I stumbled across Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line, in an off-hand comment in our cranky local alt-weekly, The City Paper. God bless 'em, alt-weeklies still exist, a healthy weekly dose of casual profanity, pinko editorials, normcore cartoons, and weepy art criticism, held together with mis-registered newsprint and strip-club ads. I ordered it used and read it in just a few days.
Ben Hamper was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1956. He was a 4th generation assembly-line worker -- his great-grandfather joined the workforce in 1916, only 15 years after the assembly line was invented. He grew up standard mid-century Catholic: a half-a-dozen siblings, a drunk dad who was in-and-out of work, and a regimen of parochial schools. He ended up married with a kid on the way after barely graduating high school.
A few years later the marriage went south and Hamper went looking for serious work. Partly it was a ploy to repair his relationship, but it also seemed ancestral, like the dull pull of the mills had been ground into his blood. The late seventies weren't great years for the domestic auto industry -- the beginning of a rough two decades -- but he eventually found work at the General Motors Bus and Truck Plant on the night shift.Read More