November 10, 2007

Workin’ for the Man – Part 7

Posted in memories, personal, workin' at 3:27 pm by jimazing

 Linn Cove Viaduct

lynn-cove-viaduct1.jpg I must admit that it feels very cool to be able to tell my friends that I helped build the Linn Cove Viaduct . This was a “missing link” in the completion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For many decades, tourists had to have to leave the parkway for a dangerous 14 mile detour over narrow, windy US 221. The difficulty that prevented them from completing the parkway was getting around Grandfather Mountain without destroying the natural beauty of the mountain. My purpose, however, is not to tell the story of the Linn Cove Viaduct. You can read that here . My purpose is to tell my family and friends about my experience there.

jim-silly-hard-hat.jpgRod, who was an elder in our church, hired me as an iron worker for Jasper Construction Company (who was constructing the viaduct). We, iron workers, created steel “cages” that were the support for the 153 concrete segments that make up the bridge. Our job was to take steel rebar that was prebent (or straight) and tie it together with wire one piece at a time. I had no experience with iron work before, but it wasn’t difficult to learn. (However it was back-breaking work to do). We created the segments in a building about a mile from the bridge site itself. We built the cages and a crane lifted them and placed them in the forms where they poured the concrete. Because it was so loud, we had to wear hearing protectors that were attached to our hard hats. The way the hearing protection was built-in to the hardhat, you could either place the covers over your ears or fold them up on top of the hat. Since they were flexible, that meant that they also folded out and up like Mickey Mouse ears. This is a photo of me coming home from work at this job. (As you can see, my issues go way back Wink)

lynn-cove-viaduct3.jpg Sometimes, my work would take me down to the bridge site, where the view was absolutely breathtaking. I found it very interesting to watch the workers place the bridge segments together. Since there was no road beneath for them to drive these segments out to the place where they went, they bolted a crane onto the bridge such that it could pick up a segment and hold it in place while it was attached. That meant that at times, the bridge was hanging out in space!

Several of my friends and I carpooled from Boone to work at Jasper. I will never forget Carey’s little convertible VW Bug that was rusting away. Mike B and I would ride in the back with blankets to keep warm because it didn’t have a very good heater. Early one very cold morning, I stepped into the back and my foot went right through the floor! As I recall, that hole was patched with a piece of plate iron from the job site.

The Great Purge

Periodically, Jasper laid off a bunch of workers and hired new ones seemingly for no good reason. I am sure there must have been reason, but as the grunt workers, all we knew was that it seemed random to us. We called them, “The Great Purges”. I made it through several great purges, but eventually one got me. If I was let go for poor work, no one told me. It was just a layoff. It was a hard time to be out of work because we had a baby on the way. Life was about to change completely.

Soon after I lost my job, I learned that life after Jasper for me would mean fixing breakfast for the masses! Next up, Jim, the short order cook.

Workin’ for the Man Series

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