In The Shadow Of Howard Hughes' Houston Plant – Part Three


Hughes’ mother didn’t trust the then swampy climate of Houston – cholera, malaria – and wanted to raise her young son “away from the mosquitoes” on the outskirts of that growing city. I have not read any books about Howard’s life, but I know that much is true.

Photos of the Hughes Tool Co. in Houston, old school. None of Howard’s urine was stored here:

At the company I worked for, all of those factory guys worked hard, and at shift-change many of them would stand around at various open trunks of cars, sipping beers and laughing while changing out of their work boots. The terrible things always happened on my various sick days. For instance, the time a man lost four of his fingers at the machine press – sheared them right off! My coworker, Darryl, happened to be sneaking out back for a smoke at the time, when all of a sudden this man is running towards him waving his hands in the air. Then, he noticed the bloody hand. Darryl grabbed him and laid him down for he was in shock. Help soon arrived but in the long run, most of the fingers could not be re-attached because the man refused blood transfusions, for he was a Jehovah’s Witness. That’s what I was told, I don’t know jack about the Jehovah’s. I tried to read about it once, and still didn’t understand – just like the sport cricket. I read about that once but when it’s on television, I still don’t know what the hell is going on (same goes for Aussie Rules Football). But, as the man’s wife arrived a bit later to pick her husband up from work, Darryl was the first person she saw, and his shirt was covered in blood. Against the shrieks and wails, all Darryl could get out was “He’s okay! he’s–going–to–be–okay!”

On a lighter note, and in times when the paperwork slowed to a trickle and things got dull, I would venture over to the other side of the plant to visit and shoot the breeze with the chief metallurgist at his little office – which for a lab, was the messiest, hoarding-est pile I have ever seen. And this company was trying to become ISO 9000 Certified. But the chief was a brilliant guy and as is usually the case, he got away with it. He had his large black Labrador dog there sometimes with him. This pooch laid around mostly, and was actually afraid of the rain and storms. In his youth, he had been caught in a flooded backyard, and had the misfortune of walking through a floating colony of fire-ants. The rest is history – he remembered the ant stings and bites and he never trusted another storm again.

no-msg2

If you’ve never stood next to a heat-treating furnace and felt that intense heat, well, you’re not missing much, especially in the summertime. But all aglow at 3 million degrees, conveying bright red metal from it’s bellowing doors, it’s quite a sight to behold. At one end of this large building was an engineer and manager who did not like or get along with my boss. In fact, they were no longer on speaking terms. My boss was an arrogant know-it-all and coupled with his judgmental religious views made him a pariah almost at the plant. This other manager knew the initials to my boss’ name were “MSG”, as did everyone else – a factory thrives on paperwork. But this other man somehow went and obtained a large placard, probably discarded from a Asian restaurant, this being the era when the media was attacking such establishments for using seasoned salt – bearing the crossed out “MSG” using the red international symbol-thingy. This other engineer, who did not like my boss, hung that sign at the back end of the factory, for all to see. I enjoyed seeing that every day because it was the perfect insult. And in a time before a lot of political correctness and snowflakes going to HR to complain – back then, one had to suck it up and get over it.

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