Western Electric  


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During the time I worked at Fort Hancock, I had met a man from Western Electric whose job was to rectify any complaints with Western Electric's work on the radar equipment. He was a Division Manager, which is a highly rated position.

We would meet and talk about once a week, and soon became quite friendly. One day he asked me if I would like to work for Western Electric. I said I would think about it. He said to come and see him if I ever decided I wanted to work there.

This was late in 1941. The war was starting and everyone was making big money in the war plants. Though my Fruehauf salary was fair, people in war plants were doing better. So I took a day off when things were slow and went to see this Division Manager at Western Electric.

I approached the guard at the gate, who called Mr. C. and said I was there to see him. The guard was told to escort me to the manager's office. It took ten minutes to walk the distance to the office door, and the guard left after I entered.

We greeted each other in a very friendly and polite way. The office was very private. I was offered a chair, and we sat and talked for about 30 minutes before he asked me why I was there. When I explained about the job offer he made at Fort Hancock, he remembered. He called a department chief and told him to have someone take me to the employment office and have me fill out an application. He said he expected me to be working as soon as all the paperwork was processed. Two days later I got a call and was told to come in and start work.

I was introduced to all the intermediate supervisors and started work as an inspector. I was told that if I saw anything wrong with the trailer, I was not to correct it as it was a Fruehauf problem, not Western Electric's problem. They appreciated my offer to correct it but told me not to fix it.

Over the next four years, I was advanced to better job whenever and wherever my talents were needed. This may seem like boasting, but considering all the men that were working in that department, most of them were just plain laborers or only slightly better.

After a few months, I was promoted to rigger. The job was to assist the crane operator in securing the incoming and outgoing radar equipment. It was a job that required a bit more qualification than was available in the department. It was a responsible job, and my promotion could have been challenged by any employee who had more seniority. It also required authorization by the union representative.

The overhead crane carried hundreds of pounds of equipment, and it was necessary that the equipment be secured correctly and that there be no mishap as it traveled the more than 1,000 feet along the length of the building.

That job lasted about four years, and was well liked by me. The promotion was an upgrade and meant more money. I started at Western Electric as a Grade 30 employee and left as a Grade 36.

From rigger, I was promoted to caterpillar operator. I operated excavator equipment that was used in construction work. I would use it to transfer all the trailers from the parking lot to the building where workers would complete the installation of the radar equipment.

In 1946 with the war over, things started to change. There were lots of layoffs after 1945. I was transferred to another building and was offered a lower grade job as a saw operator. I had to operate a large table saw like the kind often seen in building construction workshops. I had never operated one of these before, but accepted the job rather than take a lower grade and lower paying position. I worked there three years.

As a saw operator, I had the job of cutting small 1/4 " plastic strips down to size. It was almost impossible to hold and control these strips as they slowly passed under the saw. It was a tedious job, a first for me. One day my finger hit the blade and cut it badly enough to require four stitches.

Western Electric had their own hospital and doctors on the plant grounds. I was paid seven weeks of full pay and assigned to light duty--i.e., office work--and given a $250 compensation. I did quite a bit of office work there on several Sundays when they needed some overtime. I was always one of the few selected, probably because of one of my hidden talents. My mother, bless her heart, always said I was not made to be a mechanic. She thought I should work in an office. But my heart was in the automotive field. Big engines, big combines. I would have loved to have gone to college in that field.

I never really made big money. My earnings were never extraordinary. In fact, on an annual basis, there was never more than $100 difference between Mom's earnings and mine. But I always had a lot of compassion for everyone, always helping out when I could.

When the time came for either another downgrade in pay or layoff with severance pay, I chose layoff. I got seven years severance pay, plus eight weeks paid vacation. Had I chosen another downgrade in pay, I would have been working for less than I made when I first started working for Western Electric. Who knows how far down I would have gone? So I decided to resign and leave with a record in good standing.

Western Electric was always very safety conscious. They had an employee suggestion box located in every department of every building. During my seven years there I was also very safety conscious, and submitted eight safety suggestions.

I received eight awards, plus $10 for each suggestion. It was not much, but I was happy as it all went on my employment record. I also received a star with each award, which was put on a poster certificate given to me when my first suggestion was accepted. This recognition demonstrates the interest in safety and initiative which large corporations look for in their employees.