Thursday, October 20, 2011


One of my favorite workers was "Helmet Bob" who was so nicknamed because he wore a toupee. Of course, I never called him that. His hairpiece was the best-looking hairpiece that I have ever seen, but since he'd worked with the same guys for years they knew when he'd changed his look and gave him the nickname. He was a redhead and looked the picture of what one thought of as Irish. Bob had a buoyant personality and was always upbeat and a joy to have as an employee. Freddie, a guy who worked in "The Pit" (underneath the truck), always started songs for Bob and me to finish. I would always tell my husband that Bob was the "linchpin" of my crew and the reason everybody got along. Gerald would say, "I'm sure YOU have a little to do with it, Miss Modesty!"

Bob installed the steering wheels and my stand-up desk on the manufacturing floor was adjacent to his work station. The station time was 2 minutes and 34 seconds! As the truck moved into the station Bob would swing by me with the steering wheel looped in his elbow, enter the truck, install the wheel and alight from the truck with a balletic motion!

It was common for customers to come to watch their trucks being built. One customer had ordered a fleet of 14 vehicles and it was for a fertilizer company and the trucks were white with green trim. The line set had his fleet of trucks spaced every seven trucks on the line. As we were Final Assembly he'd watched his trucks being assembled in a great number of stations. The tour guide stopped at my station and the customer and I were chatting and he said that Bob's job looked easy. As Bob came out of the cab I said, "Bob, come meet our customer; his trucks are coming down the line." Bob removed his glove and shook hands and asked if he'd like to install one. The man said that would be great. Bob showed him how to lift the steering wheel, grab the fasteners and tools and get into the cab. When his first truck came into the station the guy tried to pick up the steering wheel, fasteners and tools as Bob had done, but he never made it to the truck. Bob said, "I'll get it and the the next six; just watch me." The guy was jumping into the cab with Bob and when his next truck came into the station, he couldn't get to it in time. During break time Bob went to the break area and the customer said, "That's a lot harder than it looked." The tour guide was getting fidgety, because he wanted the tour to be over but it was obvious the guy wanted to watch his trucks go off the end of the line. He stayed for the entire time to watch his trucks.

Of course, I knew that Bob was never going to let the guy ACTUALLY install anything as that would have been against Union rules and Company safety rules but Bob was loving showing off!

I left the Company in 1989 but returned in 1997 and I was surprised to see a transfer paper that Bob was coming to my department. I said, "I thought you would never leave Final Assembly." He said, rather cryptically, "I had more than one reason for coming here." About two weeks later, a colleague asked to have lunch with me. We were usually both too busy to have lunch, but I went to her office and she said, "I want to tell you something but you can't tell anyone." She continued, "What do you think of Bob who just transferred into your department?" I said, "I LOVE him, he's one of the best people I've ever had!" She said, "I do too--we're dating!" I gasped and said, "You know that's against the rules." She said, "Just tell me how it's fair that you're married to a Union employee and it's OK?" I said, "I was married to him BEFORE I came here--you know that--you're being illogical!" She said, "I know it--that's what happens when you're in love!" She said, "I hate the sneaking around but Bob said I could trust you and he transferred here to be close to his TWO favorite women!" I said, "That's Bob!" Of course, I was the one to pass messages between them at work and protect them. Amazingly, they were never found out by the Union or the Company! After they both retired, they were married.

When I was ready to retire Bob came to wish me well and I introduced him to my husband as "Poetry In Motion" and Bob said, "So that's why you always sang that to me!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I wish I could think of that song by Bob Seger about building Thunderebirds--do you know it?