March 18th……..“DID YOU EVER DO SOMETHING DANGEROUS AND YET FUNNY AT THE SAME TIME”?
Asbestos-covered monsters rumbled at me, with a fire in their bellies, as I stepped into the Boiler Room at Amboy School in Amboy, Washington. Flames could be seen roiling within these beasts through the small sight-glass at the front of the school’s boilers that heated that building for education in the northern realms of Clark County. I was a mere year or two (out of 31 years total) into my employment adventure with the Battle Ground School District when we had been directed by our Supervisor to begin scrubbing and waxing floors at Amboy.
Being just a whippersnapper of 18 years old, at the time, I was hired by dear old Al Bosisto in October of 1972. Even though my starting wage was only $2.66 per hour, I was happy to have a job and more than glad to work the Swing Shift. A Swing Shifter’s life went right along with my new work title of “Scrubber’s Helper”. I was to be part of a team of two, my immediate boss, Ron Bergren, and me. As a young buck and single, I loved to be able to sleep in each morning and play the day away until the early afternoons when we’d report to the next scheduled school that needed their floors scrubbed and waxed.
Giving us visitors to his school a daily razzing was tall, big-bellied Mr. Snow who was Amboy school’s Head Custodian. Dressed in the classic bib-overalls, Mr. Snow was a rough n gruff old cream puff who’s bark was worse than his bite. He lived mighty cozy in the broiling sound and heat of this Boiler Room. That heat was especially enjoyed during the long, wet winter months when downpours were regularly pelting outside of Mr. Snow’s Boiler Room door. Stacks of magazines, etc. kinda told the story of a pretty laid back style of working life for that crusty old “Head Commode Hugger” 😉
Amboy was a sweetly designed old school. By “sweetly”, I mean that the design was classic in its old-fashioned long halls with classrooms gracing each side. Tiled floors were dominant throughout the facility, in those days, so the echoing of children’s voices and activities glanced out into those halls with the vibrancy of young life happening within. Of course, as floor scrubbers, we always had to stop by the school kitchen of each school to get in good standing with the cooks; and the hopeful goodies they’d leave for us to enjoy during the evening shift. Winnie Dobbins, bless her heart, was such a darling lady. Whenever we worked at Amboy, Winnie saw to it that we were royally treated to giant cinnamon rolls and a full meal left in the giant kitchen cooler to enjoy during our later lunch period.
When the Master Clock system, in the school office, clicked on that final minute of the school day, the big gong bells throughout the facility began clanging the happy ending to another day of education. In not more than 15 minutes, or so, the school was empty and “belonged” to Ron and I for our evening work. Usually, we’d remove the furniture from at least two classrooms; noting by a map where all the furniture needed to go back to. We’d lay down a chemical stripper onto that classroom floor with our mop buckets and let it sit for about 15 minutes. A big, battery-powered “Clarke” brand floor scrubber was then used to scrub off the old wax and the squeegee vacuum picked up dirty water back into that large machine. After rinse mopping, we’d then apply at least 2 or 3 coats of wax to the floor. Newly dry and shiny, now it was time to haul all that furniture back into the classrooms and, using our map, put it back in the basic places it came from.
Traditionally, within about two or three weeks of evening work, Ron and myself would complete a school and be ready to move on to the next school scheduled for us to clean and wax. Our last night, there at Amboy, was to have us scrub and wax their very long hallway. Wet, rainy weather conditions could sometimes hamper the drying time of the wax. That night was a prime example of no wind and high humidity from it being the rainy time of winter. The hallway had taken much longer to scrub that we had anticipated, so the first coat of wax was applied, but nowhere near dry enough to apply a second coat. With quitting time for the night fast approaching, Ron decided that we would try to be sneaky and put the needed second coat of wax over the greasy, half-dried first coat of wax. His rationale was that this way, we could be done with the building that night and move on to a new facility the next evening.
I questioned the validity of Ron’s rationale, but, heck I was game for a go of it in this dicey waxing idea. We were both “goofy”, alright, as we gingerly stepped onto that semi-dried tile floor hallway. In this stage of wax trying to dry, its consistency is greasier than the proverbial “snot on a doorknob”. Foot prints and bucket wheel marks were appearing as we made our tender way to the end of the hall and began waxing by pulling new wax from the buckets with our yarn mops and, side by side, began a figure eight swing pattern and backing up with each step as we waxed. We got the giggles as we starting “doing the dance” here and there on this super slippery floor. Reality was, that this was a very dangerous thing to do! One or both of us could have fallen at any minute and suffered broken bones, back, head, etc.. During this “floor waxer waltz”, Ron said, “I’ll bet one of us is gonna go down before we reach the end”!!!! Sure enough, Ron stepped onto a patch of “liquid loogies” and his legs made more fast moves than Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly combined. All of a sudden, KERRRSPLATT! and Ron did a full-body hug of that nasty, slimy floor. He was soaked in half-dried floor wax from head to toe. There was tons of laughter that night for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉