Remember the old-time office Christmas party? They could get pretty wild. Nowadays they’re mostly memories — we live in an age of liability that discourages work-premises drinking and encourages sex harassment complaints.
But before we completely bid good riddance to them, here’s the story of the wildest one I ever attended. The odd thing is, it also helped me afford gifts for my family that year.
It was in either 1975 or 1976. I was a high school senior or a college freshman, and I worked part time in the mailroom of The (Annapolis) Capital, my hometown paper.
No mail is delivered to a newspaper mailroom — it’s where the papers come off the press. We would catch them in bunches of 25 from a conveyor belt that came out of the pressroom. Then we’d insert advertising flyers, bundle the papers and load them on trucks.
Like newsrooms, mailrooms were much crazier places back then. This one had about 30 workers, all guys, and they were a pretty rough lot.
Everybody had a nickname, such as Race, Rolly or Sike. The boss was a hulking guy nicknamed “Ice,” a loud and fearsome character who drove a huge Cadillac.
To say the least, it was an interesting cultural perspective for a teenager raised in middle-class neighborhoods. And that wasn’t the only eye-opener.
Many of the guys drank beer and wine during work breaks. Those occurred whenever anything went wrong with the press, which was frequent because it was ancient.
The Capital was (and still is) an afternoon paper, so most of the work was done late in the morning. But Saturday’s paper was a morning edition. So we all showed up Friday at midnight to get it out.
Friday nights in the mailroom were insane. Most of the guys arrived in various states of intoxication. Beer and wine flowed during work.
And whenever the press stopped, the room suddenly morphed into a gambling den. It’s where I learned to shoot street-corner craps and play a card game called Tonk, a version of knock rummy. Friday nights in the mailroom were both fun and educational.
But they were nothing compared to the Christmas party.
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