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Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Monday, June 05, 2006

KS - steelworking

July 1962 – It was my first day back home as a newly constituted civilian and it felt very strange. After arriving and thoroughly disturbing everyone at home early in the morning, I went to find my younger brother. He had already left the house to go deliver the newspaper on his morning paper routes. I located him at our old traditional place of newspaper preparation in front of the five and dime, next door to the bakery.

He was much changed and now matched me in height – which was not the case two years before – and I could tell he had spent a good bit of time associating with barbell iron. We chatted a while and he left to go fulfill his delivery obligations. Back home, Mom was in big time breakfast prep and I was about to realize the culmination of a two year yearning – that of getting my feet back under Mom and Dad’s table.

The change in appearance of my younger sister was more startling, all grownup and in high school – was it only two years I was gone – it felt more like ten. My first breakfast back home was all I had hoped it would be and I headed off around town afterwards to check out the changes and to visit with a few friends. A few days later the excitement of returning home started to wear off and reality began to rudely look over my shoulder.

A place to stay was not a problem since I could stay at home as long as I followed the basic rules of the household. The main reality was that I now had a car payment and no job. A week or so later I discovered that our next-door neighbor was the union rep for the steelworkers in the area and he got me on as a steelworker apprentice. This was in addition to a part time job I already had at the newspaper downtown – which involved manually inserting sales papers, etc. into the morning newspaper several days a week in the late evening and early morning hours.

The steelworker job involved learning how to erect the steel of large commercial buildings. My first job with them was to help in putting up the steel for an industrial plant out near the airport in Augusta. The first few days my time was spent on the ground and the work consisted of screwing the nuts on the bolts used for fastening the steel together and sending them aloft to the journeymen workers.

They finally sent me aloft to help one of the other men and up the side of the building I went – climbing three stories high by holding to the beams and rods of the outside wall. This didn’t bother me at all since I had something solid to grip.

It was during this climbing adventure that I collected my first keepsake of the time period. This remembrance is a scar on my forearm from a cut caused by a sharp burr of metal somewhere around the second floor – the cut was just above the gauntlet of my work gloves. I just continued the climb and dripped blood because I knew my “scratch” would mean nothing to these grizzled veterans.

When I did reach the top, they found it highly amusing that I was unwilling to stand up on the steel beams; I just scooted around on my backside. It was not unusual for a beginner to have a bit of difficulty walking around on the narrow beams that high off the ground. It seemed to me, especially in this situation, discretion really was the better part of valor.

TBC – ec


Blogger Bonita said...

I'd be scooting. Naw, I wouldn't get up on a tall beam...unless it was a beam of light to 'you know where'.

6/05/2006 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

Third rung of a ladder is it for me.

I come from the same part of NY as the Mohawks - known for their high steel work.

My mom tells me that when I was little, high for me was climbing on the Sears Roebuck catalog.

6/05/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

bonita - Their laughter didn't motivate me to do anything - other than scoot!

granny - The beams were too high but I climbed telephone poles my entire working experience with BellSouth. ec

6/05/2006 11:07:00 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

My uncle in Arkansas spent his entire life working for the electric co-op (part of TVA). He climbed his share of poles as well. He feared poison ivy more. Allergic to even the oils in the air. What a career he chose for himself.

Thanks for your comment just now. What saddens me is that my entire denomination is losing groung when to me we have so much to offer.

I already know our new pastor and I like him very much but this husband and wife were in a class all by themselves. We could no longer afford two and maintain our commitments to mission, the community, etc. Belt tightening all around. Volunteers will pick up the slack. We always do.

6/06/2006 01:06:00 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Yeah, scooting sounds like the way to go for me too.

6/06/2006 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Mr Eddie ~~ How frightening going up 3 storeys high, until you got used to it. Glad you survived.
Thanks for comments on my wonderful
exciting day !! I liked the joke you
posted. Take care, Merle.

6/06/2006 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger country-gospel-singer said...

LOL My husband is a pipefitter and welder and walks pipe all the time. The highest that I can go is on a wooden step ladder! I might have turned around and went back down.. and never look back again! LOL God Bless, Janie Marie

6/06/2006 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Using up the words.... said...

madness... I hope you got to enjoy the view while you were scooting along up there.

6/06/2006 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

granny - Poison ivy and I didn't get along either but I managed to stay away from it on the job. The only time I ever got a bad case was once when I was hunting - years ago.

peter - There was definitely an adjustment period and I never got beyond the scoot.

merle - It was an industral plant and probably equal to about a 5 story office building. Always found something to hold on to.

CGS - It was scary and I didn't stay with them long enough to learn to 'walk the beams'. ec

6/06/2006 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

UUTW - The view was excellent as long as I held on to something solid. I didn't even look around if I wasn't clinging to something. ec

6/06/2006 07:31:00 PM  

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