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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gray Matter: Touché, Union goons

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wouldn't you know? I just got home and exulted over being back at my computer when the darned thing "went down". I do maintain a love/hate relationship with this device! Anyway I'm finally back on line without enough time to do a really serious Gray Matter, so bear with me.

Last time, some of you may recall, I spoke of several people I met while in the skilled care facility in Rochester, Minn. Another woman I met there was from a small town in southern Illinois, just across the Mississippi from St. Louis, Mo. Our conversation triggered memories of an outlandish experience we had in that very area many years ago, which I will now tell you about, in hopes that you'll find it at least a bit amusing.

My husband was a charter member of the Marcus Rotary Club and continued to be very active in that organization. In the early sixties Rotary International was scheduled to be held in St. Louis with Willi Brandt, the remarkable German chancellor, as a featured guest. Melvin was chosen as a district delegate, so he and I and our middle son drove down. There was some sort of snafu about the reservations for our Iowa delegation. As a result, we were all moved to various other locations. The two of us ended up in a rather seedy section of Granite City, an Illinois refinery town just over the bridge. We were unconcerned as our son was spending the time with friends who lived in nearby Wood River, and we would be in St. Louis all day, every day.

But we were in for a rude come-uppance. Shortly after midnight the first night, we were awakened by sounds of reveling, shouted obscenities, and more, coming through the seemingly paper-thin walls. It continued for hours. Complaining to the management in the morning, we discovered that, a crew of union organizers was staying next door. It seems a huge refinery was re-locating from the east coast and these operatives had been sent to get a jump on any competing unions. They would sleep all day and then, after working hours, wine and dine the "powers that be" until midnight and continue reveling the rest of the night at the motel.

We further discovered that the motel management was much more concerned with placating the Union Goons than obliging a small-town Iowa Rotarian. After glimpsing a few of those guys, we figured an element of fear may have entered the equation as well.

We did have a wonderful time at the convention - all on a minimum of sleep. Hearing Brandt, as well as having the chance to shake his hand was amazing. We participated in great international panels; toured the city's numerous famed sites and enjoyed a presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Carousel" in their incredible outdoor theater - probably our first experience of drama "under the stars."

But these were all interlaced with some frightening pre-dawn experiences. One night things turned from merely raucous to what must have been a real brawl. I was sure more than sound was going to come crashing through the wall at any moment.

The last night of our stay, we were planning a 6 a.m. start on our journey back to Iowa. We had picked up our youngster and said goodbye to our friends in Wood River. Our bags were packed and, despite another night of limited sleep, we were up early ready to go and, incidentally, ready to wreak a bit of revenge.

My spouse and son and all our luggage were in the car with the motor running. At that point I turned on the TV at maximum volume, ran out, slamming the door with the key locked inside and we were on our way! Looking back, over all these years, I suppose it does sound a bit childish. Still, we've had fun recounting the story and imagining the consternation of those burly brutes, aroused from sleep as we had been so often next door.

I hope you have enjoyed at least a minor chuckle or two at their expense.