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Edition #235  December 1, 2014

Sarge

Photographer: Kevin N. Tomasic

                                                                                                               Photo by Kevin N. Tomasic

Sarge

One of the last survivors of “Bethlem”( which is what most the former employees of Bethlehem Steel call it) days in Johnstown sits in his rolling mill pulpit awaiting a whistle from on down the line, a signal for him to pop the reheat furnace door open and send another 2200 degree piece of steel into the first rolling stand. Every 30 seconds or so a cacophony of tweets (no, not those kind of tweets)erupts and Sarge gets to grabbing a series of levers which control the tables in front of him, the levers making a distinctive snapping sound as they are pulled and released.

This is the good life, a pulpit with heating and cooling, good controls and at least a shield against the noise of banging and crashing of steel on steel. There are three rolling mills at this facility and this is the best one, one you can run for the most part while sitting down or at least standing safely in a little shanty. The other two are hand mills and they require Sarge (and his crew) to wrestle the hot steel with big tongs, no mean feat for a man on the other side of sixty, not to mention that he’s the smallest guy on the crew! Both his experience and his tenure have earned him this seat.

A fairly quiet and easy going man, he invites you into his little home away from home, and trades a few stories about the plant’s past, present and future. The main topic of conversation, for now, centers around a new mill being installed a few bays down from his perch. After expressing surprise that they found barbed wire during the foundation excavation (a legacy of the Great Flood of 1889) he says, “I sure hope they get it right. I won’t be here much longer, but I want the younger guys to have their jobs.”  Looking around, you notice that there’s a few religious verses taped to his wall and you know not to say anything too salty. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when you tell him to have a good day as you leave his domain, he gives you a, “And you have a better day.”

A nice man, at home in his pulpit. He deserves it.

Kevin N. Tomasic

6/14/14

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