Friday, June 7, 2013

Ben Hamper and an Octopus Being Crucified

It's time for a Friday dose of Ben Hamper and Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line:
"After a hundred wrong turns and dead ends, we found my old man down on the trim line. His job was to install windshields with this goofy apparatus with large suction cups that resembled an octopus being crucified. A car would nuzzle up to the old man's work area and he would be waiting for it, a cigarette dangling from his lip, his arms wrapped around the windshield contraption as if it might suddenly rebel and bolt off for the ocean. Car, windshield. Car, windshield. Car, windshield. No wonder my father preferred playin' hopscotch with barmaids. This kind of repetition didn't look like any fun at all."


  1. Working my way through college (MSU), I would return to my Flint hometown after Spring Quarter. I'd immediately place job applications with all the GM productions in the hope of getting something paying union scale to fund the next year's tuition.

    In the Summer of 62,I got a call from Fisher Body and was escorted to the fabled assembly line. The noise was incredible, sparks flew everywhere from welders attaching various metal parts into an auto frame. My reaction was "Dante's Inferno," and how could people possibly work here every day. I soon found out.

    In a life chapter where I was devoted to education, working an automobile assembly line was one of the most profound educational experiences of my life. Co-workers were surprising cordial to the "college kid." They were very safety-conscious and had to be. It was quite dangerous. The monotony was indescribable. Coping techniques were seen with empty whiskey bottles in wheel wells and trunks of the auto bodies passing by.

    After 3 months of that lifestyle, there was never any question in my mind that I'd finish my education and avoid ever having to return to Dante's Inferno.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I just made it a separate post.

  2. Replies
    1. Chris, this is the illustration for the story on Ben in Mother Jones that ran when Michael Moore was the editor. The story is mentioned in Roger & Me.

    2. Oh cool. It kinda looks like it could be on a mural. How badass would that be if there was a mural that included Ben Hamper somewhere in Flint? Just sayin'.


Thanks for commenting. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at