I have often wondered what part of me is the Frenchman. I know a few swear words in French and also a few things around the dinner table. I am full blooded French on both sides of the family. Don’t get me wrong I am French, I know it. I have been carrying a radio for my work places for almost thirty years and wondered how everyone communicated back in the day. The papermaker’s from my community were from French and Italian descent. I remember when I first stated working in the paper mills as a papermaker, that I remember the old timer’s using a lot of hand signal’s. I will give you a vision of a paper machine. It is about the length of a football field or longer and usually around 300 inches wide or more. It is a long way to try and talk to someone on the other end of the machine. I remember if a person wanted to tell someone he was going to bathroom, and to cover his job for a minute, he would raise one arm in the air and move it up and down. The reason this was developed was because in the bathroom above your head you would tug down on a rope and all the waste would flush down a pipe.
Another example was if you wanted the deckle on the machine to shift to the front of back. This is where the whole sheet of paper you are making shift an inch or so to the front or back of the machine. So one guy on the far end would get another coworker’s attention by waving his arms. He would take one hand and point to the right or left. It was called pissing in or pissing out and everyone understood this logic.
I still can catch people in the community using these signals. I saw a guy one day, with his middle finger up in the air. He was pumping his arm up and down then moved it to the right. Ok you want me to piss in a little there? These younger people, they need to make their signals a little more clearer. I once saw a lady in Walmart pumping her arms up and down to her husband in the back of the store. She was trying to tell her husband she had to take a chilopa, or go to the bathroom. He thought she was going to check out. This communication is losing strength around here.
I still however use hand signs and talk with my hands. It must be the French in me. I can count to ten maybe in French. I’m glad my Fire Chief speaks fluent French because we have a lot of Canadian’s that travel here in this part of the country. I been to many accidents that he was the only one that could talk to them. I tried once and only ended up swearing at them. I will keep my mouth shut next time. The lost art of hand signs from the paper industry is going away. Everyone is using radio’s to talk and no one is face to face in communicating anymore. Like SI said from Duck Dynasty, you don’t even smell them anymore. I’m pumping my arm up and down right now, got to go.