Friday 12 July 2024

Goodwill: Allocating to the Seven Stores

    Continuing with my experience working in a Goodwill Store in 1970 as my two year Conscientious Objector service:

    In the afternoon, it was my job was to allocate all of the clothing to be sent out to the stores.  The clothing was all cleaned and pressed, and put on clothes hangers, then slid along the pipe, hung from the ceiling, that ran to the area where the pieces were inspected and priced.  

    Big Ruth, a tall, muscular, healthy-looking Black women determined the prices of each piece of clothing.  Standing on a one foot high platform at the end of the overhead clothing rail, she inspected the shirts, dresses, coats, or whatever, and then decided which of Goodwill’s set prices it would sell for:  $2.45? $3.75? $5.50?   Once she decided, she picked up the hanging piece and transfer it to the rail that corresponded to that price.  There, other workers would staple the price tag on to its sleeve.  

    Daily, (like the furniture and electrical items) each store was supposed to receive a certain percentage worth of clothing, which changed every week.  The big main store (in front of where I worked) might get 47% of the day’s total, another store, maybe 23%, and down to the tiny stores that would only receive 5% or 3% worth of the total number of items.

        Also, like with the furniture and electrical items, it was my job to figure out and allocate how many pieces had to go to each store to make up the percentages that each store should receive.  I counted out that worth of clothing pieces, lift them off of the overhead rail, then carried them to hang on the designated store’s wheeled hanging racks, which when full, I moved to the designated area set aside for that store.  Overnight, the truckers would load the into the trucks and deliver them to the stores.  

    Thinking back at my experience working at the Goodwill, I am a bit surprised at the responsibility my hippie-like self was given.  It was up to me to make sure each store got the right percentage of products they were supposed to get.  I had never liked math, and always felt a bit insecure in using it, but I surprised myself in being able to figure out the total percentage of clothes, furniture, and electrical items each store would receive. 

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Thursday 11 July 2024

Goodwill: Disillusion

    Continuing with my experience working in a Goodwill Store in 1970 as my two year Conscientious Objector service:

    Every morning I worked with Floyd Dennison pushing the pedestal desk around as we priced the furniture and electrical appliances.   Although I really liked and enjoyed being around Dennison and he was always kind to me, I was often left me conflicted.  

    He had the type of personality that I generally avoided in my personal life, because his values were so much different than mine.  I was a quiet, polite, and politically correct-type of guy, who neither drank, cussed, nor smoked, Dennson was just the opposite in all of those characteristics.  He was a small town “good ol’ boy” whose speech was laced with expletives.  It wasn’t hard to imagine him spending his weekends in a dingy, dimly-lit small-town tavern, smokin’, drinkin’, and telling stories to the boys.  

    He loudly flirted with the female coworkers as they walked by us.   Fortunately most of them knew Dennison and his ways, and so they would give back as much abuse as they had gotten.  As they got further away, Dennison would tell me how he would just love to “snuggled in between those tits and root around.”  I hated that kind of macho talk and cringed every time he started with it.  

    I did admire how well he coped with the loss of his left arm, which ended just above the elbow.  I was amazed every time I watched him stoop down and tie his shoe using just his right hand.  I still have trouble comprehending how he did it.  

    He was also able to use his handicap in a devious ways.  One day was we were pricing the electrical goods, I saw him grab a nice electric shaver from the pricing table and slip it into his left suit-coat pocket.  When he saw that I had noticed, he brazenly told me he had been needing a shaver, and I watched as he then took his empty left sport coat sleeve, and tuck it’s end into the pocket over of the shaver.  Tucking an empty coat sleeve into a pocket was something I noticed many amputees do, but to see Dennison do it to hide a theft was a bit disturbing.  He explained,, “They never check me at the door.”

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Wednesday 10 July 2024

Goodwill; My Job as a Pricer

 Continuing with my experience working in a Goodwill Store in 1970 as my two year Conscientious Objector service:

    Working at the Goodwill was a fascinating job.  I liked the people I worked with, and the job itself was interesting, because as a pricer, I never knew what kind of items would be put in front of me to price.  Most of it was just ordinary common household items, but often, really unusual and antique objects came in.

    In the morning, I worked with Dennson.  Together, we would wheel the little pedestal/desk around as we priced each piece of furniture, and the bigger electrical items such as stoves, televisions, and fridges. To get me trained up, he would determine what the price should be, and I would fill out the tag, recording the price on the inventory sheet and then to tape the price tag to the item before moving on to the next. 

                Each of the 7 stores had an assigned area, demarcated on the floor with yellow paint, and after the article was priced, we had to decide what store to send it too, and I then to moved the thing to that store’s area, so that later in the afternoon, the truckers could pick it up and load it onto a truck to deliver to that store.  I got lots of exercise man-handling, sofas, box spring and mattress sets, and stoves.

    After pricing the furniture our next job was to price the smaller electrical items.  A shelved cart was wheeled out, full of electric mixers, toasters, radios, lamps of all descriptions, hair dryers, electric shavers, hot plates, waffle irons, etc.  I’m sure you get the picture.   Again we would price each piece, determine which store to send it to, put it into a wheeled box, and I would push the box over to the appropriate store area marked on the floor.  

    I didn’t have any experience pricing items, but I soon learned sort of a basic price for things, and if the item in front of me was of higher quality, or in better shape, it got a higher price.  And if it had some noticeable damage or if it was was of lower quality or brand, it got a lower than the norm price.  

    One day a oldish primitively-made wardrobe was sitting on the pricing floor.  It was not very well constructed, and looked crude, and pretty basic, so I priced it accordingly.  I think I priced it about $35.  Later, wiry old, Hezzie Axsom, who was the head of the Furniture Repair Shop, came walking toward me, waving wardrobe’s  price tag in the air.

    “You’ll have to put a higher price on this wardrobe,”  he said, then walked me over to it and directed my attention to it’s back.  He pointed out the two thick, broad planks, it was made of.  “These planks are clear walnut wood, you can’t even buy pieces of walnut this wide anymore,” he pointed out.  Hezzie thought a more appropriate price would be $75, so I wrote out a new price tag, and sent it out with its new status.  I did wonder if any of the Goodwill shoppers would have noticed or cared about the walnut planks on the back.

    Note:  The photo is not of the wardrobe I have written about.  The wood of the one I saw didn’t have all of the fancy grain and was much cruder in its design, finish, and construction.

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Tuesday 9 July 2024

An Apartment in the Indianapolis Ghetto

             One rule regulating where Conscientious Objectors could do their two years of Alternative Service, specified that the work must be at least 70 miles from the CO’s home.  This rule existed so that the CO’s life could not continue as normal.  I thought that rule was fair enough because those who had to enter the military, would certainly have their lives interrupted. With the highway system that existed at the time, Indianapolis was 175 miles away from my home in Evansville, Indiana.  

    Since I would be working in Indianapolis, I would have to start living there.  This was the first time in my life I was totally living on my own.  The job at Goodwill only paid me minimum wage, which at the time was $1.65 an hour, (other Goodwill employees, because they were handicapped, actually got a lot less than that) and since everyone only worked 30 hours a week, I quickly realized I would not have very much money to spend on a place to live.

    I found a cheap apartment in an older two story house on N. Pennsylvania in the Indianapolis’s inner city ghetto, that had been turned into apartments.  It did have a front porch with a porch swing, which convinced me it probably wouldn’t be too bad.

    The apartment I rented had originally been a living room situated in the front of what used to be a fine big family house.  The room now featured a saggy bed, a dresser, a chair and a small kitchen table.   Impressed by arty things, I was proud that the big front window sported a horizontal stained-glass strip across the top.

      In what had been a hallway when the house was built, had been converted into a combination kitchen/bathroom.  Unfortunately, there wasn't a door separating these two important facilities. In this narrow pre-hallway space sat a tiny gas stove and a sink at the kitchen end, and the bathroom at the other end.  The bathroom sported a toilet and immediately adjacent to it, a shower stall, and just enough floor space for a person to turn around. 

    Shortly after I moved in I began to realize that I was the only white guy in the house.  The rest of the apartments were occupied by single black guys.  They jokingly referred to me as “Sunshine”.  I am sure I was probably also the only person living in the house who didn't have a gun, but I never experienced any trouble, despite it being in a high crime area.  I did hear, after I had lived there for a while, that a body had been found in the abandoned house next door.  Needless to say, I didn’t venture out very much after dark.

        The photo at the top, shows the view from my apartment’s front window.  Below are two of my neighbors.

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Monday 8 July 2024

A Photogenic Evening

    I have to take a break from my Goodwill blogs because on Saturday night on our way to visit friends, there were so many scenes worthy of a photo.   Even though the trip to their house was only 10 miles, I ended up taking photos both going, and on our way back home.  I have always found it interesting how some days I can find absolutely nothing to photograph, while on other days, I am constantly snapping photos.

    On the way, just down our road, we passed this horse drawn covered wagon, slowly making its way in the flats, along the Fraser River.  I don’t know anything about it, but I was surprised to see it.

    After our visit with friends, on our way home, the setting sun was glowing off of the power lines, something I have notice almost yearly at this time.  As we proceeded further down the road, we came upon a big herd of wapiti (elk) grazing on newly cut hay in the field.  When I stopped the car to take the photo, the wary herd slowly started to move away from the road.

    I make it a habit to always take my camcorder (which I use for my still photos) along with me, because you never know when you might come upon something interesting or beautiful to photograph.  I was sure happy I had it on Saturday.

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Sunday 7 July 2024

In The Goodwill Cafeteria

    Continuing with the series of blogs about the two years I spent in the early 1970’s as a Conscientious Objector doing my Alternative Service in the Indianapolis Goodwill Store.  The photo is a one I took at the time of some square in Indy.

            Mrs. Carnes looked at her watch, and told me that the cafeteria was open, and walked me there, telling me that I should go in and have lunch, and she would see me at 8:00 on the following morning.  I thanked her for the tour, said my farewell, and entered into the large and somewhat dingy and dimly lit cafeteria for a lunch.

    I was feeling very self-conscious standing there in the unfamiliar place, not knowing exactly how it worked, but fortunately, just then Mr. Dennson came in and with a smile, directed me over to the side of the room where people had formed a line to get a plateful of the hot prepared food.  I followed his lead as he picked up a tray and silverware, and walked beside the kitchen area where the the heated pans of food were on display.  There, Dennson loudly and easily, joked with members of the odd collection of people who made up the kitchen staff.  We pointed out what food we wanted and they spooned the food onto our plate.  With our plates loaded, we shuffled over to an empty table, sat down, and began to eat.  

    We quizzed each other as we ate.  Dennson was a great joker, his speech was liberally spiced with foul language, and plenty of inappropriate sexual comments about the various women in the room, but he was genuinely welcoming toward me, and I was happy to have his company as I ate in this strange new world where I would be spending the next two years.

    As we talked, I studied the others in the room, and I realized that for all of my education and reading, I had led a very sheltered life.  Surrounding me were people who were horribly deformed, crippled, disfigured, or with cerebral palsy.  Some were in wheel chairs, and others on crutches.  Some were in conversation, others were laughing, but some were sitting alone and in silence.

    One woman with severe cerebral palsy started yelling unintelligible words, waving her arms around, and leaning from side to side in her wheel chair, in a tantrum.  A woman in a nearby table got up from her lunch, went over to her and tried to calm her down.  

    “That’s Jeanne,”  Dennson said.  “Don’t mind her; she just has these temper-tantrums every now and again.”  I watched as the woman quietly began to comfort Jeanne and calm her down.  There was a whole world here that I had never experienced.

    I always admired how Mr. Dennson took me under his wing, and made me a part of the conversations that he had with the other Goodwill employees.  Although he lived in Indianapolis during the week, his home was in Washington, Indiana, 100 miles away.  He struck me as being a “Good Ol’ Boy” from a small town, who liked drinking in the bar, and hanging out with the boys.  I had often found such types to be prejudicial toward other races, and “hippie” types like me, but Dennson was certainly not like that, and he was tremendously and genuinely helpful to novice me, as I entered into the unknown situation of the Goodwill workplace.

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Saturday 6 July 2024

My Goodwill Job: Meeting Mr. Dennson

            Sadly I have no photos to document my 1970 stint, doing Alternative Service as a Conscientious Objector, assigned to work for two years in the Indianapolis Goodwill Store.   In this blog, Mrs. Carnes, who will be my Supervisor,  gives me a tour of the Goodwill plant, and introduces me to Mr. Dennson, who will become one of the most memorable characters in my life.

    As I was surveying the chaotic mixture of furnishings spread out before me, Mrs. Carnes told me that part of my job would be to help price the furniture and electrical goods.   Then she directed my attention to the left, where an older, ginger-headed man probably in his mid-fifties, with a ruddy complexion and a big nose, stood beside a wheeled pedestal desk.  He was holding a price tag down against the flat surface of pedestal desk with the heel of his right hand, while using the same hand, he wrote out the price tag.

    Once done, he took the tag and stuck it in the arm pit of his left arm, which only consisted of a 9 inch stump.  Then, while still holding the price tag in his left arm pit, he tore off a bit of masking tape from the pedestal desktop with his right hand, and stuck it to the dangling string of the price tag in his armpit.  This being done, he grabbed the price tag with his right hand and taped it to the flat surface of a headboard of a bed.

    Mrs. Carnes guided me toward the man and introduced me.  “This is Mr. Dennson,  you will be working with him and he’ll be showing you what to do.”

    “Hi,” I said holding out my right hand, then suddenly I panicked, remembering that Dennson only had one arm, but fortunately it was his left hand that was missing, and he gave my extended hand a firm shake, as he joked about me choosing such a crazy place to work in.

    Mrs Carnes then ushered me down passed the furniture shop, where the old donated furniture was repaired and refinished, and after a cursory inspection, she led me to the electrical shop where old toasters, alarm clocks, radios, stoves, fridges, and other electrical appliances were being repaired.  

    She directed me to the left, and we walked down a long hallway to the loading dock, where donated items were trucked in, and the newly repaired and cleaned items were shipped out to the 7 different Goodwill stores in Indianapolis.

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