This description of life is a continuation of my earlier story “Trading Hiding Places For A Stained Glass Studio“
It did not seem to take very long for the shop to be built onto the back of our house. The significant part of the move was that now, there was a single door between the stained glass factory and our home. This is the way many people have lived for hundreds of years. Bakers, barber shops, all sorts of tradesman. It was a return to how my Great Grandfather lived and worked when he started the company, generations before. It is not something that is at all common today. Is it better, worse? How does it mold a young family?
My father handled it by learning to mentally compartmentalize work and home. Today, that is something that is automatically done for you by way of geographic location. He was a dedicated and hard worker, but when he was done, he was done. A mental switch was flipped, and he did not seem to think about work for the prescribed amount of time. The place felt completely different, though nothing had changed. We still went into the shop, but now it was for such things as hobbies and home projects. There were times that necessitated an aberration to this, but he strove to keep them to a minimum.
It was a little strange at first, having a couple of employees join the scene. They were good people and fit in fairly well.
Mom had given me a kit to build a shortwave radio receiver. It took me a long time to solder all the resistors and diodes onto a circuit board. With a one-hundred foot antenna, strung between the trees in the back yard, it could hear transmissions from other countries, in languages that I did not know, but mainly, it became my conduit for listening to the early morning school closings reports. There was my bed, with a lump under the covers, child inside safely protected by the magic covers, a small wire disappearing into the covers, going to the one earbud that came with the radio kit. When the words came over the homemade radio “St. Peter’s grade school… all classes cancelled today”, a loud “Yip!” came out from under the lump of covers. I could rest easy.
I did not have a lot of toys by today’s standards but my mother gave me a good number of kits to build things. I’m not sure why she did this with me but is was almost surely a good thing. Many of them took a very long time to build. One learns a lot, and the items are so much neeter when you are done.
You can hear how cold it is by how loudly the snow crunches under someone’s footsteps. A warm snow is nearly silent as you press it softly down. When the snow is as cold as it was on this early morning, the sound is loud and brittle. Jim, ‘our’ most loyal employee would never miss a day, or be late. He had to park his car at the bottom of the drive, a quarter of a mile down the hill and walk up. We all could hear the loudly crunching snow as he trudged by the house to the back shop entrance. As he reached the door, I heard my dad jump out of bed, run up the stair in bare feet and boxer shorts, burst through the interior door and yell “beat cha!”. The reply was a mumbled protest of “Oh man”.
The next summer, the glaziers union went on strike against all of the stained glass companies. Jim did not want it or like it, but he was a rule follower. He was required to picket his place of work in order to receive his union strike compensation. He would park his car at the bottom of the drive and read the paper. As we went buy on our way to the store, we would wave at each other with a “hi Jim”, “hi Bob”.
My mother took over the role of company secretary when the studio moved to our residence. She was good at it as that was her occupation before my parents met. She worked more irregular hours as she was the lead guardian of the kids. I would hang out with her in the evening sometimes as she typed.
The office machines were state of the art for their time. For some of them, however, their time was 70 years ago. The adding machine was all mechanical, nothing electronic. It must have weighed 30 pounds. It had 7 columns of buttons, each from 0 to 9. Each button was substantial, polished from use and stood up tall from the sloping front of the machine. To add numbers, you would push down one button in each column. The left column was for ten thousands, next, thousands, finishing with cents for the right two columns. When you pushed each button, they would slide down beautifully smoothly, and then stay down with a click. After you entered your number, you would then pull a lever on the right hand side. The machine would add that number to the running total, all the buttons would snap back up and it would print the transaction on a roll of paper using a cloth typewriter ribbon. It was fun to use. If one was simply adding a long list of numbers, it was every bit as good as an electronic calculator, and somehow, more satisfying. The gears and latches were hidden inside and must have been amazing. It was one the few things that I did not take apart to see how it worked. I missed my chance. The typewriter was one of the more modern machines. I would sometimes sit there in the evenings, as my mom typed, and watch the little round ball twist and turn to the correct letter, and then stamp it onto the paper. The ball had the emblem IBM printed on the top. The computer that killed the astronauts in the movie ‘2001 A Space Oddity’ was named HAL. HAL is IBM with each letter moved one ahead in the alphabet. Every letter she wrote had a nice paper and cotton fiber sheet on top, a thin sheet of carbon paper, and a cheep yellow sheet on the bottom. That yellow sheet was put into the file draw as a record of the letter or contract that was mailed to the client. She would listen to dictation from a tape recorder that had two large reels of magnetic tape, while controlling it with a foot pedal. Her concentration impressed me. It was the only time that I could not talk to her. In hindsight, I think that my dad and his secretary might have had a thing going.