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  • Each morning the workers carried food in black and silver metal buckets and congregated in a room with long tables. The ceiling was low lending intimacy to an otherwise company building. While men waited, thermos bottles poured coffee adding something pleasant to the smell of sulfur, and ash. This group was the day shift in a plant that was busy round the clock. My guess was the room served as lunchroom for those men who worked swing shifts. There may have been more of this type of building scattered round the acreage of lake front. I never saw the upstairs locker room... summer temps didn’t have locker status. The surfaces were the painted with with light green marine enamel. Long benches provided places to sit until the whistle blew.

    Under the glass on the bulletin boards were pictures of men who had been saved from blindness by wearing safety glasses. Men with a broken lens were the Wise Owls. Pinups of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable flanked these photos. Wartime Pinups were abundant in the plant. Leggy girl pictures were everywhere. You would go to a tool crib to grab a broom and there she would be. The more private the area the more prone to pornography. The rail switching station had shots of girls completely naked, feet forward, legs spread, hairy vanishing point. The switching station was up high and the pictures matched the single point perspective view down the tracks where the long straight rails came in ten to twenty wide.

    Some men wore coveralls most had jeans and work shirts. The boys in the soda-ash plant had bandanas, the red and black kind… they would tuck them in their shirt collars to keep the white stuff off their backs. By the end of the day the white power clung to every thread.

    The coke plant workers had goggles and dust masks and a vague outline of skin pocks after years of coal dust had settled on their cheeks. By the end of the day they would emerge from the coal bins. On a bright day you couldn't tell them from walking shadows.

    Next to the gate - a sign of pride told of the number of days without an accident.

    It was forbidden to bet on when the next one would happen.
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