Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Today I want to pause and acknowledge my father, Henry O. Chambers Sr. (8/4/1933 - 10/9/2013). He would be 87 today. My dad married my mother and moved from Carthage, Mississippi to Centreville, Illinois in 1954 looking for work. He joined the East St. Louis Local 100 in 1960 and was a member for over 50 years. The membership certificate that I am holding is his 50-year continuous membership certificate and his 50-year gold membership card with the Labor International Union. The shirt that I am wearing was presented to him with the certificate. My dad never wore the shirt. My mother presented the shirt to me and it still had the tags on it. Not that it mattered, I would have worn the shirt to commemorate my dad regardless. Anyways, I wear this shirt once a year to honor him and to remember all that he gave because he gave everything. My parents were married for 59 years. The only time my dad ever missed work was when he suffered an on- the-job injury when he fell off a building at a construction site and cracked his rib cage.
Shortly after returning to work, a gentleman advised my dad that they were going to be issuing layoffs to two-thirds of the construction crews. Everyday for several months, my dad would report to the union hall looking for available work. One day he received a tip from a gentleman that he had worked on a carpentry project with. The gentleman asked my father what type of work he enjoyed and my father said construction. The gentleman stated to my dad that construction is for young men. He asked my dad if he had a family and his age (which would have been late 40s). The gentleman told my dad that the Illinois American Water Company was hiring and what day to apply and to give them his name. My dad worked for IL American as a machine operator until he reached his retirement age of 65. After which, he lived 14 years in good health and was able to enjoy his retirement.
One night when I was probably 13 or 14 the water company called my dad in for overtime as they often did on average 2-4 nights a week during the busy periods which tended to be the hottest days of the year and the coldest days of the year. Dad never turned down overtime. I answered the phone and the man asked to speak with Hank. I asked them to hold on and went to wake up my dad. He was snoring loudly and was noticeably tired considering that he had worked OT the two previous nights. So I took it upon myself to tell the gentleman on the phone that my father was asleep and that I was not able to wake him up. The gentleman asked me if I was sure. I asked him to hold on and went back and heard my dad snoring again which was scary enough to a 12yr old. I came back to the phone and said yep, I am sure. He said okay and that he would call the employees with less seniority. Five minutes later he called back and I answered again. The gentleman politely stated to me that he needed me to wake my father up. I told him that I wasn't able to and please do not call back again or that I would take the phone off the hook. Some of you may remember landlines, busy signals, and that loud buzz noise to let you know that your phone was off the hook before the phone went quiet. To prevent the buzzing noise, I disconnected the cord from the phone. The next day when my dad came home from work, I excitedly ran out to open the gate for my dad so that he could pull into the yard without having to get out of the car and open the gate after a long day's work. Then came the question. My dad asked me if I answered the phone when his boss called the night before. I said yep, sure did. He asked me why didn't I wake him up? I said because you were tired. He looked me in the eyes and said if his job calls, I am to wake him up. He asked me if I understood. I said yes sir. On the front cover of my Dad's Labor International Union binder the logo says Justice - Honor - Strength. My Father served his family, union, and community with Justice, Honor, and Strength. Happy 87th Heavenly Birthday Dad!