George K. Slayman Jr., an 18-year old who graduated from Smithburg High last year, got his layoff slip on the first shift at Fairchild Industries aircraft factory last Tuesday.
He expects his dismissal to last no longer than the coal miners strike, which brought it on in the first place. "When the foreman checked out my tool box to make sure I wasn't taking anything out that was the company's, he said he hoped to see me back soon . . . Everybody seemed sad to see me go. They saw my name posted on the bulletin board."
That list of 33 names - "G. H. Slayman, Y. A. Hart, J. J. Murphy, M. W. Smith, D. K. Barnhart . . ." - is one of the signs of the impact the strike has had here in Western Maryland by depleting the coal stocks of the utility company.
Wednesday, state-ordered restrictions on electricity were imposed for this part of Maryland served by Potomac Edison Company. It set off the industrial drama of layoffs, smaller payrolls, tentative profit margins as well as the almost natural reactions of Hagerstown's society.
Most businessmen tried to avoid layoffs. A few tried to lessen the impact by seeking exceptions from politicians. Politicians were wondering whether the state hadn't waited too long for the electricity restrictions, merchants were using advertising gimmicks to bring customers into their darkened stores and young workers were learning about the seniority system.
Mary Slayman, George's mother, works second shift at Fairchild. She has been laid off twice in her life and is not surprised at her son's dismissal, which does not mean that she isn't worried.
"It seems like you always see layoffs here. But, I know with my boy, he had so much trouble finding a job. I hope he gets back on when it's over but that will be awhile. You can't blame the miners. They've gone this far, they might as well keep going "til they get what they want."
Mrs. Slayman's acceptance was matched by that of Allen Routzahn, owner of the Routzahn Department Store on Washington Street, just up from the Hagerstown square. On the door is the jingle: "Our store is a little darker, but our prices are aglow."
Like about every other shop, his looks almost dreary with a few lights on and only the gray clouds showing through the windows.
Routzahn had cut his store hours voluntarily, ahead of other merchants, and has fought off fellow businessmen's pleas that he go back full-time. "I still think there's a red, white and blue in this country. If Governor Lee says its necessary I'll do it."
Up the street the organ store has done the same but across town the shopping malls have held off. J. C. Penney Co. has been advertising that it is obeying the governor's orders while still keeping the old store hours.
Those orders require all commercial establishments - from schools to shops - to use only 80 percent of the electricity they would normally need. Industries have been told to use only 70 per cent and everyone has been asked to voluntarily cut back the electricty used in homes.
Frederick County has the only all-coal dependent school system and nothing goes on in its buildings past 4 p.m.
"We've gotten past the basketball tournaments but we're into practices for the spring plays. The kids have taken it in stride and the parents they're very much in the spirit of save the jobs. If that means saving electricity in schools, okay," explained Joan Sorenson, public relations officer for the county school system.
Much the same is true of Hagerstown and the Washington County schools. Except for the open rebellion of a sixth grade teacher at Bester Elementary School, most everyone accepted the cold lunches served to save electricity used by ovens and dishwashers.
Bob McKee, the teacher, feared that these cold meals would set a bad example since the prisoners at the nearby correction center were eating hot lunches.
"Let's prove to the children that the rewards in society go to those who work hard, do what is right and obey the law; not to those who do the opposite," the disgruntled teacher wrote in a published newspaper letter to the editor.
Few others saw such moral lessons or any lessons in the fact that the coal supplies for the electric company had diminished to some 20-days supply and the area of Western Maryland counties would have to make do.
Tuesday morning Leonard Jones at the Washington County Employment Security Office filled out an ES-235 form (Report of Mass Lay-Offs) and sent it to the state authorities in Baltimore, advising them that 500 people would be layed off in the county within the week.
Jones does not think the situation critical, at least not now. "We were far more affected by the gasoline shortage. Then our unemployment level doubled, tripled."
Besides, half the 500 reported layoffs come from the downtown industry of Jamison Door Company. John G. Jamison III, family owner and director of the cold-storage door factory, decided to shut down for the whole week, from March 13 until Saint Patrick's Day.
That way he could meet the edict of Gov. Lee and still avoid putting a few of his employees out of work indefinitely. All 240 workers will be off one week, then back the next after collecting unemployment benefits.
It is a nice solution for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Local 340. "Most of the guys out there think they're lucky. Mr. Jamison is a very, very fair person," said the carpenter's union chief, Kenneth Wade.
Mack Truck, which is next to Fairchild as the top employer of the county, has kept from laying off workers by hooking up their own generators to make their own power.
Their United Auto Workers local, freed from helping laid off workers, spent the week publicizing their "gate-in" to collect food and money for the striking miners in nearby West Virginia.
Some companies, like American Optical at the Frederick Airport, closed their factory for one day to save on energy. Others are shifting people to odd-jobs in hopes of waiting it out.
Eastalco aluminum company in Buckeystown has the biggest payroll in the entire region and has stalled layoffs by doubling up some shifts and appointing skilled laborers to clear-up details.
The Maryland Ribbon Company in Hagerstown, owned by C. M. Offray & Son, Inc., now has 10 looms idle ("Their needles run like the wings of a hummingbird") and orders for 35 million yards of ribbons. The miners in West Virginia couldn't have picked a worse time to conspire against ribbons, general manager Philip F. Portner lamented.
"This is the biggest ribbon manufacturer in the country, I believe in the world, and, lady, we got to close down the looms," Portner complained as he sauntered down the aisles of his factory.
"I've been in this business 27 years and never before have ribbons been in. Every page you look at," he said, slamming down a Women's Wear Daily, "there's ribbons. I could cry. This is a sin."
Portner went about the business of political persuasion once the order came out. He figured he had been wronged by it.
Last March was not normal; he hadn't used much electricity, he claimed. To take 70 per cent of that would be a sham. So he calculated his entire year's usage and divided it by 12 and then talked all officials involved, including "that commission in Baltimore," into allowing him to use more electricity.
The designers were waiting: Kate Greenway, Jonathon Logan, Gunnysack. "The clothes you buy on Fifth Avenue, right? The cutting-up trade - that's what I call it - they'll find something else if I don't give them ribbon. We're going to pay through the nose for juice but that's okay."
Portner won, though. He got his five-day work week and only laid off 44 employees. He telephoned his boss, who was heading off for a Vermont weekend: "I just earned a bonus . . ."
The farmers felt they suffered most. John Crum, a dairy farmer outside Frederick, said that the fuel surcharge tacked on because Potomac Edison now has to buy extra energy has done the damage.
"We're on restrictions because we can't afford electricity. Cows eat round the clock but we can't keep the light on in the barns all night any more. Our light bill is right large anyhow, about $1,000 a month."