Between semesters at university I got a taste of "earlier in the last century" heavy factory work at International Nickel where my Dad worked for 33 years ( missed one day of work - some work ethic !!)
Now this facility was so ancient that the nick named NEW building was mere 44 years old - then there was the OLD bulding where this was - think Victorian brick nightmare
ONE of the fun jobs was sitting across from the open furnace where the initial ingots ( think 1000 lb coat hanger shapes. ) were poured out.
You were shielded by a hanging metal plate from the glare and had to pop in bolts so the ingots could be lifted onto the travelling racks for further refining.
It was a big continously moving wheel.
Now the heat as you reached beyond the shield wearing heavy leather gloves that were soaked in water between each "attachment" was such that should you fumble a bit with the nut and bolt ( remember heavy leather gloves ) the backs of said gloves would burst into flame..... a regular occurence my first few times. You got good fast.
4 hours of that and you sweated out several gallons.......ate lunch and went back for 4 MORE hours.
THEN I graduated to "operator" which as a "college kid" was appropriate for mixing formulas.
These "batches" ...in case you are thinking labs and white smocks etc " ....measured in the 1000s of gallons of boiling "liquor" - an unholy concoction meant to bring the various metals in the ingot out into the mix to be recovered in pure form.
The most fun part of that was running down 3 flights of slippery metal stairs with the ever present chlorine mask dangling from my neck ( daily chlorine leaks were the norm) - slip over my head something akin to a hard shell divers head gear - stick my head INTO the sulphur furnace and light it by hand with a burning piece of kindling.
Now the sulpher was molten already......it just wasn't burning yet .
That lovely "vapour" was drawn off and bubbled through the liquor which I was responsible for until ready for use ( a long with the other mix of chemicals I had to dump ).
If you envision enormous witch cauldrons of mahogany with the most noxious vapours imaginable - dozens and dozens of them.
One guy slipped off the catwalk and when they finally figured out what happened his skeleton was perfectly clean......within a day or so. Fun stuff.
I could tell you about the indoor thunderstorms when the giant electrolyte tanks "blew up" - but you've probably got a pretty good image already of this summer "job".
The good part - working in that heat with all the walking and physical labour- after a couple of months everyone was lean and ripped.....and of course at 19...... ready to party.
My dad is 93 still active - he would walk 12 miles a day maintaining that monstrous facility - few more years he'll have drawn a pension for longer than he worked there.
Nothing left there but a nickel polluted site but it sure gave me a picture of the REAL working world.
There WAS a time when unions REALLY mattered.