One of the great guys I used to work with at the chemical factory was David L. Garman. Dave was from Virginia and moved to Delaware sometime in his early adulthood. Dave was a mechanic assigned to the chemical plant and I came to know him when he was reassigned to the power house. It did not take long to figure out that he was an amazing mechanic.
He served in the Korean War as a Private First Class in the Marine Corps. Like many of the other war veterans I knew, he never liked to talk about his time in the war. Once in a while he would say a few things. I did learn that his time in the Marines was really rough and he told of some really ugly fighting. He spoke of fighting waves of soldiers who came charging without gun. They we ordered to just keep coming and coming picking up guns form fallen soldiers as they charged. Since then I've seen this sort of thing portrayed very graphically in the cinema, I can't imagine how that must have felt.
Whenever there was a problem Dave could fix it. He was an old-time mechanic that knew more tricks than any mechanical person I've ever met. He knew tricks to take apart things that seemed permanently stuck together, he could remove a broken off pipe from a piece of equipment without any trouble, he could solve problems that seemed hopeless. This is the guy you want in a power house because the name of the game is to stay running all the time. Our factory made a million dollars of product a day so shutting down to fix something was frowned upon by the management because shutting down the power house meant shutting down the plant.
Our equipment was old, mostly from the mid 1950s when the Dupont Company built the "new" power house back then. Some of the equipment was so old that I think it may have been some of the last of its type in the entire state. One of the things was the Copes Thermostatic Tube automatic feed water control. This was the last automatic control system that was not based on some sort of electronic or pneumatic controller. Dave could handle maintaining it and I knew how to operate it. I knew the system was as old as the steam locomotives that I so loved and I also knew most power plant workers at the time never saw one, much less knew how to operate it. We also had the last plant whistle in Delaware and I was the guy who blew it last when one of the supervisors made us stop blowing it.
Dave seemed a little rough at first but was indeed a very kind man. He often had great stories and he somewhat liked trains. he told me stories about the big steam locomotives of the Norfolk & Western Railway hauling long coal trains over the mountains in Virginia and the modern electric locomotives of the Virginian Railway that competed with the N&W.
Dave passed on in January 4, 2000, shortly after retiring. This was the case for so many of the men who worked at the chemical plant. The retirement age was 58 and many didn't make it much longer. I'm glad I got out of the chemical plant when I did but I value all I learned from him. When I find myself with something broken and seemingly unfixable, I think about Dave Garman and what he would do.
Monday, June 5, 2017
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