You will have to excuse me if I seem to be focused on the first days of my career in construction. But; like all “firsts”, the memories are clearer.
The days at the Leon Apartments became weeks and I continued to work as a stocker of materials and never used my new tools, except for the aviation snips, used to open the bands that held bundles of studs together. Looking back on this, I see that it made sense for me to learn the materials first. Although, at the time, I thought it was a form of torture! My body ached every day after running up and down stairs and carrying heavy loads of studs, screws and anything else that Alex wanted moved from point A to point B.
I should mention something about the rest of the crew and something about the drywall trade itself. At this time, the early 1960’s, the drywall trade was a “stepchild”. The Lather’s union had been offered jurisdiction over the trade and had turned it down. They were convinced that it wouldn’t last. The Carpenter’s didn’t want it either and only took it on grudgingly. We (drywallers) were put into a specialty crafts local union, along with scaffold builders, acoustical ceiling installers and soft floor layers. The Carpenter’s didn’t want to spend any money on training, so there was no formal apprenticeship. And at this same time, since drywall was growing in popularity, parole officers decided that this would be a good trade to direct some of their parolees to. And sure enough, there were parolees among our crew. Lunch room conversations sometimes turned to the topic of prisons (the “joint”) and life behind bars. I had never met a real ex-con before…or so I thought. But I found them all to be quite normal. Work was what we all did and as long as we did it well; all were respected equally. Made sense to me.
I should say “normal” except for some of the names that were used among the crew. Harry “The Hat”, and “High Sheets” Heisler, “Patty Cake” Celmer and our boss, Alex “The Arab”. Just some of the colorful names that were used. I don’t remember being given a name and I’m quite happy to have been left out.