Sleeping on the Job - Part One

Falling asleep on the Job - Part One


Falling asleep while working is probably only valid as a mattress tester, most other jobs have rules that frown on the practice. This being said, I have been guilty twice that I can remember and this is the first instance, hence the title Part One.

In the Spring of 1963, just before my sophomore year at Rutgers, I didn't have a summer job. The year before, I had worked for my Grandfather, Powie, as his driver for his cigar distribution company (Layton Cigar Co.).

But, he had passed away in January, 1963 and his company went back to the main company (Bayuk Cigars) due to outstanding debt to them. Ergo, I had no job. 

My Uncle Fletcher (Mom's brother and Powie's son) worked for Campbell Soup Company in Camden NJ and I knew that it was one of the various companies in South Jersey that bottled catsup in the summer. So, I went to see him to ask if Campbell's hired seasonal labor. Unfortunately they did not, but since he was a Vice President in the company and knew many of his opposite number representatives in other companies, he sent me to see a Sales VP he was friendly with at Del Monte in Swedesboro, NJ.

I don't remember the man's name today, but he was a nice guy and assured me that Del Monte hired a lot of seasonal workers and liked college kids since they had motivation. He made a couple of calls and told me that I could start that next night on third shift (11 to 7) on one of the bottling lines. He also said he was trying to get me a day job that would be more challenging.

So, I returned that day after a rather fitful and not very resting nap and was assigned to the capper machine. The job was really easy; make sure the hopper with the bottle caps never emptied, assure that it didn't jam and keep an eye on the bottles after they left the capper. The first several hours went okay, though they were very mind numbing and I felt this was going to be easy money.

Suddenly, the guy at the boxing station (where the bottles were put into boxes and sealed) was shaking me awake. It was about 3 AM or so and there were a ton of bottles with no caps on the line heading for the boxing station. We stopped the line briefly and brought the bottles back. After filling the hopper, we started the line and I spent the next half hour putting bottles back in the system. Needless to say, the adrenaline I received kept me alert at my station the remainder of the night and the other guy and I laughed about our near disaster.

At 7AM, the shift supervisor told me to report to the office to see Gordon Wiser and I thought I was in trouble. It turned out that no one knew I had been sleeping on the job and that Gordon was the Field Manager in charge of the research farm. He wanted me to work for his group, all day work and a variety of farm type activities. He wanted me to start right away, but I negotiated a half day and worked till noon.

I didn't fall asleep there and kept that summer job for nine years. 

Davdan @ 2008-2018