Friday, October 27, 2006


We had many many characters that worked at B. Barer & Sons over the years. One of the earliest I knew was Frank Potter.

Frank was an alumnus of the Lou Epstein school of scrap metal workers.

At one time Lou's mother was married to Uncle Ike. The marriage did not last long.

Possibly because as cousin Bud reported Lou"s brother Abe who shared his bed would force his younger step brother's head under the blankets and then fill the tent created with flatulence.

Lou trained his employees well in all phases of the business. He was a tough taskmaster who inspired loyalty from both customers and employees. Most 0f his employees tended to be alcoholics. If their drinking got in the way of their work, he would tell them to go home until they straightened up their act.

One of the people he surplussed was a man named Frank. Frank did not take his bannishment well and having sobered came to B. Barer & Sons for work.

I was fifteen or sixteen at the time and had developed a route buying scrap metal within a fifty mile radius of Walla Walla. Yes, I did drive to Pendleton and Pasco before I was old enough to qualify for a driver's license.

The only time I was stopped by the Oregon State Patrol I had piled scrap iron motor blocks on the old GMC pickup. The patrolman was concerned about one that was perched atop the load. As he spoke he rocked it abit and it rolled to the highway. Chagrinned he helped me reload it to get it out of the path of speeding cars. In the confusion he forgot to ask me for a license and I was down the road.

Once I took Frank on one of my forays. He regaled me with tales of his high school years when his father bought him a brand new model T to drive to school. I was never able to verify this as at the time I knew him he looked and acted like the former hippy on TAXI.

One thing Frank did do for me was to advise me never to eat food at the home of one of our clients who lived at and operated the city dump in a small eastern Oregon town.

I arrived there late in the afternoon. The table was set with stew, milk, etc. My host invited me to join for dinner. Hungry as I was I declined. The next morning when I arrived to load, the same food was sitting on the table at room temperature. I also declined the invitation to breakfast.

Frank worked for us for several years. He was good at sorting scrap metal by alloys and though small and wiry he could load scrap iron with the best.

Eventually, the cheap wine began deterioating his kidneys. After several trips to the hospital as a charity case he was assigned to a nursing facility operated by a farmer who lived about three miles out of town. From time to time he could slip into town and his old buddies would buy wine for him.

His health continued sinking. His caretakers took action. They hid his clothes and that is why one snowy morning in December the bartender at the Liberty poolhall unlocked the front door broom in hand to sweep the stoop found waiting outside Frank clad only in a thin hospital gown and barefoot he had walked the three miles seeking the warmth of his drinking buddies and a shot of cheap fortified wine.


Blogger Danny Barer said...

This is another terrific story. I wonder if one reason there were so many alcoholics working at the store was that the able-bodied workers were in the service, and the effects of the tipplers' addiction had rendered them 4-F.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Burl Barer said...

I love these stories -- they bring back memories of my childhood. Please tell the story of Scotty, the man who used to mow your folks lawn, and water your mom's cucumbers. I would always see him walking around town with his nose running....i dont mean dripping a little, I mean ...well, you know...


2:47 AM  
Blogger Mike Barer said...

Another great story, you could write a novel with this information.

11:51 AM  

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