My Early Years #socs #JusJan

Source: Google Maps

Once upon a time I worked as a production supervisor at a food company on the Northwest side of Chicago. It was called Newly Weds Foods, because one of their early products was an ice cream cake roll. We made the cake, then sent it to one of the local dairies who would extrude a layer of ice cream on it, then roll the whole thing up. Effectively, it was the marriage of ice cream and cake, thus the name.

Newly Weds made the aforementioned cake and English muffins (with and without raisins) for sale in grocery stores, but the larger part of the business was involved with making batter mixes and breaders for chicken and fish, as well as making cracker meal. It was the first company in the country to make panko, which we sold as Japanese Bread Crumbs. All the equipment to make it was imported from Japan. The way the bread was baked involved putting the raw dough in a box with metal plates on either side, then electrocuting it. The resulting loaves were dried out and run through a machine that shredded the bread and dropped it on a conveyor that ran through an oven to toast the crumbs. They then fell into a storage tank and were bagged on the next floor down.

The company was run by a man named Charles, who took over from his father, who still showed up every day and watched product being made. (Charles’s brother was the data processing department, but he was also a musician, and he and his band rehearsed in an empty storage room in the plant. The only song I ever heard them play was "Just What I Needed" by The Cars.)

Charles had a habit of showing up in the middle of the night and raising hell with the third shift supervisors, of which I was one. He was kind of a tough customer, but he had a good side as well: one night when he was there, a guy I had fired showed up and, in a drunken rage, tried to stab me. He did manage to break my glasses and leave a nasty cut on my back. Charles was the one who took me to the hospital and got me patched up, saw to it that the guy was arrested, and provided an attorney when we went to court. Didn’t pay for new glasses… but that was all right.

I finally found a new job and left the company. He was upset that I only gave a week’s notice, but we parted on pretty good terms.

After I left, the company really grew, largely due to his vision. In addition to batters and breaders, he got into the business of capsicums and flavor packets for the casual restaurant business. They’re all over the world now. Made me kind of sorry I left.

Anyway, I was browsing through Facebook and found their company page, and I learned that Charles passed away before Christmas. Even though he and I had a somewhat contentious relationship, I had to admire the guy for building the company well beyond anything I had imagined, and I won’t forget how he took care of me. May he rest in peace.

Linda is the creator of Stream of Consciousness Saturday, and also of Just Jot It January.

Now a word about Chesterfield King cigarettes. New choice of the men of America!

37 thoughts on “My Early Years #socs #JusJan

  1. You’ve led and interesting life! Having to fire someone is hard, especially when it’s someone else’s idea. I’m glad it turned out okay and the boss helped.

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      1. I know what you mean. It can be hard to find balance between compassion and being the boss. When I was a counseling supervisor, one of my supervisees expressed great appreciation for a supervisory meeting that felt more like counseling. She said it was the best supervisory session she’d ever had. But it was not at all what my boss had trained me to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh John, I can’t even imagine being attacked by a former employee, stabbed & stitched up. How scary that must have been. The 20/20 hindsight thing about leaving, if you stayed maybe the other thing would never have happened. May Charle RIP.

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    1. He didn’t get much behind his thrust, so it ended up more a nasty-looking cut. Oh, and I got a fat lip when he hit it with his head. But he was drunk and not thinking straight. I know what that’s like.

      I’m forever playing “What If?” with my life, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m where I was meant to be. Still, it can be fun…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a tough thing to go through. I am glad you got the care you needed (but he should have paid for your glasses, too.) May he rest in peace.

    (A guy I had a row with at work ended up killing his wife, his three cats and himself. You cannot be too careful.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t make an issue of it. Mary’s prescription was almost the same as mine and she had a pair of glasses that looked manly enough, so I wore those until I changed jobs. As for the guy that stabbed me, the truth was that the first shift supervisor told me to fire him, that I “needed the practice.” At court, he apologized and said “it was Rafael told you to fire me, right?” I saw him not long before I left the company, and you’d have thought he was my best friend…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Well John that sounds like a lively job…. It a really good job that Charles turned up that night even if he was a bit of a hardfaced boss he turned up trump’s when needed. As you say he certainly had a vision and made sure it happened.
    As for leaving before the firm went global it’s as we were saying the other day, what is, maybes and sliding doors…. I believe you were fated to go where you did.
    I’m glad you found the FB page …and as you say God Rest his soul.
    A very interesting read I enjoyed it ๐Ÿ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The company was nowhere near ready to expand until after Charles’s father died. I think his father’s presence kept him from doing a lot. He was a good person at heart, and the company prospered under his leadership, so if he was a bit of a hard-ass, that can be forgiven.

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