I left Taco Bell right before the Christmas holiday in 1978. How that all transpired is a very interesting story in of itself and one I plan to write one day. In just two weeks I stumbled upon a job at the Deuscher Foundry. I stopped into Job Service in downtown Hamilton on the West side of the river and the lady I spoke with said something had just come in and it might be right up my alley. Two interviews later and I was the new assistant production clerk, getting the office experience I wanted. I’ve shared a number of fun stories about Deuscher’s like this one and this one, or even this one. Lunchtime was special there too and so it deserves a little attention.
We didn’t have a cafeteria. The materials we used there led to the place being fairly dirty looking and so a cafeteria was likely not advisable, (unless you wanted to eat black sand on your sandwich, har har). All we really had was a room that had a few wooden picnic tables. There were a couple of these outside the grinding department, in the rear of the property too, but these could only be used when it was warm enough to eat outside. We didn’t even have a microwave oven, so almost every hourly worker brought his lunch to work with him.
We that spent a lot of our time in the offices were no exceptions. A couple of us that lived close to home, (like our Treasurer), would drive home for lunch but most of us popped out our lunch boxes or got our lunch bags out of the small fridge and we’d eat at our desks or at one of the common work tables located in the main office. There would typically be maybe 2-4 of us there on a daily basis, eating and solving the issues of the day. My favorite item to bring in with me in the winter was soup. I had one of those nice Campbell plastic soup containers that I’d fill with scalding hot water in the mornings. Then I’d heat up a can of soup, (tomato or cream of mushroom), and get it scalding hot. I’d empty the water and replace it with hot soup. When lunchtime rolled around, it would be perfect temperature for eating.
One of the older guys, (RIP Pete Bramble), never brought in his lunch and he lived too far away to go home so he’d always go to his favorite local spot; Hyde’s. Hyde’s is a local diner, still open for business (Hydes link http://www.hydesrestaurant.com). Oh, and they make yummy banana cream pies. Every now and again, one or more of us would tag along with Pete. I’d order a good old fashioned burger from the grill, topped off with a piece of pie, of course. The great thing about Hyde’s, (besides the good old fashioned diner food), were the people. (Ok, is it were the people or was the people? Is it the great thing was or is it the people were? Screw it, I’d love to watch the people…there, how’s that….hey, I’m from Hamiltucky, I’m not supposed to have good grammar). You can see all types of people in Hamiltucky – the guy who wears the puppy ears hat or the lady wearing two winter coats in the summer are two good examples. If you’re lucky, you can even get to see a few weirdos.
A lot of my lunch time was spent with ‘the guys’. I’ve always believed that it was important to show people who worked for me that we all had more in common, versus less in common. They don’t get to see that or to understand this unless you spend some time together. I enjoyed playing softball and basketball in our shop leagues, but I did it also to earn their respect. In the summers, sometimes I’d head out behind the grinding department where they had set up a horseshoe pit. We were an iron foundry so making horseshoes and stakes were simple. A few of the older guys from the hills of Kentucky would always have games going and if I showed up, they’d always relish the opportunity to beat me in a game. Naturally I accommodated them and I’m proud to say that I never had to intentionally throw a game just to make them feel good.
My favorite lunchtime special food and activity of all time though was to drive down the street to Dixie Hamburgers, affectionately known as belly bombers. No longer in business, Dixie Hamburger was for years a staple of Lindenwald (one of the Hamilton burgs). Dixie was a classic burger joint, not unlike Reds located in New Miami, Ohio. Dixie had two grills and maybe could seat 20-25 people in total with the bar seats and few tables. On some days I’d announce early to everyone that I was going to Dixie and my coworkers would all chip in, saying how many belly bombers each wanted.
A belly bomber was their famous grilled hamburger; a simple thin beef patty grilled alongside with onions, placed on a small lightly-grilled bun with one pickle. Each bomber was individually wrapped in wax paper and then shoved into a white paper sack for to-go orders. Dixie Hamburger was practicing going green even way back in the 80’s because it didn’t matter how many bombers we ordered, we always seemed to get them stuffed into one single bag. We never complained about this as it was part of the tradition. I’d always ask for a handful of mustard packs for my belly bombers.
Eating our belly bombers was only half the fun. Tom, one of the owners, hated the aroma of those burgers. He claimed they smelled like “a dead goat”. Now, I admit that I’ve never before smelled a live goat, let alone a dead one so I could never debate his assertion. Maybe dead goats smell like grilled onions?
Naturally when I got back with the bag of burgers, we’d all eat them in the main office, just for the fun of listening to Tom’s reaction all afternoon. To make it more fun, usually we’d take a bunch of empty burger wrappers and then we’d bury them at the bottom of Tom’s waste basket located on the floor to his right. All afternoon, you could hear Tom, “whew! Are you sure you guys didn’t eat any of those belly bombers in here? It smells like a dead goat!”
There’s something pleasing and a bit familial about working in a small town and at a small company. For the most part, people are more relaxed around each other. You work with the same tiny group of people for years and so you learn each others’ mannerisms, what makes them laugh and what irks them. I guess that’s one of the aspects that attracted me to my plant assignments while working for P&G, versus trying to cut it in the huge, sometimes cutthroat working environment of the corporate headquarters.
For the last 4-5 years of working at Deuscher’s, (and even in my inexperienced youth), I knew the business was not going to survive. There was so much time there that I felt unchallenged and then there was always that sense of imminent closure, knowing that everyone there would one day lose his job. However though, here I am now 30 years later, able to look back on the fun times we did have.
These days my wife and I are in a bit of location transition, trying to figure out where to plant our roots. One option has us getting a small place back in our Hamiltucky hometown. If that happens, it looks like I’m going to have to make a trip to a place called Sweden Creme. They’re claiming they have brought back the Dixie burger to Lindenwald. I’ll be the judge of that!