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October 23, 2006 [ More archived home pages here ]

25 years After IH


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Today's music is one of my own creations, Western Skies, released in 2004.

Twenty-five years ago today I was laid-off as a machinist from International Harvester (IH). At the time, I worked at the Melrose Park, Illinois plant in the Engine Division, building one of the best diesel engines on the market. That lay-off ended my seven year career with the company. I already was into my computer hobby at the time. I saw the light and changed careers to enter the computer technology field.

Let us return to the time when I was a machinist, reading blueprints and doing setups on high-precision machine tools.

I primarily worked the afternoon shift which was easier than working the day shift. Besides, it paid 6% more money on that shift. At the time of my lay-off I was earning well over $13 an hour. I had full health, dental, vision, and prescription drug benefits at no cost to me. I had four weeks paid vacation, a week of paid holidays, a week of paid holiday shutdown at the end of December; all together six weeks of paid time-off a year.

I could earn more money by working overtime and I often did. One week in July 1980, I earned in excess of $1,300 with 28 hours overtime and 8 hours triple time. At the time it cost about $900 a month to live, so my wife and I were able to bank most of our earnings during the good times.

Those seven years weren't always that fruitful. In the early years at IH I was bounced around often as jobs came and went in the various departments. Several times I was laid-off for many months at a time. The longest stretch of lay-off occurred when my wife was pregnant 30 years ago.

We almost went broke. It was a time to be resourceful, diligent, and cunning in ways to get a job. I paid attention in those early years, always reading and studying new topics in the expectation that one day that knowledge would be helpful. I became a familiar face at the local library as I took out many tens of books in my quest to learn.

When I did return back to IH with steady work in May 1977, I was ready. I applied my energies and opportunities to work plenty of overtime. I applied for higher-skilled jobs and got them. I was planning for my long-term future with IH. I returned to school in August 1979 to increase my academic skills in math and other work-related areas. In my first math class on Algebra and Trigonometry, I did every problem contained in the book and handed that work in for regular and extra course credit.

When you apply yourself intensely, you will get the best results. That applies to school and every other activity in life. In school I earned an 'A' in every class I took. In my work I earned top-dollar in my job classification as I mentioned above. I thought it would last until my retirement from IH. God had other plans for me.

On October 23, 1981, over 400 employees were laid-off on the same day as me. I knew about 200 of those people having worked with them over the years. Many of them were work friends. I only saw two of them again after that day. Some employees comitted suicide over the stress. Some couldn't find other work for a long time. Some took jobs at less than half of what they previously earned with a lot less benefits. Such were the tough economic times of the early 1980's. As I have stated many times on this site, there are no guarantees in life. For peace of mind, don't seek them. I don't.

In a free enterprise system we are free to take risks to get ahead and make a living. We are free to pursue dreams and work hard to make them happen. My dreams at IH didn't work out for me. After IH it would be several years before I felt financially secure again.

Money ranks further down the list in importance than many matters in life. Money is important, but it's not the most important item in life. Believing in yourself is the most important aspect in life, in my humble opinion. To love others and know they love you is also more important than money. Just accepting those two perspectives will put you way ahead of the game.

My seven years at IH taught me a lot about life and prepared me for a much different future when my time at IH ended. I hope I've used my time wisely since.

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In these last few years, I evolved from a purely technical career to more of a artistic and storytelling venue. I'm still into computer technology, but I prefer to express the new side of me over the old in the public arena. My [Digital Passages CafePress Store is now closed as of April 18, 2008] offers a variety of items for sale using some of my art images. Below are a few pictures on the wooden and tile boxes for sale there.

Full retirement is still many years away. I continue to work on productive projects using whatever skills and experiences I have. I know how to build teams and manage projects effectively. I know how to direct technical people and non-technical people together to bring forward technical solutions that benefit all that depend on the positive outcome of the projects.

Every turn in my former work career is leveraged to some degree in my activities today. Being a machinist requires a different set of tangible and practical set of knowledgeable experiences than a computer technology worker. Computer technology work is less tangible and often entails a higher level of tacit knowledge elements to perform it well.

Working with people is common between tangible and intangible work. Teamwork depends on a highly cohesive group of people sharing a common vision while they work on the ultimate goal. Being an effective leader and project manager makes that happen on time and on budget. That's who I am today in my continuing work career. My artistic side is an important factor in that pursuit.

Don


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