He said that I should have spoken up and stopped him before he did such a dumb stunt.  He griped at me for the rest of the day.

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