Monday, October 10, 2016
a poetry reading at studio b this october.
yesterday, studio b in boyertown hosted a poetry reading for this project, and jerry rothermel who lives a few blocks away served as the featured guest. he also shared memories of his mother's poem from the project, as she worked at tung-sol for many decades, like he did, but wasn't able to attend the reading because she's in her 90s and has a little trouble getting around compared to old days. and she lives in chester county, but we're hoping to set up a poetry reading where she lives at manatawny manor in the future so that she and jerry can be featured together with this kind of programming to share with residents there.
jerry also brought along old newsletters from tung-sol as well as an actual headlight from the company's manufacturing industry days in boyertown borough.
an excerpt from jerry's poem is below scenes from the reading. he was born in 1949, and his mother lena who also worked at tung-sol was born in 1925.
gracious thanks go to sam traten for photography during this poetry reading.
(arline christ showcases one of jerry's salvaged headlights which was manufactured in the early 1970s.)
my grandfather kept night-adjusted eyes on the place back
when it stood a few buildings away from the final location,
tung-sol in boyertown. a watchman, leon, he waited for us,
for dinner in our hands when he stood guard, hungry under
the stars. they did weekly fire and safety checks of the new
facility at 400 east second street, using the original location
to hold old equipment. in 1907, they called it tung-sol lamp
works, inc. in newark, new jersey. the plant in our town first
opened in 1942. by 1951, they took on the name tung-sol
electric, inc. the place had so many names, that one which
sounded at first like the wet slip of mouth, but also then
studebaker-worthington, wagner electric corporation, cooper
industries, mcgraw-edison. last, we knew it as federal-mogul
corporation. in the other plants across this country, they
fashioned all sorts of windshield wiper blades, sparkplugs,
brakes, and bearings. we only made headlights for cars. i
started there in 1967 until 1969—then i specialized in building
floating bridges in germany for the u.s. army, but in 1971, i
began at tung-sol again, second shift. i earned maybe $1.65 an
hour in that era. a bunch of the guys showed up at my house
one night—i noticed faces behind the dark-seeming windows,
their smirks saying it all: factory men delivering dirty movies
and ring bologna. we ate that meat, lounged out in front
of the television screen, watched those scenes until 2 a.m.
they did this to the new guys. after they left, i walked up
the stairs, apologized to my wife, fell asleep. at first, i’d been
a material handler after the lights came off of beam-checking.
we put them on skids where they’d await packing. once i’d
come back to pennsylvania from my overseas service years, i
worked in maintenance until 2000. we had a full two weeks
of a shutdown each july, summer days saved for repairing all...