Derby Hat Management


The Chief Planner didn’t wear a black derby and didn’t chomp on cigars, however that is the image his management style suggested. When I was in the Boston Naval Shipyard in the mid 1950s. Apples, his nickname, was the civilian boss of the civilian planners and it seemed to his minions that he would stay in that job forever. Nearly two-decades afterwards when he announced his retirement date, I heard that the office teemed with mixed emotions. Surely the daily oppression would end. Surely the entertainment at the start of each workday would cease.

Himself, as the Irish would say, employed a short stocky women as his time-clock monitor. She too was second-generation Irish and from East Boston. Her outstanding characteristic was loyalty to Apples as Knocko Minihan was to Mayor Frank Skeffington in Edwin O’Conner’s Last Hurrah.

Minutes before the start of each workday the loyal monitor positioned herself in front of the time clock so as to allow access to only one person at a time. As the minutes ticked away her countenance changed to reflect animal-like ferocity and her stance slowly shifted to a crouch. Experienced observers could accurately estimate time from her appearance.

To inexperienced watchers the scene suggested a cat about to pounce on mice that were becoming more and more agitated by pending danger. There was much more to it. She was employing psychology just as a football linesman employs body language in order to advise an opposing linesman that a body-crunching impact is about to be launched. Also, as the seasoned observers knew, these mice would fight back.

Always about a minute before the bell sounded start of work the rear of the line surged desperately toward the time clock. The individual who was about to slot a time card got pushed too far forward and shoved back. The frantic rear responded by again surging ahead only this time with a bit of mayhem thrown in. The seesaw process quickly escalated and regardless of the fray at precisely seven thirty the earth-shattering body block was launched. Then using just her ample rear end to hold off those who were officially late, and with arms flailing over and around her some landing not too gentle blows, the loyal monitor, with her hair every which way, yanked the latecomer’s time cards and substituted pink slips. A few choice words were always overheard; being late was serious business.

On paydays, the same loyal monitor delivered paychecks except those addressed to people who had punched in on pink slips. She handed their checks to Apples. Even when prodded by a wife, I observed that a planner sometimes took as much as three days to work up enough courage to ask Himself for a paycheck.


Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo