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  • Folks who stayed in Painesville, Ohio had their future charted with few choices. They could work at Diamond Chemicals or the Rayon or at Morton Salt. I was in may late teens, 5' 6", and weighed 103 pounds. Midway through a lazy summer the Diamond was hiring to fill in behind vacationing employees. My dad worked at the Diamond so I had an "in". The money was really good for summer work... it was practically the only money in town.

    Under the Great Lakes of North America is vast thick shelf of salt. Industries along this north coast mined it. Morton Salt still has a crisscrossed network of tunnels thirty feet wide where trucks can drive for miles under lake Eire. The Diamond was a slush mine. Water from lake Eire was pumped in and salty water was pumped out and evaporated. Morton put salt in cylindrical boxes wrapped in a label with a cute girl and an umbrella ... and the Diamond used it as a chemical to make soda-ash ... used the soda-ash to make glass crystal clear hence the name. The Diamond also manufactured sulfur, cement, chlorine, magnesium, clorowax, coke and some really toxic things. They pumped their waste-water into a marshland behind my family home.

    The Diamond had a ten mile waterfront. It was touted to be the world's largest alkali plant. It boasted a lake freighter and its own railroad company. Inside the factory gates were 23 miles of track. Every day 2600 men and two or three women would head to the plant to sustain their families and the community.

    The temps would be assigned jobs for the day. The first day I had to sweep floors next to the generator in the power plant. I missed lunch break because my electric wrist watch ran backwards for a while.

    A couple of days later I went to work in the clorowax plant. That evening while cleaning my work clothes I pulled my fingernail out. My stupidity, the sticky clorowax residue, and the wringer on my moms washer worked together to do the deed. I was surprised to see the nail separate from my finger and thought about the nuns in catholic school preaching about the missionaries and the punishment they suffered at the hands of native barbarians and orientals. Sometime I wonder how I survived the prejudice of my youth.

    The next day I went to work on the railroad with a really big pure white bandage on my left index finger. It was too big to fit into my work glove. So I cut the finger off the glove and lifted railroad ties onto a truck for several hours. I worked at the plant the entire summer. Four years later the entire plant had gone to ruin leaving behind a brown field and a very big problem.
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