“Look ma no hands”
By the time the summer rolled around they decided to put me on the dryers. It was hotter than hell in the laundry by then. Either the A/C didn’t work or they decide not use it to save money, it was anywhere from 110 to 115 degrees down there. Some of the brothers called it “The Hole.” Of course the dryers are the hottest job there. It was so bad down there many of the brothers were taking salt tablets. The person training me made the job even worse. I was instructed by this ugly Polish kid from Chicago, Jack Pachocko. He was probably the first person I met there that I didn’t like besides the snitch in the delivery department. He was a terrible instructor. He wasn’t kind and he was always hoping you would screw up, so he could bring it to your attention. He was perfect Bethel overseer material.
After being there six months there were things going there that just didn’t feel right. Things said and things done. Plus many of the guys who had been there many years just didn’t seem all that happy.
One day I came over to fold underwear on the table with a couple other guys. This short stocky guy, his nickname was “stub,” was there folding underwear too. He had been at Bethel for a couple years and worked on the home cleaning crew.
“Hey buddy, what are you doing here?” I asked.
“Well.” He said. “I turned my thirty day notice. So they told me I needed to go to the laundry for my last thirty days here. I guess they wanted to punish me for leaving early.”
Wow, I thought to myself. They told us that every job here was “A privilege of service.” Yet they obvious don’t really believe that. So, for me the laundry is “A privilege of service” but for him it is a punishment.
Less than a month later this fact was proven once again with Gary Kennedy.
Gary and his brother James (Jimmy) Kennedy were very interesting people. Gary and I were best of friends for over thirty years after Bethel, until I decided to leave the religion he was raised in.
His father had been in show business in Hollywood and had many celebrities as friends. He was also well connected at Bethel with the powers that be.
Gary and his brother were always doing crazy things before they got to the lord’s house. It didn’t stop when they got there either. They were always daring each other, egging each other on. Their last adventure got Jimmy killed. The words I would use to best describe the two of them, would be “Look Ma no hands.”
Gary told me how he and his brother would hop freight trains and see how far they could get in a weekend, back in Georgia. At the international convention in 1969 the brothers would read telegrams from all over the world basically patting each other on the back for a job well done. Gary told me how he and his brother sent a bogus telegram that was read in front of about thirty thousand people from some made up country.
Jimmy had brought a T bird up from Georgia to New York. All the Bethelites except Knorr of course had to park on the street at night. Parking places were very hard to find in the Heights. Some brothers had to drive around for an hour looking for a legal spot. The Kennedy brothers had different Idea. They stared to park illegally in front of fire hydrants or anyplace else they could find. So one morning they went to get there car and it was gone. They called the police and were told to go down to the city impound. It was there alright. All they needed to do was cough up $600 in back tickets and fines. They told them to keep the car.
When I first met Gary, I thought all the stories he told me were just that, stories. The longer I knew him the more I came to realize he had really had done all the things he said he did. Gary was the first person I ever saw who wore his baseball cap backwards, this was back in 1970. I really think he invented this. He was the Jerry Lewis of Bethel. He was a wonderful, wacky guy with a heart of gold. He was truly a free spirit. Looking back I would have to say he really taught me to be more of an extrovert. He was truly a free spirit. Oh, one other thing he was one of the hardest workers I saw while I was there, he literally could do the work of two people.
One big problem there, the last thing they wanted at Bethel were free spirits. Conformity is everything, the individual means nothing.
Gary had been at Bethel for about a year when he showed up in the Laundry. Gary had been on the waiter crew and destroyed a full cart of china serving plates and bowls, worth about $300 dollars. What he was doing at the time this happened was any ones guess. I guessed he had destroyed some other china on different occasions. The bottom line was the overseer of the waiters didn’t want him on the crew anymore.
I could never figure out why we ate on breakable china in the first place. Between the dish duties and the waiters thousands of dollars of fine china were broken every year. Even back then they did made a nice unbreakable dinnerware. So after I was there a couple of years, I was talking to the head waiter one day at Saturday lunch.
“So, are a lot of dishes broken here every week?”
“Lots.” He said.
“So why don’t we buy corning ware or something more sturdy?” I asked.”
He had a funny little look on his face. “Because Knorr likes china.”
“Oh, Brother Knorr likes china?”
“Yes.” He said with smirk on his face.
“I got an Idea.” I told him. “Let’s give Knorr his china and we’ll all eat on corning ware, we’ll save thousands of dollars each year.”
“Good idea but it will never fly.”
Gary was assigned to the Laundry which turned out to be the penal institution of the home. Gary had made a name for himself. Which is the one thing you never wanted to do at Bethel. Once you had name instead of a number, you were on their radar and Gary was on theirs. It seemed they wanted Gary gone. So after he was sent to the Laundry, Ken Doweling had a talk to all his key men there and told them basically to watch for anything Gary said or did that was against company policy. In other words it was snitch time and we all needed to report in.
Gary was on their radar from the beginning though.
It seems that if the brothers do find something in a laundry bag that is outlandishly worldly the brothers in the Bethel office are notified. A week after Gary had got to Bethel, the brothers in the Landry found these really wild pair of bell bottom pants, in his laundry bag. So he got his first “service talk” right off the bat, not good. They had laid these pants before him and asked him what he was thinking when he got them? He had told them that he was in a drama at the international convention (which turned out to be true) and had to play a “worldly kid” the district overseer there had told him to buy the most outrages set of clothes he could find to play the part. He told them he was going to wash the clothes and then give them away.
Remember what I said about defending yourself. By the very fact he was in the Bethel office he was guilty.
So that was his first strike. The dishes was his second. Gary was on thin ice.