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JIM “PAPPY” MOORE: Working Graveyard Shift

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

Growing up in the shadow of a papermill in the 1950s and 1960s, I learned what “working graveyards” was all about. Many of our friends and neighbors worked at the plant, which was the source of a sweet but unpleasant smoke billowing out of its solitary chimney – the tallest structure in the county. 

Our church members included a number of shift workers at the papermill. They would rotate through a week of working graveyards, then a day and a half off, followed by a week of evenings, then a day and a half off, followed by a week of days. Then the payoff came in the form of a long weekend when workers benefited by having 5 days off, making for a nice for fishing trips or having time to work on home projects. 

The man I knew best in those years among the shift workers was William I. Capps. The father of friends Mike, Ileene and Patricia Capps, and husband to their mother, Faye Bridges Capps, William Iris Capps was used to hard work under tough conditions. Having lived through years of combat in the jungles of Southeast Asia in World War II, W.I. Capps had lived through harsh conditions that would make a billy goat puke. Shift work might be hard, but never as hard as wearing his Army boots and socks for 24 weeks without taking them off, all while being involved in horrific combat against Japanese soldiers.

Working graveyards means sleeping during the daytime, going to bed after breakfast and sleeping until early afternoon, then catching a nap early evening. It’s upside-down world and messes with a man’s head. It’s easy to make a feller grumpy. William I. Capps was no exception to that rule. A big man with a strong countenance, Iris Capps’ heavy steps could be heard in midday, taking resounding strides on the wooden hallway floor, headed toward the den and dining areas. 

“Don’t wake up Iris” was a rule at the Capps’ house when Iris was working graveyards. That meant kids – including guests like me – knew the rule and tried to follow it. You did NOT want to hear William Capps’ heels heading down that hall to open the door and hear him say “you kids are making too much noise!” With that we might scurry out the garage door to play outside – somewhere not near his bedroom window. 

Several years later I would take my first job requiring me to work graveyard shift. It was a job in Nacogdoches at National Indiana Brass Company. My friend Lynn Paker had gotten a job there working the graveyard shift. He helped me get on there. The money was pretty good for a barely eighteen-year old – $1.95 an hour. I had a thirty-minute drive to get there at 1130 at night. We worked all night with only one break of ten minutes to gulp down some food, then back to work. Heavily lit, the place was daytime in the darkness. It really messed with your head and your sleep cycle. There was no long weekend.

I didn’t care for it because even though the pay was great, working all night, having my sleeping upside down, and not reaping a long weekend were negatives. I quit the job after about six weeks and went back to my daytime job which paid about 30% less but had as hours 6 am to 6 pm. That was a piece of cake compared to the graveyard shift job. 

Within a couple of years I would be working graveyard shifts again in the military. It was not so bad then because it was part of that rotating shift work which would be only about 7 days out of every month, and producing a long weekend. Under those conditions the graveyard shift was not so bad. The “brass” was never present for graveyard shift. They didn’t show up until we were getting off, so it made for quiet work that often allowed a more pleasant shift.

I never returned to graveyard shift after those years, and I can’t say I ever missed it. Hard work usually done by hard-working men like William I. Capps. We remember you, Big Guy!

Copyright 2024, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.

 

6 Comments

  1. Pat Capps Fleming on April 2, 2024 at 11:39 am

    Great article Jim! Thanks for writing about Daddy!

    • Jim "Pappy" Moore on April 7, 2024 at 5:20 am

      You’re welcome, Pat! He was a great, great man!

  2. Randy Farr on April 2, 2024 at 11:46 am

    Uncle Iris was a great example to our generation. I work graveyard both in the military and on the Lufkin PD. I have insomnia to this day…

    • Jim "Pappy" Moore on April 7, 2024 at 5:22 am

      Thanks, Randy!

  3. Sharon Kirk on April 2, 2024 at 10:08 pm

    I worked 7A-7P, 3-11, or 111/7 the last 32 years I was doing bedside nursing! No “brass”, no dialysis, radiation therapy, physical therapy. Just a chance to do my favorite thing—- be a nurse. Four years after my last, and my sleep cycle is still the pits!

    • Jim "Pappy" Moore on April 7, 2024 at 5:24 am

      Thanks, Sharon! It IS upside down world!

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