Today, I live and work in Seattle, but I grew up in Southern California and have deep roots in the wall and ceiling industry going back to the early 1970s. I have great memories of the plastering business and of W&C magazine.
EARLY EXPOSUREOne of my first memories is being in school and hearing the mechanized scream from a local construction site. My classmates would wonder what that strange sound was. I knew this distinct sound very well; this was the sound of a pump spraying cement plaster. It was known as a “Tommy Gun.” They make an undeniable and unique “bumble bee” scream when they run at high speed. I would walk by the jobsite on the way home from school with my friends. I would shout to the plasterers on the scaffold in Spanish, using words they did not teach us in our third-period Spanish class. My friends were horrified and thought for sure I had lost my mind cursing at grown men, construction workers no less. While they were preparing to run, the men would turn and shout back at me and then laugh. These men worked for my dad’s plastering company.
The family business at that time was relatively small and the office/yard was behind our house. I would work summers on the plaster crews, washing roofs, moving plank or hand-scraping interior hardwall gypsum plaster. I spent a lot of time with men named Refugio, Ramon, Pepe, Ricardo and others. They were not just my dad’s employees. I spent time at their homes and grew up with their kids. They were kind of an extended family to me. I also have fond memories of seeing Walls & Ceilings magazine around the house. I thought it was pretty cool there was a magazine just for the industry of plastering and drywall. I would read articles and look at pictures of lathers, plasterers, drywall hangers and tapers from around the country. It made me realize we are not alone in the business, and that there are others doing this all over the country!
PART OF THE FUTUREThis can be a tough business and some people tend to only remember the bad things, and there will certainly be some of those times. Older trades people tend to have great stories, history and remember the better times of years past. We are creating stories every day and shaping the future of the wall and ceiling industry; we are making history every day at work! You will look back on this time in your life and others you work with will look back, too. The question is, how do you want to remember it and more importantly, how do you want people to remember you? Tomorrow’s memories are created by your actions today. We may not have a library dedicated to us like the president of the United States or be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but we do leave a trail of memories that others will talk about in the future. You do it today. Think about it. Even if you are new to the industry, you hear the stories around the office or on the jobsite about past people in the trades. Act the way you want to be remembered. I doubt those Hispanic tradesmen on the scaffold in California back in 1970 would have ever believed that taking a kid under their wing and treating him as one of their own would have resulted in their names being in print in the same magazine they all knew represented our industry with pride.
I know they loved the craft and cared about me and cared enough to pass the knowledge along with a sense of pride in their trade. Isn’t it our turn to do the same for our kids or some kid looking for a little guidance? Be proud, be honorable, be a mentor and be a part of history. Someday that kid may write about you.