My First Job
by Luther Gohlke
I love to write short stories and have done so for a long time. My stories are all true and relate from events of my childhood days in Denison, Texas to college , medical school, internship and actual family practice in .
Our family moved to Denison in 1937. Our dad, Arnold Gohlke, was a carpenter and our mom, Carrie, was a full time stay at home mom. Our family had strong religious values and a driving work ethic. Their idea was that idle hands were the devil's workshop. So they kept us boys busy. I can relate more to my brother Gene, because he was 15 months younger then me. My brother Duane was 11 years younger then me. Our parents also pushed and encouraged their three sons to get an education, which all three of us did.
Gene and I as young boys mowed yards the old push mower way, collected scrap iron an old news papers to sell. I guess we were probably 7 or 8 years old when we really got serious about summer jobs. The first summer of yard moving netted Gene and me $27.00 and some cents which we split.
If we were not busy with yard moving, scrap iron or newspapers our dad always had roofing jobs or clean up jobs or even helping with our garden and chickens. Our mother, when she saw us idle would make us help her wash clothes or dishes or wax floors or just clean out flower beds. We did find time to go to school. Peabody grade school was one block from our house. We also had occasion to enjoy fishing and hunting with our dad, or picking black berries or visiting mother's kin folks at .
One day our dad came home and said "Son, I have a part time job for you at C. B. Sullenburger Planing Mill. It was a Saturday morning clean up job for 5 hours at .50 cents per hour. This was in 1946 as I started 8th grade. This was my first paying job out side the home. I loved wood working as our dad was a carpenter. He had all sorts of hand tools, a table saw and joiner which I still have. They are Craftsman brand and he bought them new in 1948. Every chance I had, I would help my dad and he taught me to be a wood worker and carpenter.
However, my job at Sullenburgers was part time and involved a broom, hands, back and time to clean up the mill workers weekly mess. My part time job turned into a full time job with time. I worked there all through 8th grade, high school and Austin College. I worked full time summers and as many hours as I could while in school and sports. During my college years I worked about 30 hours a week and went to college full time. When I quit working there the late summer of 1955 I was married to my wife Pat and was making top dollar as a top mill man at $2.75 per hour. I was headed for medical school the fall of 1955 at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston. My wife Pat was my best supporter. We, at the writing of this story, have been married 54 years.
After 8th grade, I went into Denison High School and took one year of shop. My shop teacher was Concy Woods. At first I didn't care for him, but he became the Yannigan football coach as well as wood shop instructor. He and I became the best of friends and one of my best high school teachers. I'll write a story about that later. Our first project in shop class was to square up a small board. I thought this would be a snap. A month later, I was the first to square mine up. When I say square, I mean square from every side to top, bottom and ends. He would hold that piece of wood up to a light with a square, if it wasn't perfect, back to the scraper, plane etc., all hand tools, no machines. When the board was perfectly square by Coach Woods requirements then I could go on to my first semester project. It was a three shelved end table. Second semester was record cabinet. We still have and use both made in 1947-48.
I continued to work at Sullenbergers regularly. A job I really enjoyed. My boss from beginning to end was Cecil Honea. He became my super hero. He was married, but he and his wife had no children. I would describe him as easy going. No foul language, no alcohol, church goer, some joking around, but very business minded. He wore a khaki cap, shirt and pants, was tall and of stout build. He was a very intelligent mill man and person. He taught me a lot about, work, how to use various machines and about life. I think he was partial to me. I was young and eager to learn. He was a good instructor. In the 40s and early 50s there was no such thing as aluminum windows or doors. Formica was never heard of. Routers, never heard of. I learned to build windows, doors, cabinets of all shapes and sizes. We had every power tool you could think of - cut off saws, 24" planers, 6" and 12" joiners, high RPM shapers, large sanders, lathes, band saws, mortise and tenon machines. If it could be made from wood, we built it. Never any blue prints, maybe a picture out of sears catalog. We built, window screens, screen doors, cabinets, windows for every builder for miles around. We also made fancy hand made doors and chandeliers. These were my specialties.
There were other workers there besides me. Mr. Malone, Rex, and Mac McCleskey. Mr. Malone and Cecil worked there when Mr. Sullenberger was living. As I remember, he started the mill. After his death, his wife along with Cecil Honea took over the mill records and operation. I never knew Mr.Sullenberger, but I knew his wife because she came in each week day at 8:30 a.m. and stayed a few hours. She and Cecil would go over the books etc. Then she would leave. She was an attractive older lady, well dressed and very courteous. She knew all of us by name and would chat briefly and leave. That mill was a dusty, dirty place, also noisy. Not a place for a woman to stay long, of course, she had a small office to the right of the main door.
The mill itself was 50-60 foot wide and 150 foot long. Wood floor at main entry that went back about 30 foot. The front area had a wood heater, paint supplies, sanders and a 6" joiner. The back 2/3 of the building had dirt floors and small bathroom back left and a large wood bin back right. There was an upstairs over the front 1/3 of the building. We did spray painting and screen wire jobs up there. The building was corrugated tin with large tin doors that opened out. The upstairs was hot as blazes. There was a steady breeze down stairs, but I was always so gung-ho to build things that I didn't pay much attention to the heat or cold. You wore a coat in winter and sweated in summer.
Mr. Malone was older and weak due to poor health. He apparently had been a cancer victim. First time I ever heard of a colostomy with bag, because he had one. He always wore blue overalls and a railroad cap.
One day he set up the shaper for a run of window stiles. He worked all morning on the machine which had to be precision set with two large shaper blades. It was run by a 5 hp motor, as were most of the machines in the shop. The shaper made 5000 RPM. When he turned it on, the blades flew out and were like bullets ricocheting inside that old metal building. We all hit the dirt. Next time Cecil made sure the machine was properly set and blades tightly in place. Rex chewed cotton bowl twist tobacco. Pretty stout stuff. You might ask him a question and get an answer on hour later after he went outside to spit. He was a good mill man.
Mac was not as sharp as the rest of the crew about building thinks. He was a good man. Full of jokes and always needed help with his project.
Some of the happiest days of my life were spent at that mill. I would rather build and make things out of wood than eat. I really liked my boss, Cecil Honea, he was a good role model for me. He called me "Luke-son".
After I had completed my medical school training at Ranger, Texas for what was to be 42 years of family practice. in Galveston, preceptorship in Gatesville and internship at John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth, Pat and I and our two children with another one on the way moved to
About 10 years into my practice, my receptionist came back to my office and said, "There is a man here who wants to see you!".
I said, "Who is he?"
"Cecil Honea, your old boss." she replied.
I immediately said. "Send him on back here now."
for him to stop by to see me was a thrill I shall never forget. He
was my super hero. We talked and talked about current events and
old times. He left and I've never seen nor heard from him since,
but I think of him often. He was one of those individuals who
happen along and who really unknowingly play a key roll in your
life. Thank God for such people.