The Cardboard Song

Words: Fred Wersan
Tune: Garbage. By Bill Steele

In the summer of 1972 I had a job in a corrugated cardboard factory in Cambridge, MA. Corrugated cardboard is made on a huge machine called a corrugator. At one end of the machine are giant rollers holding huge rolls of heavy brown paper. Three rolls are run through the machine. The middle layer is fluted and glued to the outer layers with a starch paste. It is similar to what you use for paper mache. Starch, water, and lye.

The newly formed corrugated board runs down a long conveyor to give the glue a chance to set. At the end of the conveyor, it gets cut into whatever size is needed for the boxes being created. It is also scored for folding.

In some factories, it might have been automatically shunted to another location in the factory for further processing. In this factory, it piled up and got shoved onto tables where the pickup men picked it up and put it on carts to get pushed to someplace else.

I was a pickup man. As I worked there loading the fresh cardboard, the tune of a popular song in the folkie world called Garbage was funning through my mind, but instead of the the chorus going Garbage, Garbage, they're filling the bay with garbage, and so on, it started coming out Cardboard, cardboard, etc and I filled in the verses:

Well the boss man calls the foreman
And he says the ball is yours man
Cause we've got two hundred thousand feet to run before day's through.
The foreman calls the operator, says no breaks until much later
Lots of work ahead for both of us, but mostly you.
Then the operator hits the button that makes the rollers turn.
And the pickup man is thinking about the money he don't earn.


They're filling the plan with cardboard.
What will we do when there's noplace left to put all the cardboard

Well the pickup man is aching for the break he isn't taking
He's been working for five hours straight and hasn't stopped to breath.
With paper cuts on fingers and hands
Hasn't got a first aid band
He's also got a vicious bruise above one of his knees.
To take one look at him you'd realize he's got it bad.
Quite unlike the starch mixer who looks like the Man from Glad*.


Oh the pickup man is joking cause the corrugator's smoking
He says that it is burning but he knows that it is not
The smoke he sees is really steam
They're speeding up the damn machine
The only thing that's burning are his hands, fresh cardboards hot.
And the stuff just keeps on coming
It never seems to quit
And the pickup man keeps grumbling and a picking up that s**t.


*The Man from Glad was a character in Glad bag commercials in the mid 60's - see Man from U.N.C.L.E. The important thing to know is that he had white hair and wore a white suit.