Eventually the May Co. store grew to a height of about 60’- three stories. And once the bricklayers had the outer walls completed, we moved into the first floor to begin our work. And at the same time, the fireproofers began their work, which was to coat all of the exposed steel with a mixture of cement and asbestos fibers. The product, SprayDon, was applied by pumps forcing a dry mixture out of a nozzle and then spraying the mixture with a fog coat of water just as it exited the nozzle. This helped it to stick to the steel surfaces. As you can imagine, there was a lot of overspray; material that didn’t make it onto the beams and columns. This floated in the air for awhile before falling to the floor in drifts, just like snow. We always knew where the fireproofers were working by looking for the fog of material that hung around their area of operation. The construction vernacular for this material was “feathers” and it certainly resembled that as the particles floated about.
Alex and I were going to do the layout work and so we were the first ones of our crew on the job. We would try to stay ahead of the fireproofers, marking, measuring, and snapping (with a chalk line) colored lines onto the floor surface where the walls would be. We would then spray paint the corners and intersections of the walls so that after the fireproofers were complete, the lines could be found once again.
Wall layout is tricky at times, as we sometimes found mathematical errors and those had to be resolved before the layout could continue. And when that happened, the fireproofers would catch up to us. Then we would have to work right under the spray, shoveling and sweeping the material out of the way long enough to mark the lines. Delightful!
Once the fireproofers had completed their work on the first floor, they moved on up to the next floor and we tried to stay ahead of them once again. And after about a month, the work was complete and we could return to the first floor and join the crew that was now installing the wall studs.