Many times, I would head straight down to the first floor. I was in elementary school by then and, being a first class nerd, I loved the fact that I could read through the textbooks for the grades ahead of mine. They were all piled up in a row so I just had to grab one, curl up in a corner, and start reading. Often, after a couple visits, I had read a whole year or two ahead. I remember Mom going to a parent teacher conference where my third grade teacher, Mrs. Obrysko, complained that I seemed bored and disinterested in the lessons. How could I tell her that I was disinterested because I had read these same books a year ago down at the warehouse?
When I wasn’t reading, I was checking out the cool machines in the offices. The personnel office had something called a Xerox copy machine. It was great for making copies of your hands and your face. Contrary to popular belief, it never occurred to me to make a copy of my butt.
The data processing office had an IBM punch card machine. That was a blast! I just loaded a dozen IBM punch cards into the machine and then typed whatever I wanted onto the card. I loved hitting the buttons and watching the machine do its thing. It was how I first learned to type. And I got to take the cards home with me at the end of the day!
Well, they got their mission and off they went. And I sat in my dad’s office (he was working downstairs in the computer room) and waited for my agents to return. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And waited. Nothing. And it finally dawned on me after a hour or so that my “promotion” was really just a way to cut me out of the action! Well, forget that!
I headed out of the office and went searching around the building for them. I found them hiding out in offices on the other side of the building. They immediately wanted to know what I was doing there threatening to ruin their stakeout. Not missing a beat, I replied that I had received no communications from them since they left so I had set out into the field to get an update. Now that I had found them, it was too dangerous to go back so I was staying with the team.
We ended up “chasing” enemy agents down to the main floor. A real life Weirton cop patrolling out on the sidewalk strolled by and we shadowed him, leaping from box to box and hiding from his view when he turned to look. I don’t think we would try that today!
But the moment that has lived in all our memories came when the pretend evil T.H.R.U.S.H. agents (U.N.C.L.E.’S nemesis) loaded us onto an actual conveyor belt running down into the basement. It was not turned on but once the collective weight of all five of us (between the ages of 16 and 9) were on the belt, it began turning on its own and the next thing we knew, we were all heading down into the dark dark basement. You’ve never seen five kids leap off a turning conveyor belt faster in your life!
When it was time to go, as usual, Dad would walk through the building yelling our names. That night, we were all a little shaken (not stirred) and more than happy to yell “U.N.C.L.E.” and head back home. It had proven to be the most “dangerous” mission of our pretend spy careers. Take that, ARGO!