After graduation from Connellsville Area High School, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, I was hired to work at Walworth Valve Company in South Greensburg. Walworth produced valves of different types and sizes. The parts were cast in its foundry, machined, assembled, and tested before the product was sent to the customer. The valves were brass, steel, or stainless steel and came in sizes from two and a half inch to thirty-six inch, with ball or wedge closures.
My initial job was as a “hand trucker” hauling supplies or parts from one area of the plant to another. The hand truck was like a super, heavy duty toy wagon, its bed was of thick wood construction and the tongue was solid steel tee shape. When a position in the tool room opened up, I bid in and got that job. In the tool room, I was required to read blueprints, gather the tools needed for the machine operators, grind carbon tipped blanks to the exact angle, and to sharpen drills.
I was there for nearly nine months before I went off to boot camp in the Navy. Several reasons other than the normal fears of starting something unknown were bothersome. The first was that going in when I did meant I would be in the Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois in winter and even more distressing I would be there over the Christmas holiday. The second was that I had enlisted to be a corpsman in the middle of the Vietnam War. I didn’t want to kill anyone, but then again, I didn’t want to be killed myself.
I was shell-shocked by the rapidity that the military removed as much individuality as quickly as possible to form a unit that worked as one. All civilian possessions other than eyewear was packaged up and sent home. Hair was clippered off, new clothing was issued for us to wear from the skin out.
To be honest, I was feeling out of place. It was hard to get a grip on reality when it had changed so drastically. Then something good happened. The Navy removed all of my connections with home until a serendipitous, completely coincidental meeting. I was in line at the chow hall when I was greeted by a familiar face. It took me a few seconds to register who it was. His red hair had been reduced the stubble the length of plush on a stuffed animal, like mine. It was Dave Baxter. He graduated high school with me. That chance meeting was the only time I saw him. That incident did lift my spirits and began to feel more comfortable with boot camp.