Saturday, August 12, 2006


My father's passport when he came to America said he was 14. Actually he was 16, but apparently at that age he would have been eligible for draft into the Russian army-25 years service for Jews, the Russian version of the "Final Solution".

He was never able to wrap his tongue around some American words. We had a stream of casual workers and some who stayed awhile whose names he found dificult to pronounce. Everyone was Shorty, Slim, Red, Mac or Hey You.

The exception was Alexander K. Henderson. He was "Ken" to his friends such as Sam the shoeshine man who doubled as an after hours bootlegger, but to all others he was "Mr. Henderson".

Niether my father nor my uncle would put up with this formal relationship. After repeatedly pressing him for a first name they commenced calling him just "Henderson" which infuriated his Canadian sense of propriety. Many times he commented to me about not getting any respect..

Mr. Henderson was foreman when I started sweeping floors at the shop in the early 1940's until his retirement in 1959, I believe his tenure went farther back as he alluded to working for my grandfather who left the firm in 1939.

Mr. H drove to work in an old Dodge bread delivery van which he parked a block away on a side street. There he he took his lunch and napped during the noon hour. He also tooke a break at midafternoon at the Silver Cafe. After pie and coffee he would usually go into the backroom and continue his interupted nap.

If a late delivery came up, I would be dispatched to find Mr. H wherever he was enjoying his extended siesta. He would grab his fedora and plod back to the office. Upon receiving the delivery order he would invariably say, "I'll get Shorty!". WE had several Shortys but the longest employed on e was Everett T-- who was quite docile and willing to do the lifting and carrying while Mr. Henderson shouted instructions at him.

Mr. Henderson was to be repected. At a time when casual laborers were paid 75 cents an hour, Mr H made $1.10 an hour to boss Shorty.

Shorty was so self effacing that I was surprised when he was jailed for assault. At the time we subleased part of our building to the Anchor Tavern. Shorty went into th tavern after work and downed a few beers. Someone made the mistake of razzing him. He went to our pile of used steel pipe remnents, slected one and went back to the tavern and began thrashing his tormentor.

Later we had another Shorty . He also became belligerent with a few beers. He bragged he could take care of himself because he had trained in high scool as a boxer. One day I was returning from a walk to the bank. Approaching Lutcher's pool room I heard the smashing of plate glass and sailing out of Lutcher's Pool Room to the sidewalk among shards of glass was Shorty. Apparently he had exagerated his ability to defend himself.


Blogger Danny Barer said...

Beers and steel don't mix. With the array of potentially deadly weapons lying around, and the belligerant nature of some of the employees, it's fortunate there wasn't more violence at the store.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Mike Barer said...

One of the workers in the shop at Walla Walla College told me he was Mr. Henderson's son. He told me that Mr. Henderson was responsible for the chalk writing on the walls at the steel wharehouse.

1:50 PM  

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