July 13, 2024
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July 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Learning About Glass in the Mountains

(Part 2 of 2)

We returned to the shop about 5:00, and I told Sol that I had to speak to him. When everyone left, I went into the office and asked him if he had ever done a storefront job like this one. He said this was his first one. I then told him what I thought… and he agreed with me and said he would go along with us to the jobsite in the morning and see for himself.

In the morning at the jobsite, he told the foreman to get—from the blueprints—all those number-marked squares from one single row going down to the sidewalk, and he had us screw each one in temporarily with two screws just to hold it in place, and sure enough, the last square that was to go to the sidewalk was about an inch and a half too long.

We worked in two teams. One team on top removing all of the squares, and the other team going upward, installing the squares from the bottom at the sidewalk. It took almost a day to remove everything on top, and at the same time installing squares from the bottom like it should have been done in the first place. I’m sure people watching this must have been saying, “What the hell is going on over there!?”

That evening after work, Sol asked me to come into his office, and he thanked me for bringing this to his attention. He asked me about my background and we spoke for a while, and he shook my hand and thanked me again. I never said anything to the foreman about this, but I’m sure he knew it was all my doing.

Working there was a great learning experience for me. I learned as I went along and worked with those men. I remember cutting and installing mirrors on the inside of closet doors at the famous Concord Hotel. I never hesitated to ask questions, and I learned all I could as I worked there. They had a huge hydraulic table, which had a hinged top that folded up into a vertical position, so a large sheet of plate glass could be placed on pins at the table’s edge. The top would then be hydraulically brought back to its normal flat tabletop position so the glass on it can be cut to size. I can say that “I now am able to cut a large 10-foot sheet of glass and have it break right on the score of the glass cutter without a problem!” which is something I could not have done before I got that job.

When I told Sol that I would be leaving soon, he kindly said that I could take some glass and replace those windows in my Studebaker, which I really appreciated. That particular car today would be an antique prize winner because it had some really distinctive body lines.

When it was time for me to pick up stakes and leave, I said goodbye to Sol and everyone, and left with my now weatherproof,and see-through Studebaker. I wanted to see the State that I lived in again, so I took Route 17 East to Route 84 to Connecticut and wound up in Danbury, which was the first town in Connecticut after the New York border. I found myself driving through town on Main Street, and there, on the right side of the street, was an auto glass shop, with a colorful sign, “Danbury Auto Glass.” I was somehow drawn to that place, as if it was a calling, or maybe because it was a glass shop and it was the first place I noticed as I crossed into Connecticut. I just had to stop there to see if they needed help, and if I can learn something new there. I went in and introduced myself to the owner, saying that I was passing through and asked if he needed help for a few days. We spoke for a while and I told him that I was fully experienced, and he said to come to work at 8 in the morning. He directed me to a rooming house where the prices were reasonable, and I started work in the morning. I can’t remember his name, but I do know one thing….This guy was a remarkable genius! I can say this without any reservations because it’s true.

After working there for a few days, I noticed that he would go into a back room and I would then hear machinery going with all sorts of clickety-clack sounds and shifting and popping noises. I didn’t want to intrude upon this man’s privacy, but after a while my curiosity was getting the better of me, and I finally asked him what those sounds were every time he went into that room. “Well,” he said, “I really never showed it to anyone; it’s something that I invented.” I guess the disappointed look on my face softened his heart, and he agreed to show it to me. He took me into the room, and there against the wall was this huge machine with all kinds of levers and gears and cams that controlled many arms to which there were attached glass cutters that were all synchronized to come down and cut glass circles. He said that it was a “multiple ‘glass circle’ cutting machine” and that he had a contract with the Eveready Flashlight Co. to make glass lenses for their flashlights. He told me exactly how it worked. Long sheets of glass that he cut to size were placed on a rack and stacked. The machine takes over from there and slides one sheet at a time onto a cutting surface ready to be cut; then the multiple glass cutters, about 10 of them, come down and make circular cuts on the glass. It then pushes the scored glass off onto another surface where it vibrates and breaks the scored glass into circles, which then go onto a slow-moving belt that deposits them into a basket at the end. It was amazing to see the work that went into the making of that machine, which must have taken him years to build. He told me that it had one problem: he was losing about 25 percent due to breakage. Some would break through the middle of the circles, making them worthless.

Due to the valid questions that I was asking, he started up the machine to show me exactly what it was doing, and as I stood there watching how many of the circles were breaking in half, I could not believe what I was seeing. God must have taken pity on him and sent me to help him, because I knew the answer to this problem, and anyone reading this entire story would know it also: All those cutters were not lubricated. He was cutting dry. I told him about turpentine, as I explained that you must lubricate the wheels of the glass cutters with turps or a light oil, or you get what’s called a “hot cut” and the glass will break in any direction that is of least resistance. You can cut dry with a new cutter if you don’t use too much pressure, which is probably how he cut glass. I would have seen it, but he did all the cutting while I was outside removing and installing the door glasses. He said that he never heard of using a lubricant. I guess he figured that a lubricant stops friction and that would hinder the score of the cutter, which actually has the opposite effect. A very simple solution, but in this case a critical one. His knowledge and talent was far beyond anyone who was just in the auto glass business. I just can’t get over all the different functions that he made that machine accomplish to cut glass circles and then, as if by magic, have them fall gently into a basket at the end.

I went to the hardware store up the block and bought a can of turpentine, and he brushed each length of glass in a large stacked pile with the turps and started the machine. Everything even sounded smoother as we watched each length of glass being cut and broken into perfect circles without a single mishap breakage in that entire pile. He looked at me in disbelief, then looked at the machine, and then looked back at me, as he shook my hand and thanked me, as if in a trance, while looking back again, staring at that machine.

He asked me to come to his daughter’s wedding, which was that weekend. I thankfully declined. He asked me a few more times during that day and showed me a picture of his daughter. I couldn’t go, even if I wanted to; I had no suit with me for such an occasion. I wished him all the best and said to kiss the bride for me, and told him that I was leaving the next day to go home.

In the morning I said goodbye to him, and he shook my hand with both of his hands, and looked directly into my eyes, as he wished me good luck in the future. Once again, it felt good to help someone.

While driving home to Brooklyn, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the interesting things I encountered and all that I learned and did during that time, and now I had some money and a car too!

Shortly after returning home, my pa opened an auto glass department in our shop at the left front section of the building that had a side door going out to the driveway. It was perfect for working on cars outside if we chose to. My pa bought a grinding wheel and belt sanding machine unit, and hooked up water to it to spray the belt and wet the carborundum to drip onto the wheel. I made a sturdy bench to cut glass on, with a tight, flat carpeted surface and a drawer for glaziers’ tools, and I built a rack with shelves to hold the various sizes of safety glass.

It was great working with glass again. My dad soon learned how to cut and grind and polish the glass edges, too. He enjoyed working with safety glass and we began getting work from insurance companies, who sent us people with work orders to replace broken glass, including curved windshields on cars with comprehensive insurance coverage. The glass business was my contribution to my pa’s auto body business. I remember looking with pride at the new lit-up neon sign that my pa had bought and hung in the side office window, which said AUTO GLASS.

By David S. Weinstein


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