PulseLine, April 3, 2015

Right, April Fool on Pg. #17!! What April Fool? 😉

The letter from Tom Smith, in the Pulseline, prompted this response. Being retired, I was unaware of any proposal to again change the name of the Westfield Vocational school. I believe Westfield had the best Vocational school to be had. This school was training boys,(young men), in the trades of the day. As my generation will recall, next to St Mary’s Church, was the WESTFIELD TRADE SCHOOL. A very simple name, but the quality of education was always the tops, and the local business’s know it. We had a Auto shop, a Machine ship,(I was trained here),a Carpentry shop, Drafting, and a Electrical shop. All classroom subjects were shop related, only sport, was basketball. I AM FROM THE LAST YEAR OF THE OLD WESTFIELD TRADE SCHOOL, WHICH CLOSED IN 1962.
I was trained as a Machinist, after graduation, advanced to a Tool Maker, into design, A General manager of two large companies, then in business for myself. Tom Smith speaks of dirty hands,(try discolored), oil smelling cloths, which my wife took to a Laundromat, cuts, stitches, scuffed work boots, with steel chips in soles, which were never worn in the house. He is a 1000% correct. I had two sons who went to the “new voke”, 20 years later, still in same trade, with pay that shames some college grads. When I was advanced enough, I became a Jig and Fixture maker another step in value to your employer.
I remember standing in line at the old Woronco Bank to cash a paycheck. Two men, about my age, were in front of myself. The men were dressed in Sport coats, ties, slacks, gold watch, rings, and a nice bracelet. I was dressed in dirty jeans, knees torn, torn T shirt, and beat up work boots with steel chips in soles along with the machine shop aroma. As I looked around, for a shorter line, I viewed the paycheck of the well dressed man in front of me. I do not know his employment, but he wanted to cash a check for $215.00, take home. I was holding a $900.00 check, after $400.00 was taken out for tax’s. I was again, very happy with my choice of work, even with the dirt, grease, cuts, smell. Having that paycheck, I did not care what others thought of my appearance, or aroma. This was when the Husband went to work, and the Wife’s stayed home with the kids. (before you write, this was a different time)
During my working career, even when times were tough, I always had employment. As with my classmates, just having the “WESTFIELD TRADE SCHOOL”, education on your resume, opened doors. Many of my classmates worked their whole life in their chosen path from this grand old school.
Little known, every year the school had about 30/35 openings due to graduation. There were always about 200 applications for those few spots. This was a no nonsense school. You tested just to be considered to be allowed to enter. Only the best got in. If you got 1 demerit for misconduct, poor grades, you were sent to the high school. We were here to learn, to train, keep our noses clean, I can honestly say, there were no behavior problems. A “C”, was the lowest grade allowed in your chosen trade. If you did not improve, you faced the high school.
By today’s standards, this would be considered a DRACICON, type of education, but it was well known, even before graduation, most had a job waiting. We had a placement director who was always getting calls for our Graduates. The calls came from local business’s, and quite a few out of town. Most got their job in their Senior year, I started in my Junior year.
A few years ago, Westfield did a study, published in the Westfield News, at the time, over 70% of all business’s could be traced back to a WESTFIELD TRADE SCHOOL education. Some of these business’s still exist, but with new owners. The roots of these business’s were from Bartlett Street, were the old trade school was. It is now a school for St. Mary’s.
It seems that most will think that having a “catchy” name that they attended, will open doors, or lead to advancement. In a very small percentage, I will have to say it may be true. We must also remember, even though a large percentage of work is automated, machines will break down. Who will fix it? The person in the suit, I think not, it will be the repair person who will get dirty, crawl on the floor, but have a nice check at end of week. This is a hands on person, for I have seen some women out work their male counterparts. During World War II, my Mother worked at Perkins Machine and Gear, making rifle parts for our troops.(a bad time). One just has to read history, or have lived it.
When I had my own business, a Machine Shop, I spent little time at the “BS”, written on the application. The longer you are in business, the different your hiring skills become. I would always put a man on the floor, after all, he said he could do the job. Within hours, days at most, I knew if I had a keeper, or a go now. Talking the talk, walking the walk, told me just what I needed to know. The name of the school, does not mean you have the fortitude, or education to fill the opening.
In closing, I am very aware of the changes in time. But, somewhere, along the way, the work ethic has been lost. I started working tobacco the day I turned 14. My step-father was a cop on the Westfield Force. During his tenor, I cannot remember more then 2 shootings. Now today, most every day you turn on the TV, there has been a shooting. I cannot answer for this, but I believe everybody wants instant reward, does not want to work to get what they desire. We need to step back a few years, when manners, and respect were more abundant.
Kenneth H. Stomski Sr.

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