Tuesday, May 31, 2005

They meant it when they said

Don't Touch!!!

In the second half of 1969 my class made many field trips to the various factories and workshops in the area. Most of us were planning to leave school at the end of the year and this was our vocational guidance. We visited the Railway Workshops at Newport, the Naval Yard at Williamstown and a whole bunch of other places, some of which I no longer remember and most of which are no longer there. Footscray and environs was highly industrial at the time.

One of the places we visited was the glassworks. The glassworks is still there, just down from the old Spotswood sewage pumping station which became the Science Museum (it was also the location used in Mad Max[^] for the police station).

I imagine it must have been a logistical nightmare for our form master. Getting 35 or so of us from the school to the factory location and keeping us safe. Actually, just keeping us was a problem in itself. There were one or two of us who looked almost old enough to be of drinking age (18); I recall more than once those guys being hauled out of the pub. Alas, when I was 15 I looked 15! :-)

So there we were, in a glassworks. One of their products was beer bottles. We saw the process of taking the raw materials and turning them into glass; we saw the glass being melted, we saw it being moulded on machinery and appearing on the conveyor belt, cooling down and almost ready for use. And we were warned that hot glass looks a lot like cold glass.

Would that one of our number had heeded the warning. I think his name was Michael; he'd never been a close friend. He just reached out and picked up a bottle from the conveyor. Apparently it was still sitting at something close to 1000 degrees F, somewhat below the melting point. What followed was painful to watch. Screams as he attempted to drop it. But it stuck to his hand. He made it worse by using the other hand to try and remove it.

To this day I don't know the outcome. If his hands survived or not. He was a no show for the remainder of the school year.

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