Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sic Transit Kid Twinkie

One summer at Rutgers, my buddy John C had a great idea. We'd work for the IBC bakery in East Brunswick, across from the Modell's and just down on Route 18 from the Two Guys. The IBC, International Baking Corporation, made Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies and all manner of dessert matter. Yesterday's headlines made me remember it all, or close to all.

This was early 70's and all those jobs were union for real money even then. We weren't in the union but John had an angle. He figured by the time the accounting people and the union shop stewards caught up with us, the summer would be over and we'd be back on campus in college. Yep, we were gonna reap the rewards and avoid the risks-auditioning to be Young Republicans some might say.

Brilliant plan John had except for one flaw. He didn't get hired. Only I did. So instead of working nights and laughing at break time together over how goofy it was to be making Devil Dogs, I was working like a one armed paper hanger on the Twinkies line-the busiest in the factory and the absolute pits. My job was to load the twenty pound metal trays with the Twinkies form stamped into them onto the conveyor belt as it hurtled along all over the plant getting filled with Essence de' Twinkie, baked to a 'golden brown, drilled and filled with something white that looked like well, you can guess I bet, then jammed into plastic packaging and palletized for your safety.


Here was the thing-IBC was cheap even then, those b'tards. They staffed at minimum levels so when the 'baker' [seriously that was what the position was called and it paid two and half times what I got paid (and I was handsomely compensated)] went on break I caught hell. Here's how it worked: in an eight-hour shift there were two fifteen minute breaks, two hours after the shift started (almost left off the F)and two hours before it ended, plus thirty minutes for a meal.

When the baker was gone, no Twinkies could be made (boo!). Rather than shut down the conveyor, part of my job was to pull the metal trays that had ridden all around the plant OFF the line as they came out of the industrial washer that water-blasted the last morsels of synthetic goodness off the forms. Those trays were incredibly hot and it was impossible, at least for me, to keep from getting burned even with gloves and with long sleeves on to protect my arms.

I had to pull off every single tray and stack them seven feet high on pallets with wheels. Six across and six diagonally, always upward until they towered over my head. It took fourteen minutes, by my glancing at the clock over the 'oven' where the magic of Twinkies took form, to get all the trays off the belt. As the baker would come back, he'd tap me on the arm and yell 'Go ahead college!' to signal me to begin racking and stacking them again. Some nights at various times, whole columns of these damn trays would fall over, one time almost burying me and every time scaring the bejabbers out of me to the amusement of my colleagues.

They thought it was hysterical-the college kid working like a  Ch--well, never mind what I was working like. Let's just say when I got home I slept soundly every night. And I would probably still be dinking and twinking if IBC didn't insist we had to eat a certain number of the Twinkies for quality control every shift. Even then and to this very day I hated Twinkies. Now it's possible Twinkie the Kid may have punched his last doggie. Not sure what to say, except....  
-bill kenny

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