The weeks went by quickly as I was really busy with two jobs. And I was really beginning to enjoy the construction work. I would leave the jobsite at 3:30 and then sit for a moment in my car. Looking up at the building I could see that something had happened that day. Some walls had been built, some windows added, concrete poured. Everything combined to bring the building one step closer to completion. And I had been a part of it. A small part, sure, but I never grew tired of that feeling. After awhile I couldn’t imagine working somewhere where you would face the same task, day after day.
To add to that good feeling of accomplishment, I was finally being allowed to wear my tools and even use them on occasion. Alex was sending me off to work with a different journeyman each day and so I was always learning something new as well. I was still a “Go-fer” but a new apprentice had been added to the crew and so I had moved up one step and no longer had to dodge falling debris from around the Buck hoist.
A little something about the Leon Apartments…As I said, they were a 9 story lift-slab construction. That is an abandoned construction practice now, but at the time it was “cutting edge.” All 9 floors were poured on the ground, one on top of the other, with release agents between pours. After the slabs had all been cured and tensioned, they were jacked up, one at a time, to their final location by using the steel columns and a complicated hydraulic jacking system.
Alfred Leon was the owner, developer, and general contractor on this building. Alfred was tiny Jewish man who loved to change things, every day. When we saw him come onto the floor we were working on, we would make bets as to how long it would be before we were asked to tear apart something we had just built. Move a door? No problem. Add a window. Sure thing! The only problem that this caused was the fact that Alfred thought we would make the changes out of the goodness of our hearts. We quickly learned to refer all of these requests to Alex. And once or twice a day we would get to watch a classic Arab/Jewish confrontation as Alex argued with Alfred as to why it was going to cost Alfred some money to move a door.
And since it was an Owner/Builder development, it became a very unique job for this apprentice. Alfred wanted us to do everything on the job that he didn’t already have a contract for. And so I learned how to install windows and doors. I learned how to install wood backing and hardware. Insulation. Cabinets. In the end, we were sweeping the floors and bringing in the furniture. A job like that doesn’t come along very often.