a man


Sun 3.31.19


     Herbert Miller, my very first crush.  I was about 19, 20 years old, a very young 19 or 20.  Having married just as I turned 17, a kid, I was naive in many ways.  My husband Roger, had been my first and only boyfriend.  At the time that I met Herbert Miller, I had a small child and was becoming responsible, understanding that I would have to work, and work hard to get the things I wanted.  He owned a woolen mill that employed me on the second shift.  He trained me to be a spinner, i.e. I was provided with the privilege of following and helping a spinner maintain her set of frames for a week or two.  You don't make much money as a spinner, a buck or two above minimum wage.  I worked next to a German woman named Greta, a very proper, good hearted woman, and to my left was Freddy who made more money than Greta and I because he was a man with a family to support; an easy going, gentle guy, had a new baby.  We were all young.  The old codgers had all the good jobs across the room in the carding department, having outlived everyone else.

      You become a family in these situations.  If Greta's frames were a mess and I wasn't busy, I'd help her out of her jam and so would she if the situation was reversed, and the same was true with Freddy.  We went through some difficulties at one point questioning our right to tell a new employee that she stank, and oh god did she stink!  Someone eventually told Bertie (such a delightful name!) and she promptly corrected the problem. 

      Herbert interviewed and hired me, though I have no memory of the event.  He was the owner in my world, who walked around looking at his manufacture, especially interested in certain blends of wool, and was a maniac when carding expensive product.  Once, when the men ruined some very expensive wool, Herbert had a fit in the middle of the carding and spinning room, jumping up and down, fists clenched, screaming at the workers.  He calmed down, walked away directly into my path and said, You're no good!  I'm spending all this money to train you for nothing.  Later he came looking for me when I was seated in the cafeteria at my break -- I'm sorry for what I said, he told me.  I was upset about the ruined batch.

      Herbert liked me, sincerely liked me.  He wasn't hustling, on the contrary, his attitude towards me was paternal, once pointing out that it wasn't a good idea for me to wear Bermuda shorts (to the knees) with all the men around.  Herbert, which all the employees called Herbie, was beautiful in the way that a Jewish man can be beautiful, intelligent, wise eyes, delicate features, a slim body, thinning sun-golden Florida hair, a butterscotch tan, impeccably dressed.  His knowledge of wools was reflected in his splendid suits, a very elegant man with manicured and polished nails.  Whenever I was near him my heart would go bumpitty bump.  It wasn't the money, lots of rich men lack class, it was the incomprehensible magic that occurred when I was in his presence.  His every word was stored and examined at length for any explanation to this wild attraction I had towards him.

      Herbert had a turnstile built in his garage by some of the employees who told us all about it, even told us how his mansion on Main Street looked inside.  He had inherited the mill from his father Max, who hanged himself in the very carding and spinning room I worked in.  Herbert often spoke to me about his daughter who was my age, a responsible citizen and a loving, family man.  Herbert was my first experience of love, and true gentleman that he was, he never let me down.

      The image above is not a picture of him, but he looked something like that.