Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Plant Life

I continue to be amazed at life in a bomber factory. Turns out there's a lot more to it than just working hard every day and pouring our hearts and souls into ending the war. Some of the fellows who've been here a long time have in the past devoted their attention to other things, like figuring out how to cheat the time clock or get paid overtime for less than a week's work.

The war's put a crimp on a lot of those shenanigans, but there's still no denying that there's more going on here than just building B-17s. Maybe it's because people spend so much of their lives in the plant. Everyone's personalities, problems and dreams are here for all to see, like it or not.

And now we're in the public eye as well. The local papers have taken notice of the sudden surge of defense workers and how Seattle's changing because of it.

An article in today's Seattle Daily Times paints a perfect picture of life at Boeing:

"Guards Snift for Snifters; Coffee (Oft Cold) Permitted

Seattle is undergoing the greatest lunch box era in history, but, because of precautions against sabotage in defense plants, many workers are complaining that it is also a 'cold coffee' era. Guards at vital plants inspect the lunch kits as the men report for work. One bit of inspection is the opening of thermos bottles. So many thermos bottles are opened that the dull 'ploop...ploop...ploop' of popping corks sounds like a distant but steady artillery fire. But all this makes the coffee cold, the workers say.

The guards are prompt as they can be in recorking the thermos bottles aster they have sniffed for nitroglycerin, beer and whiskey.

There's no sly nipping of beer or stronger stuff in defense plants any more. Beer used to be smuggled (before December 7) in thermos bottles, to wash down cheese sandwiches, and sometimes there was a drap of stronger liquor.

But no more of that.

Any worker found attempting to pilot a noggin into a plant loses his job.
But, getting back to lunch kits - curbstone statisticians could do a pretty neat job of measuring the rising tide of Seattle's surging war industries simply by counting the number of lunch kits, nearly all of them a gleaming black, carried past almost any given corner early in the morning, or late in the evening.

A few generations ago, the cry of 'A full dinner pail' was a telling political slogan. Today, the rounded tin bucket grandfather carried has its modern successor in the neat lunch kit with its sturdy one-pint thermos bottle snugly inside its rounded hood.
Sales of lunch kits in Seattle are soaring at levels four or five times greater than those of a short year ago. Harassed buyers for hardware and drug stores, which make most lunch-kit sales, get a despairing look in their eyes when queried about the demand.

'We simply can't get enough of them from the manufacturers,' one retail executive admitted. 'They are one of the hardest items to try to keep in stock these days that I can think of.'

And sales agents for manufacturers look upon 1942 Seattle as the brightest lunch-kit market on the Pacific Coast, although their principal sales problem is soothing anxious buyers by assuring them that factories are doing their best to meet the rush of orders.

Like the buyers of 'flivvers' of hallowed memory, lunch-kit buyers can have 'any' color as long as it's black because manufacturers have felt the shortage of paint. But only a few months ago, lunch kits were available in brown, blue or green.

Lack of adequate restaurant facilities to serve swiftly built industries is a prime factor for lunch-kit popularity. Another is the rising cost of meals.

Feminine workers, in increasing number, also are carrying their lunches. Many, however, have been buying the smaller, flat lunch-kits, with half-pint bottles, which formerly were sold almost entirely to school children.

'It used to be that we sold these school kits only in the fall, but now we have a steady, year-round trade in them,' said another store official.
Many busy executives, too, are 'discovering' lunch kits, another retail man commented. He pointed out that half-hour lunch periods are increasingly in vogue these days."

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