Category: Fingerprints

Follow my path from the Sunshine State to the Golden Gate in this memoir of life in the Electrical Trade

Fingerprints Part 12 — Day 1: The Trouble With Harry

A Note to my Readers: This is an edited version of the recent post in Carnie’s Corner and is included for the sake of continuity in the Fingerprints series.

This is the twelfth part of a series. Click here to catch up on previous entries.

Hit the ground running

On July 25, 1968 I began my career in the Electrical Trade when I took a dispatch from the Apprenticeship Director of IBEW Local 728, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I was 19 years old, married (with a child on the way), and clueless about what life had in store for me.

After I filled out the necessary forms one of the owners, Earl, gave me some advice that rings true today, “Keep your mouth shut and your ears open and you will learn all you need to know about this trade”.

Earl took me out back and introduced me to Harry, my Journeyman-for-the-day. Harry wore a starched white shirt with short sleeves rolled halfway up to his armpits and had the slim physique of a distance runner. The pack of Marlboro cigarettes and the 5-pack of Tiparillos in his shirt pocket quickly dispelled any notion that Harry was pro-health.

Fingerprints Part 11 — The Groundwork

Labor Day 2013 Edition

This is the eleventh part of a series. Click here to catch up on previous entries.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
—Thomas A. Edison

I showed up at the State Employment Office for a nine o’clock appointment to take the first test that was required for my apprenticeship application. I took the three-hour written test first and breezed right through it, finishing first among the group of ten. I still had some collegiate fire when it came to taking a test and the general nature of the questions was not a problem. I secretly wished that my college tests had been this easy.

After an hour’s break for lunch we took the mechanical aptitude portion of the exam and this is where I had the most fun. We were given a pegboard with two-dozen dowel rods nested in holes. The dowels were two-inches long and painted white on one half and red on the other.

The timed challenge involved turning the dowels end-for-end, one at a time, so that all the white ends were inverted to display the red ends. We used our right hands the first time and our left hands the second time. The third time we were allowed to use both hands.

Again, I blew through this challenge and finished first. I was driven to succeed at this exam. I thought that it would somehow make up for my failure at college.

The next test was even more fun. We were each handed a board that had a vertical rod with small washers stacked on it and a grid work of small screws, six rows of four, standing in holes spaced an inch apart. The first challenge was to select a washer from the stack, slide it up and over the end of the rod and then, with the opposite hand, pick up a screw and put it thru the washer and place them back in the same hole on the grid. We also alternated hands and did it a second time. I had no trouble with the test, but some of the members of my group had screws and washers all over the table and floor.

When the test was complete we sat and waited for our scores to be tabulated and then meet with a counselor to get our results. My name was called and I went into a small cubicle and sat across from a man who was in his mid-forties and dressed in a white shirt, a black tie and black pants. In his shirt pocket, a plastic pocket protector with assorted ballpoint pens completed his ensemble. He was dressed for a funeral and I hoped that it wasn’t mine.

Fingerprints Part 10 — The Doors

This is the tenth part of a series. Click here to catch up on previous entries.

“I believe in the Scottish proverb: Hard work never killed a man. Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work. The harder your people work, the happier and healthier they will be.” —David Ogilvy

Door Number Three

I was on the 12th floor of the high-rise making a survey to see what we needed to do before the sheet rockers started their work in two days’ time. It was one of those sub-tropical South Florida Chamber-of-Commerce days— the kind of day that you pick up a camera, point it in any direction and take a photo. If you were to put that photo on the front page of a newspaper—let’s say, in Minnesota—everyone who saw it would say, “I want to be there”.

My old schoolmate, Jan, was walking by and said, “Hello”.

We had not seen each other, or talked, since our lunch the previous week. We made the usual small talk and then Jan got right to the point, “Have you given any consideration to what I told you about an apprenticeship in the IBEW?”

Why did he care? I thought to myself. “No, I am still thinking about becoming a plumber.”

“Have you called their Hall and made arrangements to apply?”

“No, I am still thinking about it.” Procrastination is my biggest curse and oldest enemy.

Fingerprints Part 9 — Life’s a Beach

This is the ninth part of a series. Click here to catch up on previous entries.

Yes, Sagittarius, this is a good moment to abandon old beliefs and moral values. Your view of life has changed and, above all, you’re more aware of how your outdated, preconceived ideas sometimes poison your life. The past no longer concerns you. It’s time for you to make a clean break from the beliefs that are holding you back. You might shock your family, but they’ll get over it.
—My recent Daily Horoscope

The Lioness (TL) and I were married in a simple evening ceremony presided over by Pastor G in the church that my family regularly attended. In addition to our families, TL’s college roommate/sorority sister and some friends attended the event as well as a handful of my fraternity brothers. We spent our Wedding Night in a room at the Pier 66 Hotel, which is located between the Intracoastal Waterway and Ft. Lauderdale Beach. The next day, Sunday, we met my parents at church for morning services followed by brunch.

We said good-bye and headed west to visit TL’s family on the way out of town. We got on the Florida Turnpike and drove north towards the University of Florida in Gainesville, where we booked a room in a hotel next to Wolfie’s restaurant and had an abbreviated honeymoon. On Monday, The Lioness went to class and I hung out in the room and did a bit of free-hand drawing, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore.

Fingerprints Part 8 — A New Life

This is the eighth part of a series. Click here to catch up on previous entries.

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy.
I’ve Got Love In My Tummy.

Some people come in and out of our lives through the years guiding us and some people enter once and leave a lasting impression.” —Anon

A few days after the scaffolding incident I was assigned to work with a carpenter who was installing steel door frames on a floor that was scheduled to have interior concrete block walls erected. The carpenter had to co-ordinate our work with the block masons so that our frames were in place when they were ready to lay the block wall and he had to supervise my efforts to find the correct steel door frame and deliver it to the proper location for installation.

The job was mindless and a bit interesting because he would let me look at the print and figure out what was next. The more he came to realize how well I could read blueprints, the more responsibility he gave to me. By the second day the carpenter (let’s call him “Chuck” since I don’t remember his real name) and I were a good team. I hunted & gathered frames and Chuck installed them with my help.

During this time I learned that Chuck had worked on the Pentagon when it was being built back in the 1940s. He said that he was on a door-hanging crew and that they hung about 7,000 doors while he was there. Chuck was not planning to hang any doors at this hospital. According to him, installing door frames was as close as he would get to hanging doors.

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