The Shop

Work, Don’t Play…

For most of my childhood summers, until I graduated college, I worked in my Grandfather’s motor shop on Wantagh Avenue on Long Island.  While most of my friends were scooping ice cream or hanging at the beach as lifeguards, or doing nothing at all, I was sweeping streets, breaking up wooden skids with a sledge hammer and changing ball bearings on small DC motors.  On good days we got free lunch and were taken on coveted trips to the bank or Freeport Grainger to pick up parts.  On great days we were handed the keys to a beat up pick up and told to deliver an air compressor on Eastern Long Island.  I’d find myself happily lost along route 27, pre-GPS, trying to read a map while smoking a cigarette.

My Grandpa John was, for me, one of the last great self-made men.  He grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, served in the Navy during World War II and, upon return, built his own business repairing motors for the bumper cars at Coney Island.  He put in old fashioned hard work and never took a vacation or a day off.  In fact I think he loved work, and going to work at “the shop,” more than anything else he could be doing.  He never took up a hobby or a sport; he didn’t play golf or travel.  He worked.

When he retired, and was no longer the official “boss” of the place, he still went to work everyday.  He came in at 8:00AM and put in a full 8 hours, even though he didn’t have to.  His day, at this point, might have consisted mostly of crossword puzzles, solitaire on the computer and busting balls in the back with the men, but he still did it everyday, and they still came to him for advice and council, and money for lunch.

Over the more than 50 plus years it was around,  the business grew and consisted of many different types of sales, service and repairs of industrial motors, pumps and air compressors.  What started in a basement in Brooklyn, soon expanded to a  store front, and later became several attached buildings on Long Island.  Still, the family always referred to it as simply “the shop” and so this project will be called that as well.

This comic is my attempt at recording my experiences working at my grandfather’s shop all those years.  While I worked there we used to joke that someone should write it down because no one would believe it wasn’t fiction.  Many of these events are strange, and funny, abstract and often quotidian to the point of absurd, but they are true, or at least true to my memory of them.

To any family or former employees that might stumble upon this, I apologize for anything that might seem slanderous or deragatory towards you.  Please know it is made entirely out of love and a desire to immortalize a significant and deeply personal part of my life.  And in the end its just a comic book.

I hope you enjoy.

—James

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