The Rolling Stones
Miss You is on my play list because it reminds me of working at a place called Grey Mac Piping for two summers.
I worked there when I was 13 and 14-years-old.
That was one of the fringe benefits of living in Calgary in the 1970s.
Grey Mac Piping was in the industrial park beside Ogden, which was one of the neibourhoods I grew up in.
Grey Mac hired a lot of young people in the summer. I also had a friend that worked there full time and he encouraged me to apply for a job.
I think you actually had to be 15-years-old to work there but they never asked for identification, so I never gave it to them.
All I know is that I made about $7 an hour, which was a lot of money for a kid in junior high school.
Another reason they hired a lot of kids was because there was a lot of turnover.
Working at Grey Mac was a dirty job.
We worked in a warehouse made with sheets of corrugated steel that had been riveted together and painted green.
Grey Mac prepared piping used on oil rig platforms to drill under ground.
The steel pipes were about 20 feet long and six inches in diameter. They were fed into the warehouse head first down a ramp with metal rollers on them.
When the raw piping came to a stop at the bottom of the ramp it was rolled sideways onto rails about 15-feet apart so that each end of the pipe rested on one of the rails.
One end of the pipe was put into a machine where it was threaded. When the threaded pipe came out of the machine a green metal collar about 10 inches long was spun onto the end of the threaded pipe and then put into another machine where the collar would be tightened. The exact the same thing was done at the other end of the pipe.
You basically had one person kicking the pipe into the warehouse, two people threading each end of the pipe, two more people collaring each end of the pipe, two people tightening the collar on each end and then one person pushing the pipe out of the warehouse.
There were three eight-hour shifts and each shift competed to see who could collar the most pipe during their shift.
We worked the day shift and my friend who worked full time started on the shift after us. For some reason his shift always did the most work. Nobody could ever beat them. I think they were possessed, either that or hopped up on something illegal.
The worst thing about the job was that there was a lot of oil and grease involved in collaring the pipe. By the end of the shift everybody’s clothes were weighed down with oil and grease. It was sort of disgusting.
What was even worse was that some days they needed a person to go outside and collar small piping by themselves. It was especially bad when the temperature was in the 30 C range because you could feel the sun heating the oil on your clothes and it felt like your skin was burning.
Plus, I hated working outside by myself because it was so boring.
Many of my co-workers were people that I knew from Ogden and from school. Most of them were one or two years older than me and working with them made the job more tolerable – that – plus listening to music.
I remember the radio was always tuned to CKXL, which was a popular AM radio station in Calgary. I kept encouraging my boss to turn it to CJAY 92, which was a popular FM radio station, and he finally relented. I really thought the FM station would play better music but, in the end, there was little difference between the two stations. When he turned it back to CKXL I didn’t mind.
Both stations played Miss You by The Rolling Stones, which was a popular song at the time.
Every lunch hour we’d go outside and sit on a wooden railing in the parking lot that had outlets on it so people could plug their cars in in the winter. We would talk and listen to the music blaring on the loudspeaker hung above one of the doors leading into the warehouse.
The older kids would tell me what high school was like, and how much more I would like it than junior high school.
Jim was one year older than me and was the leader of our group. He also did most of the talking.
One lunch hour he brought up the idea quitting. I think there were about seven of us out there and everybody followed Jim off the job except me. I basically said, “You guys go ahead, I’m not quitting.”
It was an awful job and I understood why they were quitting, and didn’t feel the least bit let down. Me and a couple of other guys spent the rest of the day running between machines getting the piping collared.
After I started high school I never went back to Grey Mac Piping. I remember a few years later I drove by to see if it was still there but it was shut down.
Jim played football in high school and our team made it to the City Championships one of the years he played.
After high school he started a business where he made a lot of money selling burgers from a bus not far from where Grey Mac Piping was. Some people said he made a fortune selling burgers from the bus but I don’t know if that was true or a rumour.
Last time I saw his name was about five years ago during one of my visits to my mom in Calgary.
Jim was running for city council and he had election signs on lawns all over the district he was running in.
I was hoping Jim would win the election but, unfortunately, he didn’t.
Grey Mac Piping could be a fun place to work, but some days it was a major grind.
Here is the Miss You video.
The song was released in 1978.