Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Probably not in calendar order…but after receiving my utility bill, I remembered this project.

It was in the mid 1970’s and I had just taken a foreman’s job with R&B Plastering. I knew their superintendent from a previous job and he had called me one night, offering me a $1 over foreman’s scale and a large bonus if I would take on a project that they had just secured. Sure! I liked the money and I was told that the project would last close to a year.

I was told to meet with the owner of R&B at the jobsite and that he would tell me more about it. Bob LaVerne was his name and “flash” was his style. He drove a bright red Cadillac El Dorado convertible, dressed in flashy leisure suits and had long and wavy silver hair. Even his teeth were flashy…all perfectly white and dazzling! (He was also the Commodore of the Long Beach Yacht Club…another story.)

We introduced each other and then took a look at the project. It was a switching station for Pacific Telephone, in Long Beach. It was going to be a concrete and steel building with 3 floors underground and 4 above ground. When we met, we were standing on the edge of a large excavation, probably 60 feet deep. Far below us there were hundreds of carpenters and huge piles of timber shoring, formply and 2x4’s. And this was when I first got a hint that it was going to be a “different” kind of job. An assistant superintendent for the general contractor interrupted our meeting with the project manager, to ask if he should order a forklift to be lowered into the hole so that the carpenters could more easily move all of the stacks of wood? No. The project manager told him to call the union hall and order more carpenters instead. Order 24 more. Whoa! That was different…and where were they all going to stand? The excavation looked like it was already filled with more people than it should have to be safe.

OK, it was obvious that the project wasn’t going to ready for drywall for quite awhile. The project would have to be above ground level before we could start and even then it would be slow going as our job was to provide fireproofing for all of the steel by wrapping it in 3 and 4 layers of drywall; a uniquely expensive method of fireproofing. I was told that the phone company had selected this method because it didn’t create as much dust as other fireproofing schemes.

Bob LaVerne also told me that the estimate called for over a million square feet of drywall…a number that staggered my imagination at the time. Especially when it was only on 4 floors of this building. Quick figuring; a journeyman could install about 900 square feet of drywall a day. That was over 1100 man-days just in drywall work, not including all of the framing, taping and general labor. Perhaps 4,000 man-days all together? (More later…)

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