Archived Story

Memories of the moonlighting nights

Published 10:09am Friday, December 10, 2010

Column: Between the Corn Rows

Before I get too involved with the moonlighting topic, maybe a definition of this word would be appropriate.

According to Google and Wikipedia, this word is defined as, “To work at a secondary job, usually in the evening or during the night, often secretly, so that one doesn’t have to pay tax on the extra money earned.”

The first part of this definition is certainly correct; the tax avoidance portion is an insult. If a person is working at a legitimate part-time job, then he or she will have social security withheld from the wages and get a W-2 form at the end of the year to be filed with state and federal income tax forms.

A more concise and correct definition of moonlighting is in one of my dictionaries. It states that this part of life is based on a second job in addition to regular employment. And based on my past experiences, moonlighting is actually a part-time activity.

During the years I worked full-time for the Olson Mfg. Co., I also moonlighted at two different jobs. One was at the truck stop once located at the corner of East Main Street and Prospect Avenue. During the years when I worked mostly on weekend nights at this place, it was known as Jay’s Truck Stop, Al’s Truck Stop and East Side Truck Stop. The Jay name was based on Jay Johnsrud. Al was from the Twin Cities and the East Side name was used by O.H. “Buzz” Hagen, Albert Lea’s former mayor. The second moonlighting venture was as a Pinkerton employee at the Wilson & Co. plant.

I should add right here that Ole’s Eastside Shell and Jefferson Bus Depot are now at this former truck stop location.

Back in the era when I spent all too many 12-hour weekend all-night shifts in this place, the truck stop (service station) was on one side of the building and a 24/7 restaurant was on the other side. Thus, this place became a popular destination for the bar crowd, night owls, folks looking for a little late night or early morning excitement and truck drivers and other folks driving by on what was then U.S. Highways 16 and 65. I could fill out the rest of this column with some of the memories of moonlighting nights (and even a few days) at the truck stop. Instead, we’ll make a switch to the Pinkerton topic.

For a few years I wore the uniform of a Pinkerton security officer, complete with a metal badge and minus any type of firearm.

At the Wilson & Co. plant the Pinkerton guards were at three of the entry/exit gates — main, livestock (south) and loading (east). We had various duty assignments. These included monitoring the sprinkler system (fire detection), making inside and outside rounds and keeping track of traffic (vehicles and people) going into and out of the plant area.

Thanks to those inside and outside rounds to various places called stations, one could get a real insight into the layout and other aspects of the place folks called the “packing house.”

I still have the impression that the Wilson plant was a rugged place. For example, there was the stockyards on the south end. This area, plus other parts of the plant, seemed to be lacking in real maintenance. In a way, making those rounds seemed like a tour into what meat processing was like several decades earlier.

During the three or four years as a moonlighter (Pinkerton guard) at this plant I either observed or heard about some of the really different jobs assigned to the plant’s employees. Mike Rowe, the “Dirty Jobs” guy on television, would have hit the jackpot with some of the messy and sometimes dangerous tasks in and around this former plant.

Thankfully, during the years I’ve been associated with the Tribune, there hasn’t been a need for moonlighting or second job. However, there have been a few occasions when I’ve been called during the night hours because of fires or serious vehicle accidents.

Starting with the next column, we’ll be featuring a former Albert Lea resident and his significant role in the defeat of Japan during World War II.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.