Thursday, March 30, 2006

Out of Town

Our first out of town job began late on a Sunday evening. Babe and I met Alex at his house in Encino and transferred our suitcases to the company truck. (No matter where we were driving to, it was always Alex’s plan to arrive in the morning of our planned start date.) After saying goodbye to our families, we set off for Las Vegas. Early in the morning we finally saw the glow of lights on the eastern horizon that indicated we were getting close. When we pulled into town, the dawn was complete and we went looking for a place to eat breakfast.

Las Vegas, more than 40 years ago, was very different…it was a small town. The “Strip” was minor in scale and the main attractions were downtown, on Fremont Street. But we saw a sign advertising breakfast for $1 at a “Strip” hotel and we stopped…We must have looked like real hicks, staring at all of the lights and glitter, even at this early hour. Our truck, loaded down with equipment, ladders and suitcases, must have looked equally “hickish”.

After breakfast, we found the local Carpenter’s Union hall and met the Business Agent. He was quite glad to see us, as the local economy was going through a “bust” cycle and he had lots of men out of work. And when we inquired about apartment rentals, he was quite happy to drive us around and help us locate a place near the jobsite. He also took the time to show us the housing development projects that had been shut down by the collapse of the local economy. We drove by block after block of half finished houses and apartments, weeds growing in the sidewalks and windows boarded up.

We found a likely place to rent and thanked the Business Agent; telling him we would probably ask for some men the next morning, but first we had to check in at the jobsite and make certain that they were ready for us to begin.

The Broadway store sat all by itself on a large parcel of desert acreage. The closest building was at least a mile away. Who would drive all of the way out here to shop?

We checked in with the Broadway representative on the job and located where we were supposed to start our work. Then it was time to unload the truck and get ready for the work day. We would spend the first day verifying all of the measurements within a department and snapping chalk lines onto the floor where the walls would go.

By 9, it was getting quite warm and by noon it was hot! Broadway stores had no windows and air circulation depended on open doors and fans; lots of fans! The first floor did have 4 large door openings, which helped, but in the weeks ahead, when we moved to the second and third floors, the heat grew intense.

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