Friday, March 25, 2016

a glimpse: melvin miller, born 1930.

this wednesday, the center at spring street, which is the home of the senior center in boyertown, hosted a poetry reading of the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history in berks county. the reading served as entertainment specifically for lunch guests who had enjoyed fish sandwiches, rice, and succotash there just prior.

guests from the first volume of poetry who were a part of the reading were alice gerhart of douglass township and as well as husband and wife, melvin miller and betty miller, of bally borough. the next blog post will feature scenes and talks from that reading, but for now, since betty's poem excerpt was recently posted, here is a clip from melvin's poem. this kind-souled man who only retired a few years ago was born in 1930, just like his wife, betty. the end of his poem carries a lot of information to it which other boyertown casket factory poems in the first volume do not, a unique perspective from his former position of working his way up to vice president of the corporate office. to find out his understanding of how the business with locations across several states finally fell under, check out his poem from the actual book. you can order it through donating to the gofundme campaign noted on the right side of the blog, or you are welcome to reach out by email at

 i was 17 going on 18. the casket factory in boyertown
hired me in 1948. department expediter became
my first title. i worked with interiors—velvet, silk.
they paid me 63-and-a-half cents an hour, rounding
up to the next full penny if i worked 41 or 43 hours.
i made sure special units that had to go out the next

day were ready in time from the cutters, seamstresses,
and interior installers. the factory sent me to school
in philadelphia to learn more about textiles and how
to do industrial time study engineering, to see just
how long it took to do a single job—three stopwatches
always in my pockets. after three years, i quit to serve

in the national guard and worked at the armory
in pottstown, taking care of the equipment, like
rifles and trucks. but my recordkeeping skills
there impressed the bosses at the casket factory,
so they hired me again in 1955. then i did cost
accounting for them, earning $1.60 an hour.


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