Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Robfogel Paper Warehouse

     I was back in Rochester following a most successful freshman year at Lowell Tech—in fact, it would prove to be my only successful year at Lowell Tech, but who’s counting? The point is, I needed a job.

How I arrived at the Robfogel Paper Warehouse escapes me, like so many other details from that now ancient, but still revered by me time known as the sixties. It must have been networking to some extent because I didn’t even know there was a Robfogel Paper Warehouse.

Shipments of all sorts of paper products arrived at the warehouse to be repackaged and redistributed to local businesses by the small cadre of Robfogel truck drivers. A railroad track ran right up to their back door and every three or four days, a boxcar filled with paper products was dropped off at the warehouse.

I was hired along with a guy I knew only as Red, who was going into the marines at the end of the summer. Our job was to load the trucks each morning and then unload the boxcar, stack its contents onto pallets and stack the pallets in the warehouse.

With a great deal of anticipation, we’d break the seal and push the large door aside to discover what products we’d be unloading. If our boss knew, he wasn’t letting on. Every job began the same way—find a box at the top, in the middle, pry it out and then work our way to both ends. The two of us went home each day looking like we’d spent the day in a sweat shop, which wasn’t that far from the truth.  

All through high school, I had worked as a janitor at Annunciation, both the school and the church. I always enjoyed the physical nature of the work—pushing and pulling those heavy old-fashioned mops across 10-foot swaths of hallways and classrooms. What I discovered working at Robfogel was that I really didn’t know what physical work was.  I also discovered just how big a boxcar is—about 6,000 square feet, and how much paper stacked bottom to top, end to end, one can hold. I also learned just how all encompassing the term paper products could be.