Sunday, January 30, 2022

'Good places for a pipefitter to work'

     Sometimes I give the impression that my mail is one raging septic river of abuse—probably because there is something empowering about sharing a really nasty letter, using the writer's momentum against him, so instead of wounding me, he wounds himself, or would, were he capable of shame, which I can assure you such people are not.
     But I also get far more interesting letters from smart, decent people that are valuable for a variety of reasons such as this, reacting to Friday's front page story about candy company closings. Read it and see if you can detect the reason I want to share it:
I was saddened to see another candy plant closing. Not because of our candy capital status, as I honestly was not aware of that. But because of the jobs lost. I am a member of the Chicago Pipefitters Union Local 597. I retired in 2018. Over my 37 years I worked at many candy plants. Brach, Wrigley, Tootsie Roll, the Butterfinger plant by O'Hare, and also the Mars plant. Candy plants were always very good places for a Pipefitter to work. There are miles of pipe needed to manufacture candy. Candy cannot be conveyed through pipe without be heated to its melting point, so a lot of steam or high temp water pipe is needed. A lot of candy is run through “jacketed pipe” which is a small pipe placed inside a larger pipe, with steam running through the “jacket” in between the 2 pipes. The candy runs through the smaller, inside pipe with the steam keeping it in liquid form. Building jacketed pipe, the necessary boiler work, and all of the related piping is good work for a Pipefitter. And a candy plant is a much more pleasant place to walk into in the morning than say a corn plant, a steel mill, or an animal rendering plant. And you smell much better to your family when you walk in the door at night! Sorry to hear another one has closed.

Love your articles!
Tom Mandernach
New Lenox, IL

    No, not because I've been to the Pipefitters Union Local 597 training facility in Mokena, and wrote a column about it in 2014. But good memory. What I found very cool are jacketed pipes. A pipe within a pipe. Amazing, right? Even though I'd toured the pipe fitters' facility, jacketed pipes somehow escaped my notice until now.  I had to share.



  1. Love this! I live if not spitting then definitely smelling distance from the Ferrara Pan factory and rue the looming day they leave. Some days I got to take a boat tour group thru the Blommer Chocolate bouquet, then get home to the smell of strawberries and/or lemons (when they're making Fruit Stripe gum it smells like both). I would miss that.

  2. Every profession has its nuances. Most unknown to the public. Most pretty interesting. Tom’s letter is proof.
    One of the things I found interesting about being a paramedic is that you go into peoples homes when they weren’t prepared for company, often in the wee hours of the morning.
    From the depths of poverty to the ultra rich,
    class lines are blurred when people are aroused from sleep and in pain.

  3. I attended Lane tech when it was still a school where you could learn the trades.

    One of the classes that I had was mechanical/ architectural drawing. I loved that kind of stuff.

    From time to time I have the opportunity to make drawing for a customer and I still use a pencil and a t-square.

    I get some strange looks what with CAD having become a thing a couple decades ago.

    I've had the occasion to work in a couple of candy factories myself. I had no idea that the dust was flammable and could cause explosions until a worker came up to me and said hey. You can't smoke anywhere inside or out of the facility. Yikes

  4. Plus, "jacket" is just a swell word, and seems charming in most instances. (Well, maybe not straitjacket...) Doesn't a jacket potato sound more fun than simply baked, a jacket seem more friendly than a coat? Which is quainter, a book cover or a dust jacket? I could go on, but I'll stop! : )

  5. And then there's the not-so-charming yellowjacket...or yellow jacket...the common name in North America for predatory social wasps, whose stinger hurts like hell. Found out the hard way, when I tried to drown an underground nest in my front yard, and was stung on the arms and legs. A garden hose doesn't work--I had to spray them and beat them to death. They're NAZ-ty!

    1. Admittedly, that's another exception, Grizz. When it comes to insects, the bumblebee has the cuter name and less obnoxious disposition...


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