Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Illustrious Career...Part Ten

Towards 1978, I left The World's Greatest Toy Store to
work as an insulation installer in new commercial buildings. If
you have ever walked into a large warehouse, factory, or an
'outlet' type of building, and seen the shiny silver strips of
insulation on the ceiling, that is what I was installing.

The insulation came in big rolls, it was a metal foil backing on
heavy cardboard-like paper. It unrolled into strips about 10
feet long and 2 feet wide, and we had to place the insulation
on the ceiling and slap it into place with a staple hammer.

Most of these buildings have a pretty standard pattern of 2 by
4's on the ceiling that are about 2 feet apart, and the
insulation was stapled onto the boards that way. You might be
wondering how we got UP there to do this...since the ceilings
might be anywhere from 15-60 feet up...

We had to build scaffolding...which was actually pretty easy.
Kind of like working with a big erector set, built from the
floor up. Section by section, with wooden planks to walk on.

We were paid pretty well, I believe it was like $8.00 per
bay...a 'bay' was ten strips. So we could hang around 10 bays
per day on a slow day, and make 80 bucks. Of course, we were
not paid at all if we were not hanging insulation...which meant
that if we got to a new job site and had to build the scaffolding,
we weren't making any money until we climbed up there and
started hammering.

The scaffolds were on four wheels...and to move it all from
place to place, which you had to do to keep getting into the new
areas to work, you had to grab onto something on the ceiling,
and use your legs to push the scaffold farther on down the line.
If am explaining this correctly, and you are able to picture this,
you can see that if not done carefully, this could be pretty

If you pushed the scaffold too hard, you ran the risk of it
getting away from you and scooting out from under you, and you
would be left with nothing to stand on.

This never happened to me, but I was on the ground once, and
my co-worker was about 50 feet up pushing his scaffold, when
the wheels got hung up on a piece of wood, and the whole thing
tipped over! Very luckily, there were almost always large metal
pipes in the ceiling you could hang on to, and he was able to grab
one while the scaffold fell, and he was then left dangling 50 feet
in the air, hanging onto the pipe.

Had I not been there to wheel MY scaffold underneath him...or
had he not been near the pipe, this could have ended very badly.

You can imagine how critical it was to have a perfectly clean
floor before starting so the wheels were able to roll freely.
But, all in a day's work, I guess.

I am having a hard time remembering exactly why I left that job.
I know I worked there the entire year of 1977 (a recent record
of only ONE job that year), and even part of 1978! I know the
boss\owner used to do a lot of drinking, and on Friday nights we
had to hang around the office and wait for him to calculate and
issue paychecks...while we put back a few six-packs.

For whatever reason, though, I recall that next I found myself
working in the Rainbird sprinkler factory. I worked the
graveyard shift...overnight, which, was 11:00 PM till 7:00 the
next morning. I drilled holes in the various sprinklers, it was
boring mechanical work.

I didn't mind the shift, I have worked all the shifts in my
life, but I prefer the overnight over the 'swing' shift, which
was late afternoon until around midnight.

I think I worked at Rainbird from sometime in 1978 to 1979.
And after THAT....well, that is for Part Eleven...

Peace be with you.


  1. Yeesh... remind me not to ever work a job that requires a scaffold.

  2. My son recorded a scaffold moment, on his phone. Didn't know it was going to be one, it just happened that way. These weren't supposed to be the free moving kind. They were supposed to be more secure. (he works in the AC business and I believe they were working at the Dole warehouse) My nephew barely escaped. They thought he had gone down, until he waved from the the cheap seats! I'm pretty sure he had to change his drawers.

  3. I remember those scaffolds Joe, actually made the mistake of stepping off of one backwards while spraying a ceiling, was only four bucks high at the time, man that hurt---still does sometimes.

  4. Mrs. A...I hope you saved that one on the phone.
    Jimmy...the boss actually used to walk rapidly on a narrow 3 foot wide plank with no side railings even high up. Pretty good for a man who loved beer!

    TS...just a reminder...don't ever let me catch you on a scaffold.

  5. HOW SCARY. I can't imagine working a job like that. I'll take my first job as "shampoo girl" any day after reading THAT. Glad you are here and alive... you are one hard worker - you should be proud!

  6. Umm being afraid of heights the idea of standing on any kind of scaffold is ..let's just say a nightmare. It seems like you just keep rolling from one job into another. I wonder at the end of your tale if you will be able to tell us which of these jobs were your retrospect.

  7. Wait a minute! I paid for the whole show and I am not going to get the Rain Bird chapter? What's that all about?

  8. What a great title for a blog. Love the post,too.
    You write well.
    From one writer to another,

  9. ground good, scaffolding bad...
    and to think you didn't even get paid to construct it. that sucks!

  10. Joe..that was dangerous!! Your friend was lucky to find something to hold on to..I'm glad it didn't happen to you!