Working Six Feet from Queen Elizabeth

In this era of job scarcity I wonder whether college students may benefit as did my generation in the 1950s from the diversity of jobs that we explored both summers and during our academic years — whether or not we needed to earn monies. I have greatly appreciated the human realities that I learned on these jobs ranging from journalism and building things, working in factories or on railroads, timbering, tutoring, butlering (for unpleasant folks), teaching swimming, sailing, and dumping latrines, sorting military parts and other junk for a major scrap metal firm. And then there were the jobs I did not get — modeling in an Oxford art school (could not hold a pose for at least 15 minutes as my mind wondered).

The virtues of the range of jobs that we undertook such as tramp steamer treks, oil wells, and the more dangerous ones — nearly lost it twice in situations that killed fellow workers. Got injured and learned the virtues of other nations’ medical systems (e.g. Britain that patched my face and mended a thumb wrenched out of joint when watering down the fish car from London — no charge and excellent service and a woman doctor who visited us at home with pneumonia and urged us to quit smoking).

Perhaps most valuable were the human links to guys unlike myself — buddies in the States and mates in Britain. Driving for a noted clergyman introduced me to every thing from notable homes and their residents to the trenches in Belgium which we visited where he had been a chaplain — the endless fields of grave stones made one aware of the terrible costs of war.

My life would have been far different had I merely been an honors philosophy major and college teacher — the joys, loves, angers and understandings of so many things as they really are.

And Elizabeth? Periodically in the dark of night her train would rush through Oxford station where I was a heavy freight porter to the north country which she loves. We would be warned a few minutes in advance not to lug one of our heavy wagons across the tracks until she had passed by. This was important. Two of my mates were killed by a late night train a few weeks after I quit that job.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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