WILLIAM C. WHEELER
Recently I was watching the Atlanta Braves play baseball and became mesmerized by the antics of their manager, Chuck Tanner. With one foot on the steps of the dugout, arms folded over a knee, he was exuding a steady stream of tobacco juice into the grass in front of him. This action brought back immediate memories of August 1939.
Fifty-one years ago I was one of the fortunate classmates who had accepted a job offer one year prior to graduation. A year later, swapping cap and gown for overalls and T-shirt, I began opening cotton bales in a textile mill in Pawtucket, R.I. J & P Coats Ltd. Of Glasgow, Scotland is a manufacturer of sewing threads and allied products with plants located in twenty-six countries. I had entered the Manufacturing Trainee program - the only Liberal Arts college graduate among those from Technical and Engineering schools. The first day was unforgettable. I was introduced to chewing tobacco and the art and method of expectoration, all in the name of safety for other employees working in heavy cotton dust areas. What a new experience! I do not recall Paul Eckley requiring this practice as part of one's job on the Amherst baseball team.
Forty-three years later I retired as Senior Vice President, Manufacturing. I have often wondered if my advancement was due to kicking the nicotine habit within twenty-four hours of its introduction on that day in August of 1939. Chuck Tanner has done OK with it. I have done OK without it. Those working years were exciting and eventful. My job included a visit to our home office in Scotland every eighteen months and travel to the various mills on the Continent. This opportunity to meet and work with people of various nationalities and races has been most rewarding. I progressed through various responsibilities in the U.S.A. mills and offices, the majority of which were located in the South, and finally ended up at the Head Office in New York and, later, Stamford, Conn., although I continued to spend two weeks each month visiting the plants from Maine to Georgia.
In spite of this heavy travel schedule I squeezed in a few community projects-trustees for two terms at Montclair Art Museum, the Samuel Slater Museum, Jaycees in Rhode Island, and Rotary Club in Georgia. We built our home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida in 1981, and upon retirement have pursued the good life of golf- two years as President of the Ponte Vedra Men•s Golf Association -while enjoying gardening, philately, and active participation in our Church. Travelling has been greatly reduced, not for any physical reason, but because I become homesick when I cross the Intracoastal Waterway a matter of two miles from home! The high point of my career was the day I began sharing life with Helen. We were married between hitches in PT Boat duty in the Pacific during World War II. She has been my constant companion, favorite golf partner, and mother of two fine children: Bill Jr. (Amherst '67), a lawyer, lives in Chicago and is Director of Education for the American Society of Safety Engineers; Virginia Hollins (’69) lives in London and is Corporate Manager UK for Chistie’s Contemporary Art PLC.