Great stories Keith! I worked the Smyth book sewing machines for the first year I was there, god what a job.
For those of you who are interested...
Production (what they demand you do each day) was 8,000 books for each machine. Most books back then were 192 pages and had 6 signatures or sections to sew together. So each day you would sit at this machine covered with string and glue, flipping signatures on a apron in front of you, one about every second, about 50,000 times a day. Your right foot started and stopped the clutch that kept the machine moving, and your left foot hit a peddle every 5th signature that you threw down and that put glue on the backbone of the signature to glue it to the last signature. Then your left foot would hit a different peddle that would cut the strings and start sewing the next book. If you messed up along the way, the book was stripped of the string and given back to you to sew again....
If that wasn't enough, every 3 signatures had a lip on the edge that changed every third one, so your fingers had to remember where you were at in the stack of books in front of you.
Some of us would compete against each other to relieve the boredom. There was a guy named Dave Straud from Tennessee who was a absolute freak about his machine. He had been sewing books for around 3 years when I got there. Nobody could come close to his machine, don't even think about touching it. What a basket case he was, but he was a great book stitcher! Unfortunately, because he was such a freak he was stuck way back in the corner so the tours couldn't see him.
I was on the other end of the line, right in front of where the tours go by, that was where I met the Jackson family when they took a tour of the factory back in 77'. We got counsel from the breakfast table the next morning because some guys got up from their machines and went over to say hi. Oh yea, good times.... GYMBOB
Keith, I remembered my Floor Overseers name...Mike Ersland!