"I Used To Work In That Town" by Jack Blanchard
Woody Allen said his father eked out a meager living selling meagers. I've never sold meagers, but before I got into music I did everything else. I worked in most of the factories around Buffalo, New York. I've dug graves, greased cement mixers, tried to sell encyclopedias, tended bar, and built juke boxes for Wurlitzer. I've worked at hundreds of day jobs, and some of them were at night...graveyard shift. I never fit in anywhere. In Buffalo there weren't many places for a musician to work, except on weekends. It was a tavern town, a couple each block. Some of them hired a piano player or a combo on Friday and Saturday. They're probably sports or karaoke bars now. Here are three samples of my many jobs. I had a perfect record... I never worked anyplace I could go back to. * * * I did hard labor for minimum wage at the Dunlop tire factory. They had these giant molds that formed huge tractor tires. The molds had to be cleaned. Pieces of rubber and dirt that got in them would make the tires come out funny. The molds looked like the world's biggest waffle irons. My job was this: I'd put on a big protective mask and gloves, grab a thick hose with a ten pound nozzle, climb a ladder, bend over, lean into the mold, and start sand blasting. It was LOUD! At this point somebody would usually goose me. I'd jump, bang my head, turn off the pressure hose, back down the ladder, take off the mask, and look around. Nobody was ever there. I saw little smiles on some of the faces at break time. * * * I was riding on a bus early one hangover morning, going into Buffalo from Tonawanda to look for a job. I saw a peaceful little chapel in a graveyard across the road. I asked the driver to stop and I went across and into the unlocked chapel. There were just three or four pews on each side of the aisle. The colored light rays coming through the stained glass windows gave it the mood I needed at that point in my life: Serenity. I got a job at the cemetery just so I could eat lunch in the chapel. It was winter. Not much snow, but the ground was hard as rock. The only equipment consisted of shovels, spades, and wheelbarrows. On the first day we were pouring cement for headstones. Each of the five or six workers had a wheelbarrow. I'd fill my wheelbarrow from the cement mixer, turn around and push it up over a hill to where they wanted it poured. Back and forth over the hill all day. It was the hardest work I'd ever done. At the end of the day I noticed the other guys smiling around. I asked what was so funny. They told me that my wheelbarrow had had a flat tire all day. Gravediggers are a humorous bunch. * * * One of my better jobs was working in the Engineering Department at Bell Aircraft. I sat at a desk and okayed blueprints I didn't understand, and ordered the parts listed. A man named Ray Forton, a friend and neighbor of mine, worked a few desks away from me. On a Parts Order List he ordered the usual nuts and bolts, and one day he marked down the number 2 instead of a 1 for a part named "Power Plant". How were we supposed to know that a Power Plant was a multi-million dollar rocket engine? The Bell Company retooled, reconfigured half the plant, hired hundreds of extra people, and went to work on it. Six months later they caught the mistake, and they didn't even fire Ray. It was all on government money so what the hell? My supervisor knew I wasn't ever going to actually DO anything. They said he kept me around for entertainment value. I've gotten away with that a lot in my life.
Copyright © March 21, 2005, Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.