My blog has inspired me to think of fresh things to write about. I remember telling my editor, Cal Kendall (my Bowdoin college roommate) my 'next book' might be my autobiography. He replied, "Hank, I think you've already written that." refering to my books about my father, the yarn business, and our theatre business. Dr. Cal may be right but I still think I have lots to write about that haven't been covered—and perhaps, some day, someone might be interested in what I've said. My brother Peter died a year ago of Parkinson's disease. Just before he died, he sent me a package of his writings with no note of any kind. After he died, I read these over and sent them to Dr. Cal. We both decided to put together a book we'll probably call, "Peter's Writings" and publish it this spring. Peter was a great writer and often wrote about his own life growing up in the small Connecticut town where we lived. His writing was imaginative, interesting, informative, and, at times, quite hilarious. My own writing is, as my daughter Jan says, "Just the facts, Man." I'll attempt to make my writing more than 'just the facts.'
This morning I lay awake at our Hilton Head house on Mossy Ooks Lane thinking about things to write about that might not have been covered in my books. Ah Ha, my summer jobs! I don't think I've covered that in my books and perhaps our children and grandchildren might be interested in this.
My Twin sister and I were determined to start working as soon as we turned 16. I believe she had worked as a waitress in Barnstable even before age 16 as she was especially determined to get 'out of the house.' Mercy looked older that I did at this age and was socially more adapt.
My first job was in dad's textile mill in Moosup, Connecticut, Carvill Combing Company. I was 16 and my father was determined for his oldest son to 'Start at the bottom and learn the business.' At this point, 1949, I had graduated from Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire—a pre-boarding school covering grades 6 through 9, and was headed to Tabor Academy for my high school years. I hardly weighed more than 100 pounds and looked more like 13 than 16. Mercy referred to me as, "My younger brother." I was actually seven miniutes younger than she was but probably looked two years younger at thius age.
Dad's operation in Moosup, Connecticut consisted of the Carvill Combing Company—a mill across the Moosup River from his main plant, Brunswick Worsted Mills. Carvel's operation started with grease wool from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. This wool was right off the sheep's back. It came to Carvill in heavy bales which had to be opened and the wool spread out on special tables. Here, wool-sorters selected the fibers according to the blend they were working on—the finer wools going into the manufactiure of worsted materials and the coarser wools going into making hand knitting yarns. The selected wools were then washed (scoured) and combed (hence the name 'Carvill Combing')and produced a continuous rope-like material called "tops." These tops were either transported across the bridge separating dad's two mills, where they became the first operation in Brunswick's spinning department, or put into a warehouse to be sold to other spinners.
My very first job was at Carvill, opening the grease wool bales and lifting the 35 pound fleeces up on to the table for the sorters. It was summertime and the temperature inside the Carvill plant must have been 95 degrees—and no air conditioning. I was determined to do a good job and please both my father and the mill manager, John Ramsey. Well, grease wool is shoved into those berlap bags with as much piss, shit, and corruption the famers could get away with. The smell was awful and that, combined with the heat, did me in. I actually passed out the very first morning and woke up back home reeking of grease wooland totally embarrassed. I thought to myself, 'I'll never make it in the worsted business with this kind of a start.'
After a couple of days recouperating, I went back to work and stayed there for at least a month. Dad probably took me out of the mill later that summer to go cruising with him on his new Stonington Motor Sailer.
My next summer at age 17, I worked again at dad's Brunswick plant, this time in the spinning department in Moosup. My boss was a kind man named Arthur Bateman. He treated me more as a student than an employee, knowing that I was the boss' son and might possibly be in the business some day. It is interesting that ten years later, when I was working full-time in dad's business, I asked Mr. Batemen to move to South Carolina and take over our new spinning plant there. He did a fine job in Pickens.I rememnber the summer of 1950. I mostly worked at the mill as I believe Mercy was working on Cape Cod. Dad's business was busyand I began thinking about whether I wanted to make textiles my career choice or not. I learned how to 'splice up two ends on a spinning frame' that summer and enjoyed hearing the employees talk about their lives. I was growing up.
The summer of 1951, dad made a deal with the owner of another worsted mill in Plymouth, Massachusetts named Phil Barnes. Barnes Worsted Mill was a Brunswick competitor that only wove material. They were interested in expanding their operation in Kingston, Massachusetts to finishing their woven materials and agreed for two Barnes' sons, Phil. Jr. and Souther, to work in the finishing department at Brunswick and I would learn the weaving operation in their Kingston mill.
I remember Phil and Souther arriving in Moosup where I'd rented an apartment for them near a Frech Restaurant called The Chateau Lorraine. They arrived in their Model T Ford and worked for about a month at Brunswick. I left the next day for Plymouth and the Barnes Mill. My Grandmother Hussey lived in Plymouth where her late husband had been a Unitarian Minister for many years. She arranged for me to stay in a one-room and bath apartment with my grandfather's replacement, a divinity student from Harvard who was now the minister in Plymouth.
I reported for duty at the Barnes mill in Kingston, MA. The manager was a former Englishman who treated me well and taught me how to weave. At the end of my six weeks at Barnes, Mr. Barnes helped me design a piece of cloth that I then wove into enough yardage to have a suit made by a tailor in Boston. I was proud of what I'd accomplished and have fond memories of that summer when I spent some time with my cousin, Ellen Mandell, and got to know this famous town where the Pilgrims settled in 1620. At the end of my six weeks at Barnes, I left to go to work for a guy named Jim Busher at the Puritan Mill in Plymouth. For some reason, I thought Barnes only wanted me there for six weeks but I later learned Mr. Barnes expected me to work the entire summer and was surprised when I left for the Puritan Mill. It's also interesting that I later hired Jim Busher from Puritan as a menswear-designer at Brunswick (circa 1963) but that didn't work out.
Summer of 1952 was a turning point in my life. Mercy and I decided we'd like to work for our father's friend, W. Stewart Woodfill, at his hotel, The Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island, Michigan—the largest summer hotel in the world. We'd both graduated from prep-school (Rogers Hall and Tabor) and wanted to get out of New England and go exploring. Unfortunately, Mercy's friend, who was going with us, backed out the night before we were to leave in our 1952 Ford and Mercy decided not to go by herself with me. My late brother Peter drove with me as far as Detroit and took the train back home. I continued on to Mackinac and worked for Mr. Woodfill and his splendid hotel. 49 Years later, I wrote my third book: W. Stewart Woodfill, Master of Mackicac's Grand Hotel, and introduced it at the Grand Hotel on this beautiful island. My Editor, Cal Kendall and his wife, Ellie were with most of my family, Pat, and me together with Mr. Woodfill's lawyer,Thomas Winquist and grand-nephew, Dan Musser, Jr., President of the Grand.
That summer was definitely a 'growing up experience.' I got to know lots of mid-westerners and thoroughly enjoyed working at the Grand as a cashier at their Snack Bar. I roomed with Mr. Woodfill's nephew, Bill Morrison, who taught me how to play golf and enjoy life. I returned at the end of the summer and visited my uncle Allen and Aunt Margaret in Chillicothe, Ohio on my way back to Connecticut. I started my freahman year at Bowdoin College that fall.
My summer of 1953 is a little vague to me. I think I worked at Brunswick again but don't recall. I may have gotten this summer mixed up with my 1951 summer at Barnes Worsted.
Summer of 1954 was another unusual experience. A group of Bowdoin fraternity brothers and I agreed to go to the University of Washington Alpha Delta Phi Convention in June after our spohomore year. Jake Celosse, an exchange student from Holland, Dave Lavender, from Ohai, California, Charles Norman Jansen LaPalme, a quiet, singer with the Bowdoin Meddiebemsters, and Bill Hale, a wise-guy from Millinocket, Maine joined me in my Ford car. We drove across the United States, sleeping on greens at golf courses as we didn't have much money. We visited many interesting places along the way and remember especially the Grand Tetons of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Eventually we made it to Seattle and the site of the convention. I remember the AD house there fixed us all up with dates with co-eds at Washington. Mine was a beautiful blond gal, who took one look at me and left me standing. I knew I would be out of my element at a huge University like that. The Convention was ok and we left for Southern California at the end of our week in Seattle. I do remember watching a professional tennis Match that week.
My summer job involved driving a truck for a fellow named Larry Krauss. Dad had gotten to know Larry Krauss when he was a contractor in Plainfield, CT. He and his wife and four children picked up stakes in Connecticut and drove to the Los Angeles area. As he drove into town with his dump-truck towed behind their car, he met a man who worked for Anthony Swimming Pools. Larry was hired as a sub-contractor and started digging holes for private swimming pools—of which there were a lot in this warm area.
I showed up at Larry Krauss front door in mid-juane 1954. He took one look at me and said, "I hired a truck driver. You aren't old enough or big enough to drive a 2 1/2 Ton truck." I countered, "I am 21 years old and please don't judge a book by its cover. I can drive your truck. Just give me a chance to prove that." I drove for him that entire summer. We built holes for swimming pools and never saw a finished pool, except for the one in the Krauss back yard. I also became theier baby-sitter and the four Krauss children taught me how to swim that summer. M. Krauss learned that I could drive for him and actually offerred me a job full-time at the end of that summer. When I told him I had to return to college, he fired me and I returned by myself to Moosup, Connecticut. Dad and I cruised to Maine that fall before I returned to Bowdoin. While off the Maine coast we rode a hiurricane out in Boothbay Harbor—that I've written about elsewhere.
Summer of 1955 was spent at ROTC Summer Camp in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I'd takedn Army Reserve Officer's Training Corps at Bowdoin. It required a six week basic training course as cadets—pretty gruesome at times. I survived and returned to do more cruising with dad.
I graduated from Bowdoin in 1956 and entered the U. S. Army for two years in November. I worked again at Brunswick, mostly in the New York Showroom with a Herb Starkey.This was an interim job before I reported for active duty as a second lieutenant. I was officially an adult and my summer jobs were behind me. I'd learned a lot on those jobs and, although I'd pretty much decided not to go into the family business, when I entered the Army, some major HMH Life Events would occur that altered those plans. I have written extensively about that in my 2012 book, Brunswick Yarns, An American Family Business.In 1957 and '58 I lived in France where I commanded a petroleum company with more than 50 men. I was the only officer and really grew up fast. Pat joined me in late 1958 after we were married in Atlanta and we flew back to Europe after our wedding—honeymooning in Germany at Garmisch.
Nowadays, with four adults and their spouses plus eight grandchildren in our extended-family, Pat and I are watching these young Haskells, Summers, Fletchers, and Mohrs find themselves. I plan to write more about this progeny know that my summer jobs helped me find what I wanted to do as an adult and we've seen