I considered myself fortunate to get the job because the wages were very good for a college student. I made about $1,000 each summer. (My salary for my first year as a teacher a few years later was $8,000.) I got triple time for working on the Fourth of July and overtime was usually available, too.
While many of our neighbors in Cliffwood Beach worked at the plant, only one was on the same shift as me. My family had only one car which my father needed to get to work, so I rode with our neighbor to work everyday.
The glass factory in the summertime was really hot. I swallowed salt pills so I wouldn't pass out from dehydration. There were fans here and there but they did not help. The noise level was horrendous. That is where I learned to yell, "Yo!"
I worked packing bottles into cartons on a line with two other women. I stood for most of the time although if I was lucky I got to sit at the light box and watch the bottles twirl by so I could spot bad ones and pull them out of the line.
There were a number of furnaces and each one produced millions of bottles. The bottles never stopped coming at us. If we didn't pack the bottles fast enough, the line would back up until the bottles started popping out. I got cut several times.
Sometimes, if a particular mold was bad, I had to run over to the lear, a huge metal link chain belt that brought the bottles from the furnace. I would pull out a whole row of that mold. Run back, pack bottles, and then run back to the lear to pull more of the bad bottles before we packed them.
Sometimes, the supervisor told us to look for a particular mold number on the bottom of the bottle and toss it out. When you're packing a gazillion bottles, it's hard to read mold numbers. We snatched up four bottles at a time, glanced at them and stuck them in the box. The supervisor would glare at us and tell us we were packing bad bottles.
No surprise there.
For me, the hardest thing about the job was the fact that we worked rotating shifts. We worked 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. one week. Then 4 p.m. to midnight the next week. Then came the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. Getting through that shift was a struggle. Some nights I found myself nodding off at the lightbox. One night, all the bottles twirled into dancing ladies with lovely long dresses. I nearly fell off the stool.
Working that shift messed up my entire body. I didn't know what meal I was eating and I wound up with strange cravings. I came home at 8 a.m. and gobbled down heaping bowls of instant mashed potatoes. I went to the pool, fell asleep, and wound up with a bad sunburn.
It was a terrific incentive to finish my education.
When we were cleaning out my parents' house to sell it, my sister brought the glass lump to me.
"Don't you want this?" she asked.
"What am I going to do with it?"
"Use it in the garden," she said.
Mostly I use it to hold down the tablecloth on the picnic table, but I'm glad my sister salvaged it before it wound up in the dumpster. It's a good souvenir of my job at the glass factory.