Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Greff Fabrics Blues, 1971 (xvii)

Besides sending Louis to work alongside me in the Greff Fabrics sample room basement during the Fall of 1971, Snelling and Snelling also placed in a sample room clerk job a white guy in his early 20's (whose name I no longer recall) who was a student at Kent State University in Ohio in May 1970--when four Kent State students were shot and killed by Ohio National Guard troops and at least one other student was wounded and permanently paralyzed.

In the Fall of 1971, this former Kent State University student looked pretty straight culturally, had short hair and was beardless, wore glasses, and came to work every day wearing a suit and tie and dress shirt during the three or four weeks he spent working in the Greff Fabrics sample room--before he left for some higher-paying job.

So I was surprised when he quietly revealed to me late one afternoon--a few days before he moved to his new job elsewhere--that, when he was a Kent State University student in 1970, he was part of the small group of Kent State anti-war student radicals that--following Nixon's speech which announced the U.S. military invasion of Cambodia--destroyed the Kent State University ROTC building--a few nights before the Ohio State National Guard troops shot live bullets at students on the Kent State campus in the afternoon; after previously being ordered to occupy the town of Kent by Ohio's then-governor.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Greff Fabrics Blues, 1971 (xvi)

Since the sample clerk job at Greff Fabrics was not that complicated a job to learn, by the end of the first day I pretty much had learned to do what was required for me to fulfill the daily work requirements. And by the end of the second day, I had found that the other sample clerks and I could make the 9-to-5 workday pass by faster if we talked to each other, both while we were pulling the requested textile samples from the shelves and during the lull periods in-between the time when we had filled all the salesman requests and near the end of the day, when the salesmen telephoned in new requests for more textile samples to be pulled and sent out.

Besides Bob, the only other sample room clerk co-worker whose name I can stil recall over 42 years later was named Louis. He was a recent African-American college graduate of CUNY in his early 20's who had grown-up in New York City and was more into individually making as much money as he could from the racist capitalist system that he, personally, despised than into working to build a Black Liberation Movement in the 1970s that would radically change the racist capitalist system.

When I mentioned SNCC and Stokely Carmichael once in one of our conversations about U.S. politics, Louis lauged, in a cynical way, and indicated that he felt that Stokely may have spoken in an entertaining style in the 1960s, but was now passe' and "out-of-date" in the early 1970s; and Stokely and SNCC's 1960's rap no longer reflected the now cynical, individualistic mood of the early 1970's Black community. Louis also seemed to indicate that he and his friends who were also in their early 20's now saw SNCC and Stokely Carmichael as being irrelevant to their off-campus early 1970's lives.

Unlike me, Louis was careful to continue to come to work in the Greff Fabrics sample room basement dressed up in a suit and tie and dress shrit--and looking culturally straight--because he was hoping to be quickly promoted to be some kind of Greff Fabrics salesperson upstairs or outside the store, since that was "where more money could be quickly earned" by him. Louis also seemed to regard our African-American sample room clerk supervisor Bob as being not ambitious enough and being too satisfied with just being the sample room clerk supervisor within the 9-to-5 work world, instead of pushing to get Greff Fabrics to promote him to some more lucrative salesman job--although Louis felt Bob was still a personally nice guy.

Since Louis--despite our political/philosophical differences--seemed the hippest of my co-workers at Greff Fabrics, I ate lunch out with him once in the Fall of 1971. And after work one weekday, I even went down to the Lower East Side with him to visit the affluent, bearded white guy in his 30's who apparently sold hashish and pot for Louis's own personal recreational use; and Louis, the white hashish and weed distributor and I spent a few hours sampling the hashish that Louis then purchased.

Unlike me, Louis did not spend part of his lunch hour each day visiting the nearby Donnell Library at W. 53rd. Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. Instead, Louis seemed to spend portions of his lunch hour visiting different private employment agencies or corporate personnel offices, filling out applications or being interviewed for some new job that would pay him more money than what the low-wage sample room clerk position at Greff Fabrics then paid him.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Greff Fabrics Blues, 1971 (xv)

Besides me and Bob, at least two other full-time sample clerk workers generally also worked in the Greff Fabrics sample room each day, as well as one white guy in his mid-to-late 20's who only worked part-time as a sample clerk, as a second job during the hours when he wasn't working at his full-time job as a clerk in a bookstore at the Port of New York Authority bus terminal.

Because the part-time sample clerk was the sample clerk with the most seniority in the non-unionized Greff Fabrics sample room, his main job was assisting Bob in taking the many orders for textile fabrics samples requested by the Greff Fabrics customers and clients that were called into the sample room each day by the Greff Fabrics salesmen; in an historical era before this kind of textile sample order request process hadn't yet been computerized.

Each textile fabric with a different design or color combination that Greff Fabrics sold to its retail customers, own store customers and other wholesalers had an individual code number; and on the 6 rows of shelves-- that reminded me of university library stacks--in the Greff Fabrics sample room basement, there were hundreds of numbered samples. So after being handed by Bob or the part-time sample clerk who had the most seniority an order blank that contained a list of textile fabrics samples that needed to be pulled, it was the job of me and the other sample clerk or clerks who had less seniority to locate the textile sample that corresponded to the listed number. And then pull the textile sample from one of the 6 rows of shelves and bring the textile sample pulled to Bob--who then arranged for it to be shipped or mailed to the appropriate retail store, wholesaler or individual customer.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Greff Fabrics Blues, 1971 (xiv)

In September 1971, Greff Fabrics was located east of Fifth Avenue, on one of the cross streets in the 50's, between 51st Street and 59th Street. After I entered its street-level showroom, in which Greff Fabrics sold drapes and some fabrics to the wealthy white customers who walked into the store, I was soon greeted by a fashionably dressed white woman who looked like she was in her late 50's, who then introduced me to the head bossman, whose name was Mr. Hamilton.

Mr. Hamilton was a beardless white man who dressed in an expensive suit, expensive dress shirt and expensive tie and looked like he was either in his late 50's or early 60s in the Fall of 1971. Something about him made me feel that he was probably a loyal Republican who had voted for Richard Nixon in the 1968 U.S. presidential election. But since I was initially clean-shaven and didn't start growing a beard and stop dressing in my cheap suit, cheap dress shirt and cheap tie until the week after I received my first paycheck, he didn't seem dissastisfied with the latest college graduate sample clerk that Snelling and Snelling had now provided him with. And after briefly introducing himself, Mr. Hamilton then led me from the showroom down the stairs to the basement room in which the Greff Fabrics sample room was located, where he then introduced me to the sample room clerks' immediate supervisor--an African-American guy in his late 20's or early 30's, whose name was also Bob.

Bob didn't seem interested in either talking about current events and politics or the state of the Black Liberation Movement in the early 1970s, but he was an easy-going, friendly guy, who was planning to get married in early 1972; and he was a lenient, but, efficient, immediate supervisor. And after Mr. Hamilton went back upstairs to the Greff Fabrics showroom and his office, Bob showed me what work the sample room clerk job entailed.