In his most recent post, Johnny Robish stirred up some memories. A couple of life-times ago, I worked (briefly, as is my wont) for the Van Camp Division of Ralston-Purina Corporation, at the company's tuna packing plant on San Pedro Island, Long Beach, California.
Several memories stand out from those days. I was staying temporarily with my old room-mate from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Randy Sharpe. My first morning at his house, I opened the refrigerator and poured myself a generous glass of orange juice. I took a giant gulp, and got it about halfway down, when I realized the jug contained screwdrivers. You might say it was a rude awakening.
Needless to say (but I will anyway), Randy was a heavy drinker. One night, he side-swiped a flat-bed eighteen-wheeler on the LA Freeway. I was sitting in the back of his VW bug covered in broken glass checking out my body parts to see if any were missing. Fortunately, the only thing missing was my good sense.
Speaking of good sense, Randy had his pilot's license, and fool that I was, on one occasion, we took off in a small plane from the Long Beach Airport. Let's just say, air traffic around LA is intense; it felt like we were in the middle of a bombing raid.
But we were talking about tuna, weren't we? Sorry, Charlie.
Randy drove his now busted-up VW to our job at the packing plant, distractedly and sometimes drunkenly ignoring pedestrians and traffic signs along the way. Meanwhile, I cowered in the suicide seat and prayed.
Every day at lunch, we'd sneak out with some cans of fancy albacore (I prefer it packed in water). We'd pile it between crackers brought from home, and wash it down with beverages bought at the on-island grocery – a root beer for me, and two bottles of cheap wine for Randy.
After lunch, we were often consigned to a make-work task of rubbing stains from the tops of cans of tuna. Many times, fellow workers, who had toked-up heavily at lunch, would spend the entire afternoon rubbing one and only one can of tuna. They said it relieved the tension – the marijuana, not the rubbing.
While the tuna was separated by type – and as I said, I favored fancy albacore packed in water, I can attest that otherwise, exactly the same tuna went in every can – the only difference was the name on the label. So – if you paid big money for a high-priced, heavily-advertised name brand like Starkist – sorry, Charlie.
©2018 Tom Cordle