Having apparently graduated from High School, I found myself accepted by Adelphi University where I was a “new” girl, a freshman, “frosh” with no status at all, – once again. It was like being constantly told , having arrived at the front of the queue to return to the back and start all over.
I was expected to wear a beanie, to advertise the fact that I was this lowly individual who should be hazed. “Nuts to that”, I muttered, tossing my beanie aside. I decided I would try to blend in which wasn’t difficult, as everybody else was running around doing what college kids do, I suppose.
Anyway, who had time for all that stuff.
My new job was in a factory somewhere just off Jericho Turnpike in Syosset. I think I found it by looking in the newspaper. The job involved assembling printed circuit boards and small electrical items. I was interviewed by the boss, who was a pleasant seeming man from Germany, named Bruno. He would have accepted anyone, but I didn’t know it at the time!
Putting things together was something I could do. As a child I loved playing with mechano and mini bricks, and I used to build houses out of shoeboxes for my little ceramic animals. (“Whimseys”)
So after watching a few demonstrations, I was happy to sit on my stool and mind my own business. The factory had an evening shift which worked out well, and I got a raise! Now I was earning $1.50 an hour. I managed to work twenty hours a week which kept me busy, but I still had to live “at home”.
The work was not hard. Most of the workers came out from Brooklyn every day in a mini bus. I think the factory had been located there originally.
The Brooklyn gang of course all knew one another and they chattered away in Spanish most of the time. A couple of older women did not speak Spanish. I had the impression they may have previously been floor supervisors. They were tough, but friendly.
Everyone got on fine, except that one of the guys sort of liked young girls a bit too much.
By now I knew only too well to be distrustful of men, so I did my best to avoid contact. But one day I needed to go in to a closed room to do something with the device I was working on and “Romeo” followed me in. I fast-stepped around the counter as he closed in on me, trying to grab a feel.
Fortunately, the older ladies knew all about “Romeo ” and his moves, and one of them had seen him follow me into the room. She opened the door suddenly and told the man to leave. In such a public place, I don’t imagine he could have done anything drastic but I didn’t want his hands on me, so I was grateful for the help.
In future I wasn’t given jobs that would take me into that room. In fact, I was used as a sort of courier. I got sent out to other factories to pick-up or deliver packages.
I also became a sort of fix-it girl. Quality control on the factory floor was about nil, with the result that the items we sent out quite often didn’t meet specs at the receiving factories. I didn’t think my work was all that special but I was the one who was sent to do all the fixing up of the rejected circuit boards. I guess I was considered “spare”.
When I arrived at those factories, which were here and there all over Long Island, I got some very funny looks. Apparently that kind of work was not something most college students did and I suppose they weren’t expecting someone so young with a funny accent. However, they gave me a stool and a work station and that was that.
Most of my small salary was spent on groceries for the house, with just enough left over to put gas in the car. To cover my college fees I managed to obtain a couple of grants and a college loan. Presumably I was a good bet!
It was all going very well. And then the factory laid off the night shift.