So the Little Orphan Granny arrived at Pidgeon-Thomas Iron Works in Memphis for his second quarter, the winter quarter of 1953, to report to work. The Orphan, as he would over and over again throughout his life, entered a whole new world.
Pidgeon-Thomas supplied 50,001 building supply products. At one time – during WWII -- Pidgeon-Thomas Iron Works manufactured Navy LCTs -- landing craft tanks.
They also had a small design department, a fabrication shop and a construction company. The Orphan was initially assigned to the design department.
The Orphan was assigned by the Chief Draftsman, Al Laurence, to a drafting table and told to design a beam shown on an architect’s drawing and then “…draft…” the beam design on an original sketch pad with a set of carbon copies so the shop could fabricate the beam. The Orphan designed that beam and drew the design on a set
of carbons, and, after the checker approved the drawing, the shop fabricated it.
Both Chief Draftsman Al Laurence and Assistant Chief Draftsman George Schmidt looked with favor on this deed, and with two sighs of relief, filled The Orphan’s table to the ceiling with tasks.
The Orphan met many great people at Pidgeon-Thomas who patiently taught him what he needed to know.
He met Placid Pete Peterson (a breed called a Montanan) and Goosey Roy Golightly – also draftsmen. He also met Logical Jim Lonsdale and Outstanding Fred Osterloh, estimators; Grumpy Gerald Golightly (the elder brother of Goosey Golightly), shop superintendent; Crass Claude Tate, field superintendent; and Careful Charlie
Bull, Chief Engineer.
He also met Jump-in-the-Sack Joy – a secretary and other things. The Orphan was to find out about the other things in a Crosley Station Wagon with the seats removed … his first REAL religious experience. Little did the innocent Orphan know that Jump-in-the-Sack Joy’s hobby was “…sleeping…” with every male at
Pidgeon-Thomas Iron Works and that she had a rating system that she shared with all of the people. The Orphan went to work the next day to snickering, lewd grins from all of them.
There were also Frank Pidgeon, Sr., Phil Pidgeon, Sr., Eugene Pidgeon, Sr., Frank Pidgeon, Jr., Phil Pidgeon, Jr., and Eugene Pidgeon, Jr. but no Thomases. There were rumors but never any data – that in the beginning there was a partnership between the Pidgeons and the Thomases.
The Orphan enjoyed being home, but when that winter quarter was finished, was also glad to return to UT Knoxville for the 1953 spring quarter.
When The Orphan went to his second freshman quarter Engineering Drawing Class and laid out his professional equipment that he used at Pidgeon-Thomas on his board, The Professor, Knowledgeable Newton, came over and observed,
“…Frazier (he did not know the real Orphan’s name), I can see that you are a Co-op Student and are now a trained draftsman. Rather than doing the text exercises, I have a special assignment for you…”
Knowledgeable Newton then handed The Orphan a molded cast pump housing and said,
“…Draw a set of drawings so that this pump can be manufactured and you will be awarded an “A”…”
Later, The Orphan learned that all Professors made a lot of money by doing things like this – but The Orphan did not care. The Orphan learned more than the other students. The Orphan also got an “A.”
The second freshman quarter at UT in the spring of 1953 was easier than the first one because a quarter at work gave time for The Real Granville to organize and file the knowledge gained from the first quarter of school.
For example, it was now clear that differential calculus was a manufactured mathematical process for studying rates of change. Also, The Real Granville learned that the process of teaching Chemistry was a sham because the texts lied. They taught “…Rules…” that never worked. Learning Chemistry was to learn the ways the
rules failed by studying the way things really worked.
There was a longtime valuable lesson from The Orphan’s observation of this chemistry subterfuge because “…rules…” were always to be suspect.
The Orphan observed that the “…True Believers…” of the world, who live rigidly by these “…chemistry…” kinds of “…rules…” as if they were absolute, always missed the real points. The “…Experts…” who made these kinds of “…rules…” were not always right, nor were they always “…Experts…”
The Orphan became known in his later career at The Mighty Boeing as a “…Rule Maker …” as well as the necessary corollary -- a “…Rule Breaker …”
The Orphan was greatly respected for his new variations on rules – but, in a bureaucracy like The Mighty Boeing – BEWARE -- “…rules…’’ were absolute for the masses (“…Villagers…,” as one of the Commercial Airplane Division Presidents, Wrongful Woodard, called them). Also remember that half of the people in the world have
an IQ below 100 – and Boeing apparently captured a disproportionate share of that half.
What the self-appointed elitists such as Awful Albrecht and Wrongful Woodard never knew was that their higher IQs were wasted since they made less use of their brains than the lesser gifted!
The Orphan aced the second school quarter – spring of 1953 -- and elicited a smile from Tough Thomas. After paying the $3.00 work quarter tuition, The Orphan returned to work at Pidgeon-Thomas that summer. There, because of overlap, The Orphan met his Co-op team partner Wallace Ray Weathersby – Righteous Ray. The Co-op
partners, Orphan and Righteous, formed a life-long friendship!
The Orphan spent that second work quarter in design again and worked all of the hours available. The Orphan was earning $.75 an hour! Then around that time, the minimum wage was raised from $.75 to $1.75 per hour – a 233% increase – the largest percentage raise of the Orphan’s career anywhere!
In the fall of 1953, The Orphan returned to UT for the last quarter of his freshman year – again refreshed from the work quarter and with The Real Granville having both school quarters and both work quarters organized and summarized. Again, The Orphan aced the school quarter.
Returning to work for the winter quarter of 1954, The Orphan found himself assigned to a Field Engineering Job to be located on a site in Jackson, Tennessee, to do the steel erection leveling and production records for an Alcoa Aluminum Hot and Cold Rolling Mill -- along with being timekeeper and the entire payroll
While in Jackson, The Orphan lived in a seedy run-down motel with only one standard double bed with a giant Irishman named Bull Giddens. Bull was the Foreman for the Pidgeon-Thomas Iron Works Construction Company.
Bull was about six and one-half feet tall and weighed close to 260 pounds – most of it muscle. When sleeping in the same bed, Bull’s feet stuck out the bottom and his side of the bed sank until the mattress springs were fully compressed. The 150 pounds and six-foot length of The Orphan had to sleep with one arm clutching
the edge of the 30 degree angled mattress.
“…Good night, Sweetie…” to The Orphan just before turning out the light exacerbated this mattress clutching. During this time The Orphan slept with his underwear ON and never rolled downhill toward Bull!
The good news was that Pidgeon-Thomas paid for the room and provided a food allowance as well as the use of a pick-up truck for transportation. Thus The Orphan was able to save even more of his earnings for school.
This was an enormous experience because The Orphan met a new race of people named “…Ironworkers…” The Orphan personally met Crass Claude, Pidgeon-Thomas Iron Works Construction Superintendent (but The Orphan NEVER slept with Crass Claude) and Bull Giddens the Foreman, as well as a plethora of Ironworkers that were
collected from “…Union Halls…” and formed into a crew.
The Orphan learned to wear a belt with spud wrenches – wrenches with one end pointed so they could be used to align to holes between beams and columns as well as to tighten nuts. The Orphan learned to climb wide flanged columns by locking his boot between two flanges and to walk nonchalantly along a 12’ beam flange 60 feet
above the ground.
Several experiences that were to be life lessons stand out during this time in the field.
One was a confrontation between The Orphan’s roommate, The Foreman Bull Giddens, and a Consolidated Construction bulldozer operator, over an incident with an ironworker. Bull had a kind of lisp and used many of the ironworker terms of endearment such as “sunabitch,” “muthafugga” and asshole.
The bulldozer operator inadvertently banged into a column on which the ironworker was perched precariously, waiting for the headache ball carrying a beam to swing in place so he could use his spud wrench to align the beam with the column, insert a bolt and tighten the nut.
A spud wrench has many uses but one new one that The Orphan observed was as an object to be thrown at someone who has annoyed an ironworker. The wrench made about three turns before crashing through the windshield, barely missing the bulldozer operator and then lodging in the seatback.
Bull ran up to the operator and used a stream of ironworker terms of endearment on the operator. The operator dismounted the bulldozer and approached Bull with the admonition to not “cuss” him.
Bull, unaware that the operator had a 14” Stilson wrench behind his leg, raised his hands to placate the angry operator, who assumed that Bull was attacking and hit Bull on the side of his head with a mighty swing of the wrench. Bull went down for the count.
The operator ran away and The Orphan took Bull to the hospital emergency room to be repaired with many stitches. Unbeknownst to Bull and The Orphan, the bulldozer operator had run to his car to get a revolver to shoot Bull before he came to. The Consolidated Construction Superintendent disarmed and fired the operator – and
had him forcibly removed from the construction site.
Later, The Orphan learned that Bull had finally found the operator at a saloon and pool hall in Mississippi and had completely worn out a pool cue on the operator!
The Orphan learned to never “cuss” a bulldozer operator and to always look out for 14” Stilson wrenches.
Another adventure was when one of the younger ironworkers had found a woman who was desirable – to him – but who would not go out with him to The Hilltop Tavern unless an escort was found for her 17-year-old daughter. The Orphan was selected as the escort.
In the backseat of the ironworker’s 1952 Ford V-8 sedan considerable grab-ass was occurring between The Orphan and the daughter – when, after a steamy while, the girl told The Orphan that he could have his way with her if he could get her blue jeans off.
The Orphan was strong -- The Orphan was skilled -- The Orphan was focused. These blue jeans did not have any buttons or zippers that The Orphan could find. The Orphan had no knife. The Orphan could neither remove nor penetrate those blue jeans!
Later The Orphan found that the style of blue jeans she was wearing had a zipper hidden in the pocket. Education is hard. Woman is perfidious.
On arriving at The Hilltop Tavern, the ironworker found that the woman and her daughter were “…friends…” with the band and were not interested in either The Orphan or the ironworker. The trip back to Jackson in that 1952 Ford V-8 sedan was at a speed always above 100 mph. The Orphan survived and had learned new things
about blue jeans.
One more experience exposed the “…sophistication…” of The Orphan College Student.
The ironworkers had semi-adopted The Orphan as a kind of a mascot and took him along when work was over. The ironworkers relaxed by drinking beer, wrecking taverns and beating on each other with various objects. Work always started the next day with numerous re-countings of these adventures.
The ironworkers had unusual senses-of-humor. For example, in one of the taverns there were “…Wild and Wicked Women…” who sat on laps and “wiggled” a lot. One of these was a really fat one, who suddenly leapt up from a whispering group of ironworkers and yelled loudly,
“…Where is that Virgin Boy? He’s mine…”
The Orphan, remembering Jump-in-the-Sack Joy, looked around to see who the victim might be before realizing she was storming for The Orphan. The Real Granville screamed,
“…Orphan, see why you are an orphan. Get the hell out of here…”
The Orphan leapt to his feet, turned, tripped over a chair and by partially crawling and running fled the premises – alone! Life is truly an adventure and the Orphan learned to be ever wary of Wild and Wicked Women.
In the spring of 1954 the Orphan returned to UT to begin his first sophomore quarter. The sophomore and junior work and school years in 1954, 1955 and 1956 were a blur of hard work and studying with almost no time for any recreation. (As will be seen in Chapters 19 and 20 of The Early Adventures, there were major
changes in the routine as the Orphan approached graduation and eventual enslavement by The Mighty Boeing.)
A few things stand out during The Orphan’s junior year.
One was that The Orphan had to go to class the fall 1955 and winter 1956 quarters in a row to successfully get the classes he needed. This resulted in The Orphan and Righteous Ray becoming roommates – Righteous moved from the dorm to Tough Thomas’s house where The Orphan still roomed.
Righteous Ray’s less conservative and wilder younger brother then joined the Co-op Program and became the new alternating work partner of The Orphan – thus Pidgeon-Thomas had yet another different face for their employee.
Normally The Orphan studied continuously when at school – rest could occur during work quarters.
Righteous Ray had a different plan than that usually used by The Orphan – which was to study until passing out – which Righteous imposed on The Orphan:
(1) Eight hours of sleep per night were required.
(2) Immediately after the last class of the day, one hour of ferocious handball was required followed by a short swim and a shower.
(3) A good meal was required – usually in the cafeteria.
(4) Then, studying occurred until bedtime.
While rooming with Righteous Ray, The Orphan moved the quality of his “acing” class quarters from earning mostly "A”s and a few “B”s to earning straight “A”s.
This regime still left The Orphan with no social life at all other than handball while at the university for class quarters.
The second thing that stands out was that during his final work quarter in the spring of 1956, The Orphan was assigned to work for Logical Lonsdale and Outstanding Osterloh in The Estimating Department at Pidgeon-Thomas – partly a business job. This taught The Orphan to make bids -- which had to both win the job and also
make a profit – sometimes a thin line between success and failure.
The Orphan learned that “…suppliers…” to Pidgeon-Thomas also wanted a profit and that architects were crazy – not architectural engineers (though even they were not totally sane) -- but the Frank Lloyd Wright kind of architects.
Of course, The Orphan still had adventures while on work quarters – but not many.
One adventure occurred because The Orphan had re-established contact with The Gail when both were both in Memphis at the same time. The Gail had graduated from Central High School with a record of all “A”s (except for one “B” when The Gail was too sick to complete her assignments from
Miss Grace Mauzy – who, when
challenged by Mrs. Cox, The Gail’s mother, replied that it was not good for a student to have ALL “A”s – and refused to change the grade).
The Gail had received a fully paid scholarship to a girl’s college named H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College on the Campus of Tulane University located in New Orleans – but she only had to attend school three quarters a year and stayed home summer quarters.
The Orphan decided to visit The Gail in New Orleans. When the adventurous Daddy found that The Orphan was planning to take the family 1954 Plymouth Plaza to drive to New Orleans, The Daddy decided that The Orphan needed backup. The Orphan carefully explained that a parent on a date was a bad plan. The Daddy assured The
Orphan that The Daddy would have his own plan.
By spending a disproportionate amount of his money hoard, The Orphan discovered “Hurricanes” from Pat O’Brien’s in The French Quarter and more food and drink from Antoine’s in the posh district as well as a neat parking spot on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
The Orphan and The Gail made a mutual plan for a religious experience while parked the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, but it was spoiled by an involuntary response of The Gail from too much and too many flavors of
ethanol. Her response was to quickly roll down the passenger side window of the family 1954 Plymouth Plaza and emit all of her stomach’s content in a projectile process.
The Orphan was unaware that much of this emission was splashed all down the outside of the passenger door. The next day, when The Daddy observed the deposit while preparing to return to Memphis, he smugly said,
“…Must have been one hell of a night…”
Another “…adventure…” that stands out occurred during the final work quarter in the spring of 1956, just before the third junior year school quarter. The Orphan met up with a former classmate from Central High School named Billie Jean at a swimming pool. In High School, Billie Jean had seemed a quiet, plainly pretty,
straight-haired redhead with freckles who always knew the answers in class and always made straight “A”s. Billie Jean even won spelling bees.
This “…new…” Billie Jean was the divorced mother of a 9-month-old baby boy – and had magically transformed into a beautiful, full-bodied woman but still with straight long red hair. When this new Billie Jean later called The Orphan and asked that he “…see…” her, The Orphan was startled but pleased. The hesitant Orphan took
Billie Jean and her baby to Airways Drive-in Movie Theater where the two had a real religious experience in the front seat of a 1954 Plymouth Plaza while the baby was asleep in the back seat.
These religious experiences happened numerous times until one day Billie Jean said,
“…Do you love me enough to marry me and take care of me forever…?”
The Real Granville screamed and the scream blurted its way out of the mouth of The Orphan,
“…I am too young and inexperienced to marry. I am not yet able to care for myself much less for a family…”
Billie Jean said,
“…Thank you for being honest. I could not stand to have another failed marriage with someone who does not love me. I will go to my Grandmother’s in Texas to have the baby. Of course we will not see each other again. Goodbye and good luck…”
The Real Granville made a real ass out of himself, saying,
“…Orphan, see why you are an orphan. BABY! BABY! What have you done? We must go to The Forbidding Giant in his guise as The Daddy and ask for advice…”
In his guise as The Daddy, The Forbidding Giant said,
“…What! What! You must pack up your bags and return to UT tonight…”
The Orphan did not return to UT until his assigned time but he never saw or heard from Billie Jean again – and will always wonder.
The Orphan completed his work experience as a Co-op student at Pidgeon-Thomas and returned to UT for the last quarter of his junior year in the summer of 1956, although The Orphan continued to work at Pidgeon-Thomas as a temporary employee during all breaks, holidays and vacations since he had become a valuable employee.