Time Goes By Takes a Sabbatical

Early Work Tips

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is Steve Sherlock who blogs mainly at Steve’s 2 Cents and also at quiet poet where his verse and sherku can be found at Franklin Matters, about his current hometown in Massachusetts.

Recently part of a "reduction in force" by his former employer, he is enjoying some "sabbatical time" to put together a business plan for what he will do next. This business plan will the be key to assuring Dolores, his wonderful wife, that all will be well. Together, they want to continue enjoying the empty nest while their daughters are away; one at college, one recently graduated and working.

  • Wet it but don't let it drip
  • Hit it while it's pink

These are two good pieces of advice I received early in my working life that still ring true. Knowing how to slice steel or scoop ice cream is important.

In the early 1970's, my first "real" job was scooping ice cream for the Newport Creamery that used to operate on Central Ave in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I learned quickly that the ice cream scoop needed to be wet to scoop the hard packed ice cream without breaking your arm.

The scoop shouldn't be dripping wet. That would bring water into the ice cream which would crystallize and make the ice cream more "ice" than cream. Taking the scooper from the little shelf where running water kept them wet, shaking it on a towel to remove the excess water, and then reaching in to the container to bring out the single or double scoop of maple walnut, pistachio, or one of the many other flavors that Newport Creamery was noted for was much easier that way.

I only worked at the take out counter for about six weeks before my father managed to get me into his steel mill, Washburn Wire Company in Phillipsdale, Rhode Island. This was a steel mill that had operated from the early 1900s. I felt like I was stepping back into time going there. I also tripled the hourly wage I was making so that was great.

If you were given a hatchet and asked to take a sample from that coiled steel rod, would you say something like: "You're crazy!" I did.

But it was true. Holding the end of the coiled steel with a pair of tongs, I would use the hatchet to slice about a foot off the rod. The sample would be put into a bucket for the metallurgist to test to ensure that the mill was running well. He would check to see that the rod was indeed being drawn into the round, oval or rectangular shape that the run required.

In the #2 Wire Mill, the rod started out in the furnace where the two-inch by six-inch billet was heated to approximately 1900 degrees F. It ejected from the furnace and was guided into a series of rollers.

There were four monstrous devices that at each step pulled the billet, shaping it and stretching it out from its original 30-foot length to end up coiled at my foot more than 300 foot in length. It was still so hot that stepping up to the coil, I could drop a candy wrapper into the center and in would incinerate before touching the ground as flakes.

Using the tongs, I grabbed the end of the rod, stretched it out over a cutting block and used the hatchet to slice off the sample. The key was to hit the steel while it was still pink. Once it started turning silver, the hatchet would bounce off. If a sample was really required from that coil, I would need to use some serious wire cutters. But as long as the steel was pink, the hatchet sliced it like butter.

I have not had much opportunity to cut steel recently but when scooping ice cream for dessert, the water trick works as well today as it did then.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson deals with the difficulty of dressing for the holiday season in The Joy of Aging.]


Here I am old enough to read this blog and I didn't know that about ice cream. Maybe I'll can stop loosening it up in the microwave!

I'm going to make sure my family learns how to scoop the cream. Thanks

Loved the description of working with the steel. We enjoy the "How it's Made" show, and it's fun to imagine the machinery works.

As for ice cream, I NEVER have trouble getting it into my bowl. :)

Thanks, Steve. May you enjoy the sabbatical and Good luck with your new plan.

@Citizen K, yes this should help. It is a wonder what a little water can do. We all know it has great powers in great quantities.

@Genie, you are most welcome. Sharing what we know helps us all be a little smarter.

@Kate, thanks. This is the first time I have more than 2 weeks off work - ever and it has restored some freshness to my step and outlook.

Steve, you just taught this old dog a new trick. I can hardly wait to use it on my ice cream tonight.

I wonder why I have a sudden irresistable desire for chocolate mint ice cream.
I hear it calling me from the freezer.

@d - glad to help! BTW - you may be old but please don't demean yourself. There are enough folks around to put us down, we don't need to do it to ourselves. Be positive, you may be old but you got the experience that matters!

@chancy - gee, I think I can hear some double chocolate chip calling me. We must be on the same channel!

I started my illustrious career at the Dairy Queen in Marion, Iowa, so I didn't have to do much of that kind of scooping. Not sure I would've had the muscle for it anyway! Ha.

Neat description of the steel work. As a lay person, it's hard to imagine. "sliced it like butter". WOW!!!!!

@Nikki Wow, Dairy Queen! Around here now, they are changing to DQ Grill. Not exactly the same place it once was but they should get more of a year round business, assuming people get used to thinking of going there for more than ice cream.

"Slicing like butter" is really the best way to describe it. The experience was surreal yet very real. You wanted to reach out and touch the bar, but didn't dare. It was hot enough to do some serious damage.

Anyone who doesn't know to dip the scooper in water before dipping into ice cream did not spend as much time at the Drug Store ice cream counter as I did. Once each week, without fail, (if I had the 5 cents for a small cone, 10 cents for a double dip, or 25 cents for an ice cream soda) I watched how it was done. (Those who work in modern ice cream stores can expect to build good forearm muscles.)

P.S. I have, within the last few years, had to tell the ice cream store employee how to make a chocolate, ice cream soda. Can you believe it?

@Cop Car - I have two problems with someone not knowing about the ice cream soda: one, their parents should have done it at least once as a "right of passage" growing up; two, the ice cream store he or she was working for should have trained them better.

Those were the days when it was a nickel a scoop!

It's funny how those early work experiences follow us throughout life.

My first job was in a grocery store, and part of my job was stocking the shelves. I still can't stand it if the cans in our pantry are not neatly all facing labels forward!

Welcome Steve....my son and his family live in Franklin....ice cream with a scoop? no way - just take the half gallon into bed with a spoon and eat till you get a kidney stone...OMG - I better behave...thanks for the scoop advice.


@Mike, does it tell us that our patterns are learned early? Or just that the good ones, remain with us?

@Sheila, be sure to have your son and family visit FranklinMatters.blogspot.com/ I focus on all the good stuff that matters in Franklin; the schools, the budget, the efforts to go green.

And yes, this would be defined as a real hot scoop! Thanks

It great the things you learn in blogs!

Yes, Michael I agree. I believe that the amount of knowledge shared via blogs has to help improve the collective intelligence. A good day is learning something new!

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