Dec 7, 2006

Remembering Ershman

I don’t remember his first name, but sure he had one. Everybody just called him Ershman. I’m sure the spelling is also wrong but that is a moot point.

Ershman was a strange little fellow. He aspired to be a preacher, not just run-of-the-mill translator of the Good Word, but a real hell fire & brimstone, fist shaking, foot stomping, screaming and yelling preacher from the old school.

Remember the old Munsters TV show with Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and Al Lewis as Grandpa Munster? Take Grandpa’s face, turn the smile into a big frown, add a little longer nose and pointed chin, then make the complexion very dark and you have Ershman. His facial feature that most impressed me when I was just a kid was his small, dark, beady eyes. He looked mean! He wasn’t mean, just mad. He was the most even tempered person I have known - he was pi$$ed off all the time. I don’t believe I ever saw him when he wasn’t yelling at someone or about something. Of course, because of his disposition, he was the butt of everyone’s joke.

Ershman worked in the maintenance department for the Gospel Publishing House, which is the publishing and printing division for the Assemblies of God churches. Dad also worked there and at that time was foreman of the press department. Often, I would go into the plant just before quiting time and watch all the presses run and chat with the pressmen. Here would come Ershman, running around the corner of a press, shaking his fist in dad’s face and yelling, “I’m going to tear you limb from limb!” He was always threatening to tear someone’s limb off, but never did.

One of Ershman’s responsibilities was to pick up the waste paper at each press, take it to a bailing machine so the waste paper could be recycled. Each press had at least one large cardboard barrel for the waste. Each barrel could hold about 50 gallons of a liquid. In order to get as much paper into each barrel as possible, Ershman would clasp his hand together, intertwining his fingers and with as much might as he could muster, pound the top of the paper mounded on top to pack it in the barrel. Ever so often, one of the pressmen would take an empty barrel, tape a sheet of paper over the top and pile paper on top. Here would come Ershman with hands clasped into a double fist, stand on his toes, raising his hands as high as he could reach. Occasionally, he made a beautiful nose dive into the empty barrel, but most of the time, only his arms and head went in. The rim of the barrel would strike his rib cage, tip over and scoot across the floor. Ershman would lay there face down in wads of paper. I know it hurt, because he for a few seconds, he would just lay there, then slowly get up on one knee. Bracing himself with one arm, he would hold his ribs with the other. Head bowed, I didn’t know if he was prayin’ cryin’ or cussin’ - probably the latter. Then he would get up, run up to the first person he saw, shake his fist in their face and scream, “I’m going to tear you limb from limb!” This came as quite a shock when an editor or executive would come down from the offices to check on the status of their printing job. Like being flogged by a Bantum Rooster.

For a while after one of these nose dives, Ershman would check each barrel before packing it, but after a few days went back into his old habits. Then a pressman would do something almost cruel. They would turn the barrel upside down and pile paper on top. Here came Ershman with his double fisted pile driver. With his fingers intertwined, when his fists hit the solid barrel bottom, each finger felt as though it broke off. He would just stand there for a few seconds as though trying to keep from wetting his paints. Then ever so slowly, separate his hands, one finger at a time. As soon as he was able to make a fist again, he would shake it in the face of the nearest person and suggest they were about to lose their arms.

One of the neatest pranks ever pulled on Ershman was during the Second World War. Ershman drove an old grey sedan. I have no recollection of the make, it was just old and grey. During the War, gas was rationed and everyone tried to save as much as possible. Ershman began to talk about how good of gas mileage he was getting. This gave the boys an idea. Every couple of days, they would pour a quart of gas into his car. Soon, he was getting fantastic gas mileage. Everyone knew what was happening and always asked and razzed him about it. Eventually, he was getting over 80 mpg. Then, they started siphoning gas out. When he got down to about 10 mpg, he quit checking it. Everyone always asked, but he never replied. I always wondered how many sermons Ershman used this as an object lesson - you know, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

No comments: