OUR MOVE TO THE U.S.A.
We arrived on March 28, 1971, and while Wilma got a start with the Clover division of Strawbridge & Clothier, I did not have the same good fortune. Instead of getting a position at Budd's, I found by then, they were cutting back and had no jobs available. This started a humiliating round of interviews and refusals and sheer frustration. Back home up and down the Clyde, I had connections and never had any problems getting job offers. I found here that sometimes good jobs were advertised, but when pursued, I found they were just bait to get you involved with some shyster employment agency. Finally, I took a job as a lathe hand in a grubby little factory in Kensington and worked there for a week or two. Then I got a letter from a company in Southampton offering me a Q. C. job. It was made to sound like the most important position in the plant and naļve enough, I quit the lathe job and went after the Q. C. job. In my past experience in Scotland, no matter where you went to work, there was a rate for the job and always a considerable differential for positions of any authority. But after I was committed to this Q. C. job, I found I was being paid about the same as the floor sweeper, but I was expected to have the know-how to measure up jobs with extremely tight tolerances. I had to do surface table measuring with joblocks and Vernier-clock gauges. The head man said that I would get increases after a time, but what really happened was that at the end of their fiscal year, they were in the red, so I got laid off. After another round of job seeking, I got word to go back to Southampton because they were hiring again. I went back after a discussion about money, but I found that I was not getting any more than I had the first time. I think it was about $4 an hour, which after deductions for I. R. S. and Social Security, didn't leave a lot. I made it clear that I wasn't pleased about the situation and he accused me of being surly, and he was right. I was being used and didn't like it. Finally, we had another to-do, and he fired me, which was a first for me. I've never worked anywhere where I was less appreciated than in that dump.
Shortly after this, I got an address from the State Employment Office to go for an interview. It turned out to be the Bunting Company, who specialized in the manufacture of wrought iron and aluminium garden furniture, but who were dabbling in the manufacture of "knock-down" indoor easy chairs, sofas, and tables. It was not the kind of close tolerance work I had been used to, but I was pretty desperate and I was glad to get anything. I started as an inspector, walking the floor and checking machine operations like bending, welding and riveting. The money was nothing like what it should have been, and I spent quite a bit of time bitching about money. I got one or two piddling raises from time to time, but it wasn't till Bunting got involved with some government contracts that they decided to bring their Q. C. into the twentieth century. So they gave me a title of Q. C. Manager, and started some more inspectors. Unfortunately, they would not shell out enough money for experienced men, so I was running a mediocre operation, which meant I had to be constantly on their backs.
The first thing I had to do was write a Q. C. manual with Q. C. procedures for every stage of the work, but even doing this, I did not get as much money as I should. I reached the point where I was getting a liveable wage, which I sometimes bolstered a bit with mileage for doing outside work at places selling the product. I liked the work well enough and although I wasn't living on the fat of the land, we got by. We got an apartment when I went to Bunting, then later moved to a better apartment on Rhawn Street, where we lived for about eight years. But more on Bunting... When writing the Q. C. manual, I had to list the chain of command from the president on down, and it will give some idea if I provide you with some of that list here. The president was Charles (Chuck) Rice, who spoke with a real "Dan Sath" accent. I think he was from Alabama. The vice president was Dick Verville, from Massachusetts and Dick was my immediate boss. These were the two to whom I reported and who both got a daily written report. There was another man, Ed Sears, who was supposed to be customer service manager, but who developed back trouble and later had to have fusion surgery on his spine. At any rate, he gradually eased himself into a desk job doing forward planning and I got stuck with Customer Service, too. In this capacity, I had to deal with complaints from customers and from stores who had problems with any of Bunting's products. Dick would call me up and say "I've got so-and-so on the line bitching about something and I don't know what he means. Talk to him and use your Scottish charm to calm him down!" And so it went. I had to reply diplomatically to written complaints, because Dick couldn't write a letter to save his life. I sometimes had to go out to big stores, like Sears or Strawbridge's and many others around the tri-state area, to investigate or fix complaints. Other times, I had to drive to the airport and fly to Milwaukee, which meant changing planes in Chicago or Detroit. Or to High Point, North Carolina, where Bunting had a permanent show and agency.
J.C. Penney had a place uptown in New York, which I believe was for catalogue sales, and I went there fairly regularly, driving up and back. It made life interesting.
Another of the periodic happenings at Bunting's were staff meetings chaired by Chuck Rice, and were usually held in a private room in some restaurant in the area. Valentino's was one of them, as was the Open Hearth at Pennypack Circle. I don't know how much was achieved at these meetings, but I know the liquor consumption was prodigious, because it was on the company! We also had an annual banquet, usually held in places like Holiday Inn, where we took our wives. The first time we went to one of these shindigs, Chuck Rice was in the lobby greeting his guests, and he was a real B.S. artist. He put his arm around my shoulder and said to Bessie -- "You know, this is one of our top men in the plant and he does a great job for us up there." That and a lot of stuff in the same vein. Bessie was not impressed and said to me after we got inside, "Who does he think he's kidding?" She knew the score and knew it was all so much fluff. Chuck believed in buttering up the help and keeping their ego well stroked.
One little item or happening that I quite unintentionally caused there. As I was always used to doing at home in Scotland, I went to work in a jacket and tie, and indeed wore a Homburg in Scotland. In Bunting's, it was hard to know who was staff and who were workers, because some of the floor supervisors were positively scruffy. In Scotland, a foreman or supervisor had to look the part with white shirt and tie and management had to be seen as managers. Some time after I started at Bunting, a memo was sent out to say that staff and supervisors were to wear ties and observe a dress code which would let their status be seen. I wasn't really aware that I had caused this until Dick told me much later. This goes back to something my father said years and years ago, when he told me, "If you want to get ahead and get a good job, you must look the part." I always tried to do that, and I had a built-in aversion to looking scruffy. I even shaved every day. Dick used to get me to take some of the VIPs from Washington, government inspectors, etc., to lunch and the dress code probably influenced him. It may also have been the reason I was the guest of Mr. Bamberger, the C. E. O. of the big store chain, who was very pleased at some service I did for his company, attending quickly to a problem. I got other commendations from other customers, both corporate and private, and Dick kept telling me how much Chuck appreciated it. But it never did get me the kind of financial rewards I was expecting. I got a few piddling increases and one of $25 a week. So although I never made "big bucks," I never had a dull moment, and my working life was full of interest.