Getting the Message

Jul 16, 2019 210

BY: Charles Sacchetti

In the spring of 1957, for some inexplicable reason our father, Henry Sacchetti, decided that we should see how he made his living. Dad worked at the Westinghouse Electric Corp., at the Lester, PA plant.  Many Southwest Philly men did the same, with many others working at the General Electric facility at 67th and Elmwood Ave.  Being 10 years old with a teenage sister, I knew some things about Dad’s job but I was too busy being a kid to care a whole lot.

Dad never really talked much about his job.  I’d see him at the dinner table with nicks, burns and various cuts on his hands and arms.  I knew he couldn’t hear very well.  On a couple of occasions, I overheard him tell Mom about a co-worker who “dropped dead” while at his work station in the “Blade/Hammer Shop”.  I knew he never missed a day’s work.  It didn’t matter if he was sick, he went in anyway.  

There was that Friday afternoon, when I was about 4 years old, that Dad had one-half of his pinky finger chopped off when his machine malfunctioned.  Lawsuit?  Big Cash Settlement?  No, Dad’s reaction was to report to work, as usual, the following Monday morning.  His 1957 Dodge Coronet didn’t have air conditioning (or power steering!) so he always looked hot when he came in, even if it wasn’t hot outside.  As I think of these things now, they were kind of strange but heck, I was just a kid more concerned about Richie Ashburn’s batting average than what my Dad did for a living. 

So, we were told that Mom, Kathy and I would have the privilege of attending “Family Day” on Saturday at the Westinghouse Plant in Lester.  We knew little else except that we would be able to actually see what Dad did to keep us fed, clothed, healthy and warm on those cold winter nights.

After a brief welcome from some guy in a suit, the tour started.  I remember walking up two flights of metal stairs and down a long corridor.  I noticed the more we walked, the warmer it became.

Then it happened.

We walked through a heavy metal door onto a catwalk that was suspended about 20 feet above the work area.  I looked down at the floor and saw what I could only describe as an inferno.  My 15 year old sister Kathy said, “Oh my God, we’re in hell.” The guide said the temperature was about 110 degrees on the shop floor.

The shop consisted of numerous furnaces, flames a blazing.  Some of my Dad’s coworkers were actually working that day and we could see them using long tongs while holding white-hot steel blades over the flames to “soften” them up.  The men then would place the blades under the huge hammer, which came down, repeatedly, with a deafening bang.  The hammer shaped the blades to spec. These blades would become part of turbine engines, many of which were used by the military during WW II.  The post war era had provided new uses for industry.

So now we knew exactly what Dad did for a living. 

After the tour was over on the way to the car, Dad took me aside and said….”This is the kind of work you have to do when you don’t have an education.”  At that moment, I made a conscious decision to do well in school so I wouldn’t have to have a job like this.

As I grew up I came to appreciate the sacrifice Dad made for us.  The oldest of 6 children, he had to quit school and go to work, to help the family.  With only an 8th grade education, he was my “human dictionary” while I was in college. He was an extremely bright man in many ways.  Circumstances led him to Westinghouse and he worked at that job for 41 years. He was able to enjoy a long retirement and died a beloved Pop-Pop at the wonderful age of 91.

Dad made sure I got the message on that Saturday in 1957.  And I can’t thank him enough.

Charles Sacchetti is the author of two books, It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change and his new book,Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.   Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Contact him at Worthwhilewords21@gmail.com

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