Irv Gets Fired

After my first year working on Del Monte’s research farm, I got a call from my friend and high school classmate, Irv Ware. He was looking for a summer job to help pay for college and wondered if there was something available on the farm. I don't remember now, but I must have told him about what I had done the previous year. In any case, I told him I would see what I could do.

Turn over among guys who were willing to work and be consistent on attendance was low, but unfortunately some got the job and were looking for other jobs at the same time. As it happened, we had lost two guys after asparagus season and bean season, one of our busiest was approaching.

With this in mind, I approached Gordon Wiser, the field manager in charge of the farm and asked him about availability. Gordon knew that my work ethic was good and that I was dependable (thanks, Dad), so that when I described Irv and his background, he was interested. He told me to have Irv come for an interview the next morning at start time.

I let Irv know that night and suggested that he have work clothes with him since Gordon was often impetuous in decision-making. Irv picked me up and we drove to Swedesboro together (an event that would be repeated for the next several years as it turns out!).

True to form, Irv was offered the job starting as soon as possible and so he began as soon as the HR stuff was completed. We were working on leased acreage near Auburn and the rest of us were busy planting beans when Irv arrived with Gordon.

I need to pause and interject that Irv played baseball in the men's county league. At the time, I think he was playing for the Pedricktown Peds, I know he played a couple of seasons with them, but it could have been with the Penton team where his two cousins played since I think he played a year with them as well. The point is, those teams depended on players showing up as much as possible since they were men with jobs and families that often would cause absences. 

Back to the story, after about a month, we were now picking string beans and running our tests, sizing them, analyzing yields and the like. One of the tasks to which I was assigned (and did for 9 summers), was canning the beans for shipment to California for tasting and the like. (See the story, “John becomes a Canner” for more details).  Since this was a two man job (though it could be done by one, just not as efficiently or quickly), Irv became my partner.

On the day on this story, we had harvested quite a few beans both green and wax of multiple varieties and the inspection, sorting and weighing had taken a good amount of time. The beans had to be canned while they were fresh, which meant we needed to can them right away. So, Irv and I gathered our bags of beans marked by size, variety and plot and went to our model canning plant sometime around 4 PM. Once the beans were in the can, it would take another 40 minutes to cook in retort and cool. We wouldn't be done until 6:30 or so.

Earlier that morning, Irv had asked Gordon if he thought we would be working late because he had a game. At the time, Gordon indicated that we should be done by 5 or 5:30 with no problem. Here's where the problem began, Gordon came up to our lab about 5PM to check on how we were doing and Irv reminded him that he had to leave for a game shortly. He and Gordon began a lively discussion while I continued to work. After a bit, Irv came over to tell me that he had been fired and wanted to know how I would get home, etc. I was shocked that Gordon would resort to that, but he was always threatening us for infractions of his rules and usually we knew that the threats were generally hollow. I assured Irv that I would be okay and he and Gordon left.

My Uncle Albert’s first wife, Catherine, worked for Del Monte in HR and since payday was the next day, I knew she would be working late so I called her to see if she would still be there about 7 when I estimated I could finish up. She told me she thought it might be around 8 and I said that would be okay.

The next thing I knew, Irv had returned and told me he was rehired if he would stay until 6 or so. I told Irv, we were going to can beans like they had never been canned before and we established an assembly line and went after the task. We were out of there by 6:30 (I did call Aunt Catherine to let her know I had a ride) and Irv made his game late.

Irv probably set a world’s record that day for the shortest time being unemployed.

Davdan @ 2008-2018