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John Andersen: Remembering my first boss on Labor Day

John Andersen: Remembering my first boss on Labor Day

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This weekend is always special for me.

It is considered by many as the unofficial end of summer. By the calendar, it is Labor Day Weekend. On this Labor Day I think of Julius Koenig, my first boss.

I graduated from high school in 1969 on Sunday, June 1, and on Monday, June 2, I reported to Marshfield Power and Water for my first regular job.

I was part of the summer crew, kids who were hired to add manpower to the department. Marshfield Power and Water Department had projects it did during the summer and we were that help.

Marshfield Power and Water had four on duty power trucks. One set power polls, one did the high-voltage work and had an 85-foot dual bucket. One was a service and meter truck. The one I was assigned to performed on call and troubleshooting duty. The foreman of the outfit was Julius Koenig.

Julius Koenig began working for the Marshfield Power and Water Department in 1927. He had been there for 42 years when I was introduced to him. He was my boss, and the electrical line foreman. What he said was the law.

He stood over 6 feet tall. He had a leathery face with big glasses.

On June 2, he was wearing bib overalls, long johns and a flannel shirt. A railroad engineer’s hat rested on his head with thin but graying hair sticking out.

After our introduction, I called him sir and he called me Andy. He knew my Dad. He also told me I could call him Julius.

Julius had several rules: When out of the truck, keep your hardhat on at all times. Get to work on time. If I had to call in sick, I was to do it by 7:30 am. It was understood that calling in sick meant that you were dead or dying.

If we were in the public eye, we had to keep our shirts on so we would “not get the girls all excited and take us away from our work.” I was to keep my wits about me as electricity kills people. My responsibilities were simple: everything that went up the pole and everything that went down the pole, including me.

As the summer progressed, the sky turned bluer and the days warmed. He taught me how to climb poles and how not to kill myself. He also made sure we had plenty of water to drink and every so often ice cream.

On July 1, he took off his long johns but kept the flannel shirt and bibs. The crew said the long johns went back on Sept. 1.

On the hottest days, he would sing: “Shine on, Shine on harvest moon, Up in the sky. I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June or July. Snow time ain’t no time to stay outdoors and spoon, So shine on, Shine on harvest moon- for me and my gal.”

The first time I heard that song I almost split a gut laughing. From Julius’ obituary: “Up until the last few years he was always heard humming or singing while he went about his activities.” Yes, indeed.

When we were working in Marshfield tearing up Central Avenue and reinstalling street lights, he arranged it so we could be working in the shade. He would not let us take our shirts off. It was a rule, you know. He was a great boss.

A tradition at Marshfield Power and Water was the summer picnic. The summer crew bought the beer and the full-timers bought the lunch. We sat in Wildwood Park until the stars came out and the late summer moon rose in the sky. We told tall tales. The summer made us friends.

As Labor Day came I was leaving for college.

On my last day, I said goodbye to him. He shook my hand and said, “Thanks for working for us” and ”I wish I went to high school. But I had to go to work.”

Julius does not need to put on his long johns now; Julius is part of summers past and the summer of 2020 has joined him. Not to mention “January, February, June and July.”


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