I never met Joseph Strauss, the chief engineer, but I saw him around a lot of times. I never shook hands with him or nothing. I was out there working. We were busy. We couldn’t leave and go shake hands with him. That was for the upper man. See, all the big shots were the ones that were doing all the hand-shaking. In fact, they should of come out and hand-shaked us. We were the ones doing the work.
—Al Zampa (legendary high-steel Ironworker)
The World Wide Web has made it possible for me to meet and correspond with people from around the world, most of whom I would never have otherwise had a chance to meet. Swedish author, Borje Lundvall, is one such person. Borje is the author of the book, Searching For Lindros, which chronicles the life of his Great-uncle, Charles, a Swedish immigrant who was one of the victims in the scaffold accident of 1937 at the Golden Gate Bridge.
A month ago he was kind enough to notify me about a new book that has been published about the workers who built the GGB: Building the Golden Gate Bridge by Harvey Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz is an Oral Historian who conducted interviews over a 20 year period and then assembled his transcripts and notes into a narrative that reflects the people and the times in which they lived and worked.
I found a supplier on Amazon and ordered a copy, which arrived two weeks ago. I have been reading random bits and pieces of the book while I write my own 50,000 word tome and I can honestly say that I didn’t work with any of these men (and women), but I have worked with all of them.
Mr. Schwartz has woven a fascinating narrative of the working man. For me, this book is full of doppelgangers. His subjects are so alive that they remind me of specific people that I have worked with over the years.
Fast-forward to last Thursday and I drove into San Francisco for my monthly retiree luncheon at the IBEW Local 6 union hall. When I walked into the auditorium there were already two dozen men milling about, BS-ing, laughing and catching up with each other since our October meeting.
I looked to my left to see if we had a set up for a guest speaker this month and you could have knocked me over with a feather. A table and chair were in front of the stage and on the table was a stack of books, two of which were in stands that prominently displayed the covers: Building The Golden Gate Bridge by Harvey Schwartz.
What are the odds? Better than you think!
Following our business meeting, Harvey gave us an outstanding summary of how he came to be involved in this project and some of the trials and successes that he encountered along the way. I had the pleasure of having lunch at Harvey’s table and listening to more stories, from him and some of the other guys at the table, a few of whom had briefly worked at the bridge on special projects.
I ended the day feeling a solid connection through time, not only to the bridge but to the men who were there building it.
Unabashed Commercial Plug
Christmas is coming and this book will fit in your stocking with room to spare.
- Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A Worker’s Oral History
- Searching For Lindros — Ohm Sweet Ohm post
- The Halfway To Hell Club