Music man Stan
One significant difference for me between the card company and the cosmetics company warehouse was my relationship to the outside world.
In some ways, the card company tended to be much more connected to what went on beyond the walls of the warehouse. Most of what we shipped out of the card company went via UPS, which came regularly at about 3 p.m. every day to make a pick up. We knew the UPS driver so well he was a kind of adopted employee with whom we frequently joked. Much more rarely, we used other trucking firms when we had larger orders – the most frequent of these was APA which was owned by a Hudson County maverick, and made many more local deliveries than other firms did. We got to know those drivers nearly as well.
With D&B Wholesale, most of our deliveries were large and destined for places such a Waco, Texas and a number of other similar cities in the Deep South. We used UPS and APA rarely, although when we did, I often greeted their drivers as long lost friends.
Although when trucks from Roadway and other companies came in, we knew the drivers, they changed so often, we had merely a nodding acquaintance at best.
Stanley generally looked over the orders each morning anticipating what he figured we could get done by the end of the day, and then raced to pick and pack the orders in time for when the trucks arrived.
Some orders were more urgent than others, especially in waning days of the holiday season which for us ended just prior to Thanksgiving. Sometimes Donald had some special order and instructed us to ship it quickly, keeping on Stanley until we did.
Rushing to get the orders done in time was a kind of game I played with myself, a strange ritual that Stanley’s deliberateness defied.
At times, we had to stall the driver until Stan could put the finishing touches on an order, making enemies of those drivers unfamiliar with our odd habits.
distrustful of me at first, Stanley eventually took too me in a way he could
not later reverse when Donald expanded the business and needed Stan to act more
like a boss than a fellow worker, and friend.
With conditions at the old warehouse, we could not help but grow closer because we worked side by side hour after hour.
Stan was soft spoken, even when angry, and struggled to raise his voice when a situation required it – something that seemed to annoy Donald who pressed Stanley to become more assertive.
Having been with Donald for five or six years by the time I had arrived, Stanley must have begun to regret his decision to give up his own dream of becoming a white collar worker for what now seemed like a dead end job.
Even though he still had hope that his gamble would pay off, at times, I heard an under tone of despair in his voice as if he could foresee a time when Donald would find the success he craved, while still remained mired in that limbo between blue and white collar existence.
In many ways, Stanley defined that concept of “a bull in a china shop.” He could cut sheet metal, weld its joints, bang it into shape with a hammer, but when it came to dealing with the fragile fragrances here, he panicked – and was often terrified of the awesome responsibility he had inherited along with his college degree.
He had made the awful assumption that a mere piece of paper would somehow make him over into the man he had never been before, and no amount of Donald’s haranguing was going to turn this frog into a prince.
And though Stanley constructed his life on the vision that college could perform the miracle of making him over into a modern man, he seemed amazingly content with the way of life Donald’s first warehouse provided him. The only thing Stanley worried about was money and clearly believed he was not being paid enough. This is probably the reason why he wife took a job in the early 1970s.
Watching Stanley work fascinated me.
Somehow he did his best to make these fragile bodies he packed immune to the terrible journey they had to take, packing them against the rough shod hands of truck drivers who did not know or care what the word “fragile” meant.
He often grumbled about how the value of some boxes exceed his weekly salary, and though Donald scolded him about not spending so much time on each box saying much of it was covered by trucker’s insurance, Stan maintained his pace which was always too slow for Donald’s tastes.
More than once during those early years, I asked Stan why he had taken up with Donald. Stanley always gave me the same answer, about he believed he was getting in on the ground floor of a growing concern rather than getting dumped into the middle of some mindless corporation.
The answer, of course, was more complex than that. He may have feared getting trapped in a maze of cubicles where the entry fee was a college degree, but without any cheese at the other end of the maze. Such places simply stamped out petty executives the way Stanley had pieces of tin. But Stan also feared the whole white collar concept. He didn’t feel comfortable in that circle of petty ambition and back-stabbing office politics.
As grand a scheme as Donald had planned for the future, I think Stanley instinctively knew he could never be a part of it, and that was the attraction and the trap.
He had managed to escape one dead end job, only to end up in a box he felt more comfortable in – unfortunately, Donald was about to change the box.
Stan was master of this little world in the old warehouse the day he would never be when Donald took the next bold step to purchase a warehouse of his own.
With me and occasionally other employees, Stan had a good handle on the operation, even under the constant complaints of Donald for him to hurry. Stan had his cup of coffee and his cassette tape player which made him happy.
Although Stan’s obituary would later claim he loved “classic rock,” this was not completely accurate. He leaned heavily towards what people would later define as light rock and brought in cassette copies of his favorite performers -- which became the sound track of our lives at the warehouse.
He didn’t always like the music the radio play, especially harder rock such as David Bowie, and was more comfortable with music by the Eagles, Jackson Browne and especially, Kenny Rankin.
In what would become symbolic of his inability to grasp the changing times and the changing technology, Stan – not fully comprehending the technology he enjoyed – did not use a patch cord to record his favorite music – he simply put a condenser microphone between the stereo speakers and urged his family members to stay quiet until the recording was done.
He was not always successful. I didn’t know he owned a dog until I heard Stanley shushing the beast in the background of one recording. Sometimes a child’s voice would rise up and vanish, or a telephone would ring, and suddenly stop with a whispered voice saying, “I’ll call you later.”
These voices would haunt me later after I left Cosmetics Plus when I inherited many of Stanley’s old tapes. Even into the late 1980s when they became to deteriorate from their over use, I listened to them just to hear Stanley’s ghostly voice in the background.
He played these tapes over and over until they wore out, and then he would record them again. Some tape labels – which he had painstakingly printed the information on – bore the imprint of his thumb and forefinger from his turning the tape over while in the middle of that messy process of stenciling cards for shipping. Many of these tapes later retained the scent of perfume, coffee and beer – which he often had with his lunch.
All these years later that duty and often dim warehouse grew into something nostalgic for me as if when we left it, we left something important behind, some valuable aspect of innocence we would never again regain.
And with these memories always came the sound of the music, and Stanley – if not quite singing along the mouthing the words he knew by heard, often pausing over a particular lyric, admiring them for the poetry that they were, and to the powerful feelings that drew up in him.
Kenny Rankin was by far his favorite, and those tapes he sometimes played back to back, over and over so that they wore out often and needed most often to be replaced. He also loved guitarist Dickey Betts, with or without the Alman Brothers.
At some point I started writing and recording my own songs and brought in the tapes for him to listen to. They were not bad as songs go, but my performances were somewhat wanting. But Stan listened to them with reverence, and when he listened, he would look at me, and in a way that changed his opinion of me. He would bring the tapes home and play them for his family, and in once case, his cousin (I think) had a girl group that recorded one of my songs in his living room. He brought that tape back to work with him as if he had discovered gold.