© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


Stepping back in time

I had a pie job between two stints in a furniture factory.


When I say pie job, I mean it literally. For five or six months, I delivered fresh pies to customers such as restaurants, a hospital and a university.


The pay wasn’t great and the side benefits were fattening. Making things worse was getting up at 3 a.m., which wasn’t exactly a sweet incentive for this night owl.


Fortunately, I had the furniture job to fall back on. The first time at the plant lasted 15 months. My second tenure endured for 20 years before what I considered my second “pie job” came along.


Notice that I put this “pie job” in quotation marks, denoting that the term is meant metaphorically. I left Klaussner Furniture to go full-time at The Randolph Guide, the weekly newspaper. I was a writer, columnist and editor and enjoyed the work immensely.


That job lasted 16 years and five months, at which point corporate inexplicably decided to close our doors. After a couple of months of flailing about like a fish on a hook, I desperately accepted a position with Klaussner — my third stretch with the company, if you can consider five weeks a stretch.


That was the early spring of 2015 and this job started at 6 a.m., not as early as my pie job but certainly untimely for me.


I was once again working in the frame shop, where workers took wooden parts to build furniture frames, which then had the seat springs added prior to being sent to the upholstery department.


My job was to make sure the framers had parts they needed. If an arm strip split, for instance, I would rush to the stockroom, find the suitable strip and bring it back to the framer.


Fortunately, there weren’t that many spare parts needed by the framers. Unfortunately, the plant manager, seeing me sitting around waiting to be called, suggested that I use my spare time to push the finished frames over to the springer line.


That didn’t seem too much to ask of a 68-year-old former white collar worker. But with a dozen or so framers whipping out piecework at a rapid pace, keeping up with pushing frames was seeming more, to me, like a young man’s occupation.


I came to work one Friday morning and told my supervisor, “This will be my last day.”


Anyway, by that time freelance writing was taking on the appearance of, well, a pie job. I hooked up with two newspapers and kept busy writing as an independent contractor.


Then a full-time job came open and I was back in the newsroom. After nearly five years, I chose to retire and wait for my colleague, Ray Criscoe, to start publishing the Randolph Hub.


That happened in September of 2021 and I’ve been working with Ray ever since. 


Then chance brought me back in time to the world of furniture frames.


Ginny and I decided to check out the weekend furniture sales at Elite Family Frames at the old Stedman/Sara Lee building. Just across the way from the furniture on display were the framer tables and the setup carts.


I talked to the owner, Deanna Brower, and learned that she had worked at Klaussner for 25 years before going into her own frame business. We talked about people we had known at Klaussner and found that we knew many of the same folks.


Deanna even told me that several of her employees had worked at Klaussner before coming to her factory. I talked to one man, Randall Welch, who knows a number of my friends.


I interviewed Deanna and then went back to the factory to take photos of employees working, complete with a group shot of the entire crew.


You can see the story in this issue of the Hub.


Watching guys build frames took me back to so many of those days at Klaussner. Deanna even told me that the Klaussner frames were more innovative than those of other companies.


I spent so much time at Elite Family Frames that Ginny texted me, wanting to know if I had taken a job there.


That’s ironic since I had never been happy working in a furniture plant. But, as I’ve said, after all that time at Klaussner, I’ve always felt a close connection.


I may not have enjoyed the work, but I made so many friends that they seem like family.


Maybe I’ve found another family at Elite Family Frames.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.