Great Jobs: Chapter 4-A Penchant for ‘ODD’ Jobs
A Penchant for ‘ODD’ Jobs
It was amazing the jobs I could find. No one else on this earth could find jobs as easily as I could, and nobody could ever find the jobs that I did find. Wasn’t long after I graduated from High School that I got a job in a ‘bottle sorting plant.’
A what kind of plant? you wonder, ‘What in God’s creation is a ‘bottle sorting plant’? Well, for all the latest generation, let me explain.
Back in those days after the Depression and even on into as late as the beginning of the ‘60s, we still had glass beer bottles that came in returnable cases. We still had milk men, ice men, coal men, paper boys and men, and even bakery delivery men, who brought ice to our ‘ice boxes; milk, in bottles to our doors each morning; coal by the bushel, if necessary; the morning and afternoon paper, delivered to our doors even, with horse drawn paper wagons. The last horse drawn paper wagon finally disappeared from the streets of South Saint Louis in 1962; the horse was retired and later died of old age.
Velvet Freeze, which sold ice cream for the most part, also sold milk, but they were one of the first companies to put milk in wax coated, paper containers. That was an easy switch for them because ice cream was sold in waxed paper containers. They were not necessarily in the milk selling business and did not need the problem of bottle returns. It was some time before the four ‘big’ dairies in Saint Louis finally ended milk deliveries to homes which ended the ‘milk man’ era, and further development of the ‘wax’ coated cartons ensued.
So meanwhile, a lot of things came in ‘NON DISPOSIBLE containers, not toss away wax containers. (A note here about wax containers, they made great fire starters and Scout Troops collected them for their camping trips.) Milk bottles at that time came from four dairies. Soda and beer came from several bottling plants. So many things were NON DISPOSIBLE. Beside the fact that the stores charged deposits on bottles, and containers, they also refunded deposits and were responsible for getting the right containers back to the right owners. When the beer, soda, or milk delivery men came to restock they took back their used containers. So everything was sorted and placed back into the cases and cartons and were picked up and delivered to a sorting plant which also cleaned them for reuse. Another reason for the sorting plant was that the milk, soda, and beer bottlers really did not want to put in extra equipment to wash and clean all these containers.
So, this ‘bottle sorting plant’ where I got the job was down on Chouteau Avenue, just east of Grand, where today you might find a Recycling Plant. It picked up all these containers and brought them in to be cleaned and sent off to the bottlers.
This plant had two huge stokers which had to be loaded with the various glass containers that needed cleaning. They could be set for the different sizes of containers, such as a 7 ounce coke bottle, a 12 ounce beer bottle, a quart sized milk bottle and so forth. At the feeding end of this stoker 24 to 48 bottles, according to their size, could be put in a row to go through this machine and would be cleaned and sanitized for reuse. At the other end they were placed back into cases and sealed to be returned to the bottlers.
I had the job of feeding the bottles in, and I had to be fast to get 48 bottles across the row before it disappeared into the machine’s works. Good pay too, 35 cents an hour for such technical work. So why would I get fired from such an interesting and lucrative job?
Well, I was always the inquisitive kid. And of course, I always wondered, ‘what if’. And, before you bring to mind all the stories about bugs and such in coke bottles and law suits about such things, don’t blame it on me just because I was inquisitive, and above all I always wanted to see if such machine marvels were all they were cracked up to be. Well, believe it or not, they were not. And, thus proving their inability to perform the tasks they were meant to perform got me canned.
As you might imagine all the used containers with their various contents before being cleaned were a magnet for all sorts of pests. Roaches were abundant on the floor under my feet. So were a few other pests, but the roaches were the easiest to catch. In my mind this ‘washing machine’ did amazing things but I was not convinced it could do everything. Especially, I was particularly interested in how it might remove foreign objects from inside the bottle. A real scientific test that I, the inquisitive investigator, could perform and even report on the findings of such a scientific undertaking.
‘Stupid kid’, did you really think that mechanical marvel was going to remove a full grown roach from a bottle?
First of all you put it in a dirty slick bottle, alive, and it had no chance of crawling out before the live steam and cleaning compounds did it in. So, at the other end of the machine where all these containers were inspected if front of a ‘blinding’ bright light, many ‘did in’ roaches showed up. Quite a few were disintegrated and washed away, but not all. But how come so many seemed to be getting through? Probability alone might have allowed one or two in a million, but not hundreds in a thousand.
Sure Edison and other great inventors had to conduct hundreds of tests before whatever it was they invented finally worked, but in my case one or two ‘tests’ should have been conclusive.
As you might expect, I was fired from this lucrative job, and my Scientific Findings were tossed by the wayside.
But, now I often wonder if I was in some way responsible for this world of aluminum and plastic that we now live in?
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