The Wards store took a little longer than expected to get to the stage where we could actually begin work and so I stayed on the May Co. project; and without any more incidents. On the positive side, I was perfecting my welding skills; skills I would certainly need once we started the framing of the exterior walls on the Wards project. Where the exterior walls on the May Co. building were masonry, Montgomery Wards used plaster over structural studs. And despite a claim by the Lathers Union to do that work, we (Carpenters) were going to do it instead.
The Wards store was only two stories in height, about 40’ to the top of the parapet around the roof. And the studs from the floor of the second floor to the roof were about 24’ long. Our job was to haul each stud up and weld it in place around the perimeter of the building. We had to place one stud every 16”. And since they were 6” wide and made of 16 gauge steel, they were quite heavy. With one person helping below and with a length of rope, we lifted them into place and clamped them against the side of the building where we would then weld them to the structure.
Just as it had on the May Co. roof, the sun beat down and made working a real challenge. When welding, we wore large leather gloves and a heavy leather jacket to prevent burns. With air temperature over 100°, the deck we were sitting on became unbearably hot. And the sunlight bounced off the shiny deck, making clear vision impossible. At one point, we restricted our work time to very short periods, a relief welder coming up the ladder from the “cooler” second floor to take your place every 15 minutes.
Despite all of the physical stress, when I went to the parking lot in the afternoon, more than ready to get in my car, turn on the air conditioning and head home; I would look back up at the building and see the work we had done that day. The long wall of red studs, silhouetted against the horizon. And that made it all worthwhile.