Here’s a yet another new story by the great Randy Enos.
Everybody worked in a factory. In New Bedford, where I was born; we had shoe factories, woolen mills, a Revere Copper & Brass, the golf ball factory, tool and dye factories and many many others including where my mom met my pop, the Goodyear plant. When she first laid eyes on him, she didn’t like him. She thought he was a showoff because he would chin himself with one hand, up and down up and down on a bar that went across the doorway to the men’s room. This was all part of my poor father’s self-improvement regimen that he had adopted for himself along with scrubbing his teeth with some abrasive to keep them clean and white, sending away for Charles Atlas muscle-building equipment and reading all the non-fiction books he could get a hold of to make up for his lack of education.
My father had come from the old country when he was 10 yrs. old and he had only one year of schooling in a class for immigrant kids that couldn’t speak English. That was it. He started out as a newspaper boy selling papers on the street; then delivering coal; then in a bowling alley setting pins; then he went to work for “old man Weeden” who he liked very much. The Weeden Toy Factory made great little steam engines that are now represented in a special display of antique toys in the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
My father was always trying to make up for his lack of education by reading. He never read a book of fiction in his life. When I was a kid, I read the same books he read because they were there in our house. Some of them were the following: The Life of Madame Curie, The History of the World by H.G. Wells, Microbe Hunters by Paul DeKruif, How to Write a Business Letter, High School French Self Taught and a set of the World Book Encyclopedia (which my father read from A to Z).
As he got older he went to work in the mills but one day at his sister’s house he met her insurance man who encouraged him to seek a job at the insurance company. Eventually, many years later, my uneducated father became an insurance executive when he was finally forced to become the district manager in New Bedford of the Boston Mutual life Insurance Company when there was no one else to ascend to the position. Everyone he hired as agents had to have college degrees which he thought was ironic.
My mom worked in a number of factories, Goodyear, the Titleist golf ball factory and a venetian blind factory. My grandfather, her dad, worked in woolen mills and died of lung congestion. He married my grandmother when she was 13 yrs. old and she was illiterate her whole life working as a domestic and cook in the homes of wealthy people. She lived with us while I was growing up because my grandfather had died just before I was born in 1936. She died at the age of 86.
Okay … back to the Goodyear plant where my mom and pop worked. My mother, as I said, thought my dad was vain and a showoff until one day she saw him sitting alone at lunchtime with nothing to eat. She shared her lunch with him … and the rest is history.
On my studio wall I have a photograph of all the workers in one division of the Goodyear plant. My father is in the back row, my mother is sitting down in the first row right next to her sister, my aunt Laura. I don’t know whether or not my mom and pop knew each other at the time this shot was taken. I decided to make a picture of this group. I named it “Portrait of My Mother and Father.” It’s a linoleum cut. I drew it directly from the photograph so when I printed it of course it came out in reverse. I did it mainly with brown ink on brown wrapping paper to give it a bit of an aged, old fashioned look. The heads of my mother and father (which I had circled), I printed in bright colors on bright colored paper. It was a challenge to try to get a caricature of each individual. They stand and sit in such interesting attitudes. There are the tough guy workers, my father among them, with sleeves rolled up, a few guys in caps for some reason, some office workers and obvious minor bosses.
Later, when I was about 5 or 6, the second world war was waging and my mother was working on the large rubber rafts that were dropped down to the water for the use of the parachuting troops that would follow. The strong rafts would hold all the provisions the troops would require.
I don’t know what my father was working on but he was probably still chinning himself with one hand.
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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: