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In the Shadows

In the Shadows

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In the Shadows

510 pages
7 heures
Feb 13, 2013


This is the memoir of a professional civil engineer practicing within two government entities and twelve construction companies during his career. Joe describes his civil engineer practice working for family-owned construction companies, a major corporation, and the government. Joe traces his practice from a design engineer at Brooks AFB, to a construction engineer at a major mining management company, to construction management positions at several family owned construction companies, to an estimation consultancy at a major government transportation entity. Joe has built successful union operations and a successful merit shop company for respected union contractors. With this experience, he describes the details for building merit shop divisions and the management of the ensuing double breasted operations. Joe describes his consultancy during a troubled construction period of a major transportation agency.
Joe places you in his office as he grows a regional heavy, industrial rigging company into a highly respected national industrial constructor. The reader relives with Joe, the execution of the double breasted business model for two respected union contractors. Joe will impart to the reader the excitement of starting a merit shop company and doubling its growth each year.
Joe will let the reader relive California labor history as he or she participates in the initial development of the ABC, Southern California parallel craft training programs.
Joe will take the reader inside the establishment and growth of a Los Angeles industrial division for a major ENR fifty merit shop constructor, as itrelentlessly drive to become a billion dollar industrial constructor.
Joes more than ten years as a construction claims consultant is described as he builds a professional estimation department within a state transportation entity recovering from federal sanctions and experiencing chaotic restructuring.
Finally, Joe will describe for the reader the inside baseball of three major lawsuits in which Joe prevailed. One lawsuit, although won, was lost on appeal, due to the appellate court ruling that the intervening change in the law was retroactive.
Feb 13, 2013

À propos de l'auteur

In this unusual memoir, Mr. Buley recounts his successful fifty-year career as a professional civil engineer, taking the reader into his personal and business life to show the interaction of family, social, and political events that shaped his technical career. Mr. Buley’s memoir shows, in explicit detail, the importance of maintaining your customer base while changing corporate entities to make maximum use of your technical talents. This customer base was primarily the top fifty Fortune 500 Companies that included major mining, utility, petro chemical, manufacturing, and transportation projects. Mr. Buley holds a bachelor of science from the University of Vermont, a master of science from Stanford University, attended Western States University, College of Law, is a registered civil-structural engineer, maintains a California Contractor’s “A” license and is a Fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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In the Shadows - Joseph R. Buley

In the


The Memoir of a Professional

Civil Engineer

Joseph R. Buley, PE, F.ASCE, CA A


1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403


Phone: 1-800-839-8640

© 2013 by Joseph R. Buley, PE, F.ASCE, CA A. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

Published by AuthorHouse 02/06/2013

ISBN: 978-1-4817-0834-0 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4817-0833-3 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4817-0832-6 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013901074

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.



Part I

The Early Years

Chapter 1 The Road Not Taken

Chapter 2 Transition

Chapter 3 The Stakes Are High

Chapter 4 The Golden Years

Chapter 5 Saving a Construction Company

Chapter 6 Graceful Exit

Part II

The Texas Three-Step

Chapter 7 Starting Over

Chapter 8 Texas Culture

Chapter 9 The Team Reunites

Chapter 10 Centrig Industries, Inc., Central Rigging & Contracting Corp., Inc., and Vanderbilt Industrial Contracting Corp. vs. Joseph R. Buley

Part III

California, Here We Come

Chapter 11 Bragg Crane and Rigging

Chapter 12 Starting Summit

Chapter 13 Summit Construction & Maintenance Co., Inc. (Summit)—1987

Chapter 14 Summit—The Growth Years (1988-1990)

Chapter 15 The Industrial Company (TIC)—Culture and Operations

Chapter 16 How to Structure the Los Angeles Basin

Chapter 17 Chaotic Growth Year and Abrupt Decline

Chapter 18 Irwin Consultancy

Part IV

Government Service

Chapter 19 Changing Career Focus

Chapter 20 Navigating Troubled Waters

Chapter 21 The Estimation Team

Chapter 22 Engineers Don’t Die; They Just Fade Away


Where Are They Now?


Project Work Product (1966 to 2010)

To the love of my life, Geri; my talented children and spouses;

and my delightful grandchildren

AND, I want to extend a sincere thank you to the coordinating, editorial, production and marketing staff at Authorhouse that guided me through the demanding publishing process; also, a special thank you to my distance learning English instructor at Coastline Community College, Kristen Nichols, who taught me the tools of fiction writing.



Joe is a second-generation civil engineer, exposed to highway engineering and construction at a young age while traveling with his dad during his school summer vacations in Vermont. Joe used this early knowledge to help pay for his undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont and his graduate degree from Stanford by surveying, working in a soils and concrete test lab, and working as a survey and field laboratory teaching assistant. Joe is a lifelong member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). He originally joined the University of Vermont student chapter. Concurrently, his dad served as president of the Vermont ASCE chapter. Joe was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force at the beginning of the Vietnam era and assigned to Base Engineering at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where he functioned as a project design engineer for space program support facilities. He worked on the design of the research lab facility for Sam, the first monkey to enter space, as well as for Sam’s relatives.

Honorably discharged from the USAF as a captain, Joe entered the private sector and functioned as a heavy, industrial constructor. He utilized his structural background to design innovative cranage and heavy lifts for the petrochemical, power, environmental, and manufacturing industries. Some of Joe’s more notable projects are the erection of Syracuse University’s state-of-the-art sports facility, the Carrier Dome, the superheated retube at LADWP Scattergood Generating Station, and the Texaco Refinery sulfur catalytic reduction system upgrade in Los Angeles; field erection of the 2570 Bucyrus-Erie walking dragline in Pinckneyville, Illinois, and the Alcoa 198 potline expansion in Massena, New York; erection of five electrostatic precipitators at Potomac Electric Power Company, adjacent to Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington, DC; and the Steel Company of Canada mine facility construction in Red Lake, Ontario. During his thirty-five years in the private sector, Joe consistently showed a strong understanding of basic engineering principles, applying them to difficult and challenging construction tasks that accomplished first-time solutions to major construction, heavy lift, and erection problems for the leading Fortune 100 companies.

Coincidental with his career as a constructor, Joe was very active in the Los Angeles Associated Builders and Contractors and served on the board of directors for the Merit Training Trust and as chapter president. Joe was very instrumental in bringing parallel training programs to California that continue to train thousands of construction craftsmen. In 2010, Joe was a member of the delegation of civil engineers, in partnership with People to People Citizen Ambassadors, which represented the United States on a sabbatical to China. The delegation aimed to inspect China’s infrastructure and collaborate with select Chinese universities and design/engineering companies. In 2010, Joe received the Robert W. Bein Annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joe returned to working for the government in 2000 and, until his retirement, was a construction claims consultant and principal technical estimator for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In addition, Joe supervised and provided estimate support for all future major transit corridor projects in Los Angeles County, initiated in 2008 by Measure R and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This is a thirty-year, forty-billion-dollar program, funded with a one-half cent sales tax approved in 2008 by the voters of Los Angeles County. Projects include the Downtown Light Rail Transit (LRT) Connector, Crenshaw LRT, Red Line Western Subway Extension, and the I-710 North Gap Closure.

Currently, Joe is vice president of the ASCE Life Member Forum and chairman of the Life Member Brunch Committee. He is also on the 2013 committee for preparation of the hundred-year celebration of ASCE in Los Angeles. Additionally, Joe is a registered civil/structural engineer and A-licensed California contractor; past holder of multiple American Society of Mechanical Engineer (ASME) code stamps, and past member of the National Academy of Science (NAS)-sponsored Stanford Construction Institute Research Committee for Crane Safety. He attended Western State University, College of Law and is listed in Who’s Who in the West.

Joe is most proud of his fifty-year marriage to his wife, Geri, his five children, and his twelve grandchildren. He and Geri live, in retirement, in Huntington Beach, California.

Part I

The Early Years

Chapter 1

The Road Not Taken

I originate from the veteran generation third classification, part of a post-World War II cohort, born in the middle of the era, 1939. The first classification is Depression Era, born 1912 to 1921. The second classification is World War II, born 1922 to 1927.² Society defined my generation as having the best work and education opportunities, because of the postwar economic boom. We also tend to hold a deep regard for security, comfort, and familiar activities and environments.

In 1963, the third group of NASA astronauts and support specialists was made up of five young men from this generation. Dr. Joe Allen, age twenty-six, held a master’s in physics from Yale and was a guest researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Major Ed White, age thirty-three, held a master’s in aeronautical engineering from Michigan and was an experimental test pilot. Captain Richard Gordon, age thirty-four, had a bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of Washington and was a Navy test pilot. Colonel Buzz Aldrin, age thirty-three, held a doctorate in astronautics from MIT and was an Air Force fighter pilot. I, at the age of twenty-four, had a master’s in civil engineering from Stanford and was first lieutenant in base engineering at Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. I supported the NASA astronaut group.

On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, proclaimed the now-immortal words, And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. On May 25, 1961, our president further defined our national strategic goal: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.

In June 1961, I graduated from the University of Vermont’s civil engineering program and was accepted into the graduate engineering program at Stanford, a second lieutenant with a one-year deferment from active duty. By 1962, I had completed my master’s degree and attained an automatic promotion to first lieutenant. In July of that year, I reported for duty at Brooks Air Force Base (BAFB) in San Antonio, Texas.

I soon learned that BAFB was one of the first beneficiaries of President Kennedy’s goal to put a man on the moon before the decade ended. Although the base, founded in 1917, was one of the oldest facilities in the United States Air Force, it was now the center for Advanced Medical Research (AMD). The AMD’s mission was to understand the human condition at the extreme borders of the earth’s atmosphere and in interplanetary space. It represented the newest division of the Air Force Systems Command. Base engineering managed the design, engineering, and construction of six new buildings and infrastructure upgrades that were the signature accomplishment, to date, of the fledgling space program. The six buildings would support research for the Projects Gemini and Apollo. They included an extension of the heating and cooling plant and five buildings aptly named the Professional Building, the Bioastronautics-Biodynamics Laboratory, the Bionucleonics Laboratory, the Aeromedical Library, and the Vivarium Support Facility.

In time, I would work on upgrades to the centrifuge, a gondola hung from a twenty-foot arm that spun a prospective astronaut at extremely high speeds, duplicating the bodily stresses experienced at entrance to and exit from space. I would also work on the space cabin, a pressurized vessel allowing personnel to train in simulated altitudes of up to 30,000 feet. The atmosphere within the space cabin varied from ordinary air to pure oxygen. In this environment, the forerunner to the modern space suit was developed. The Vivarium Support Facility was a state-of-the-art hospital that cared for the well-being of research animals, including horses, sheep, goats, and monkeys. The Bionucleonics laboratory housed the master slave, remote handling device—a robotic arm that allowed manipulation of experiments from outside a room, the forerunner to today’s microsurgery technology. The facility had extremely thick walls designed to protect against harmful radiation to the research personnel.

When I arrived at BAFB and booked into officer quarters, I met my roommate, Major White. Ed was a spit-and-polish West Point graduate. He had been temporarily relocated to the base so he could take physical tests to qualify for entrance into the astronaut program. Ed would also study the oxygen chamber research tests that were in progress. A new and improved oxygen chamber had been installed to replace the original, which was destroyed by fire in a previous test. Fortunately, properly executed safety protocol had saved the test occupants from serious injury. Major White’s mission was to learn the new and updated safety protocol that went with the new machine. Living with a test pilot and prospective astronaut was to be quite an education in military precision and detail.

The atmosphere at the base was one of largesse. It resembled a university campus, and entrepreneurship was encouraged. President Kennedy established the strategic space goal, Congress appropriated adequate funding, and the vice president, larger-than-life Texan, Lyndon Johnson, directed as much funding as possible to the base. Vice President Johnson’s personal relationship with the base was evidenced by a helicopter pad, specially built for him, allowing easy access during his frequent trips to the base.

I, as first lieutenant just out of graduate school, married, and with my first child on the way, welcomed the opportunity for additional income. My own low entrance rank and the abundance of higher-ranking officers prohibited me from obtaining base housing. I researched and pursued other income opportunities. I discovered our construction group lacked facility estimation knowledge, so I became an instructor in the evening school of architecture at San Antonio College and taught facility estimation to people from my base construction group as well as private industry. Some students from A. J. Zachry, a prominent area contractor, provided me with consulting projects I worked on, producing and reviewing their in-house estimates. I was allowed to use the base Corps of Engineers Concrete and Soils Laboratory to perform independent testing for clients, and I soon developed a working relationship with my associates by providing home design. A mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and draftsmen executed my design. Our first client was Sergeant Krunas—close to retirement—who commissioned our group to design his dream home, which he and his wife planned to build in New Jersey when he retired.

The much-appreciated benefits to the project were the two-hour, six-course French lunches that his lovely French wife loved to prepare. Needless to say, I became a frequent dinner guest. It started with hors d’oeuvres with a light aperitif, followed by a fish course. The third course was meat or poultry followed by vegetables. During the third and fourth courses, an appropriate wine was served. The fifth course was salad greens, followed by cheese and fresh fruit. Fresh French bread complemented all courses. The meal concluded with a demitasse.

Government funding wasn’t restricted to the space program. I found scholarship money, in abundance, from Incarnate Word College. Geri—my wife—completed her bachelor of science degree in nursing free of charge in June 1964. Our first son, Joe Jr., was born in December 1963 at Fort Sam Houston Army Hospital for the princely sum of five dollars. Geri was expected to provide her own sheets and make her own bed.

Base engineering was equivalent to the public works department of a medium-size city. We maintained the infrastructure of the base, oversaw the base’s fire department, and supported the design, engineering, and construction of the research facilities. A primary research facility often has many unusual engineering requests, and I became the go-to engineer for these projects. Eight-year-old Sam, the first monkey into space—in 1958—lived in the Vivarium Support Facility with two hundred other monkeys. I designed a stainless steel, enclosed outdoor area to complement their indoor confinement. It was built on a concrete pad with radiant heating coils and internal steam cleaning. The floor was designed to self-drain all waste. Each monkey lived in a private elevated cage. Various components were built into the facility to provide each monkey the opportunity for exercise. To avoid disease and infectious transmissions, the monkeys drank water from individual lixit faucets. The lixits were of special design, allowing the monkeys to drink on demand, with no fear of contamination.

The key researchers were medical doctors and scientists; they were required to make regular flights in various aircraft to experience the feel of weightlessness. As a safety precaution, they needed to train in how to parachute out of a disabled aircraft without actually performing the exercise. I was asked to design a parachute tower and landing area to provide this training. The parachute tower was a steel structure with a platform thirty feet above the ground. Utilizing a system of pulleys, the occupant, strapped in a typical parachute harness, jumped off the platform and experienced free fall while practicing correct landing techniques.

Although the base mission was accomplished in the six new buildings, the officers’ club remained part of the original base structures. At one officer function, the aerospace medical division commander, Major General T. C. Bedwell, Jr., stood in line for an unacceptably long time to relieve himself. It wasn’t too long afterward that I was requested to redesign and enlarge the men’s restroom.

The general must have appreciated my design because he soon requested I design the forerunner to what we now consider a PowerPoint presentation. My staff and I designed a special conference table for the general’s conference room. The conference table held individual lighting controls that controlled lights in individual boxes. The boxes lined the wall from floor to ceiling. The wall became a series of oversized mailboxes, housing multiple series of slides. Manual manipulation of the slides and lightening differentiation provided a PowerPoint briefing presentation for the general and his staff.

The medical and scientific personnel needed recreation and desired a base golf course. Base engineering was solicited to see if this was possible, and I was given the project. I established that the open expanse between the new base facilities and the old base facilities served as the natural drainage basin for the base and could be converted into an executive golf course. Fortunately, our construction group owned a dozer and backhoe, and our base engineer was adept at hiding monies in budgeted operational line items to be used for the golf-course construction. The basic design included a mile-long elevated road bisecting the drainage basin. I designed a culvert, installed midway along the road, large enough to walk or drive a golf cart through. I designed a dam at the low end of the basin, with a built-in weir, to create a lake that dramatically slowed the storm runoff. These projects were implemented as base landscape and drainage enhancements. Slowly, the footprint of an executive golf course emerged.

My diverse design talents did not go unrewarded. Base personnel went out of their way to induce me to make the Air Force a career. One perk was my selection as officer of the day on November 21, 1963. The officer of the day (OD) has the first line of responsibility to react to emergency situations by recording first-impression facts. The OD notifies, in a timely manner, the appropriate, responsible officers in the chain of command. On this day, I would opine that the function was mainly ceremonial, because of the abundance of Secret Service personnel available to protect the president, vice president, secretary of the Air Force, and Air Force chief of staff. Thus, my wife and I were sitting in the outdoor audience to hear the president’s speech, dedicating the Aerospace Medical Health Center at BAFB. I carried a pager.

The president spoke of the New Frontier as the era that would be defined by new achievement and challenge. He emphasized that space research would have great value here on earth. He proffered three examples: First, medical space research may open up new understanding of man’s relation to his environment. Second, medical space research may revolutionize the technology and the techniques of modern medicine. Third, medical space research may lead to new safeguards against hazards common to many environments. The president closed with an allusion to the Irish writer Frank O’Connor’s comment: When faced with an insurmountable barrier such as a wall, you should take off your hat and toss it over the wall—and then you have no choice but to follow. This was President Kennedy’s last official speech and act as president.

Unscripted, at the end of the president’s speech, he requested to walk over to observe the experiment underway in the new and improved oxygen chamber. Four enlisted men had entered the chamber on November 3. After seven days at atmosphere pressure, the air pressure in the cabin had been reduced to that found at 27,500 feet, and the environment air was enriched to pure oxygen. This was the eighteenth day of the forty-two-day experiment. I took a shortcut to the route to the oxygen chamber and shook the president’s hand as he walked by. During the inspection of the oxygen chamber, the president was observed to ask, Do you think your work might improve oxygen chambers for, say, premature babies? The president’s youngest child, Patrick, born prematurely, had died in August of respiratory distress syndrome. Medical protocol to treat this disease did not exist in 1963.

The next day, at 1:34 p.m., I was standing in the hall outside my office, chatting with Lynn, my mechanical engineer colleague. Rex, my electrical engineer colleague, shouted from his office that UPI was reporting the president has been shot. We looked at each other, stunned.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was halfway through my tour of duty. During the next eighteen months, the exuberance of the base community became much more subdued and introspective. Geri and I now had two sons. Soft pressure from our families was exerted for us to move back east. My mother had recently died. I explored outside opportunities such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO was involved in a twenty-year program to move the Great Temple of Abu Simbel to keep it from flooding by the Nile after construction of the Aswan Dam. The civilian arm of military intelligence, headquartered at Kelly AFB, offered an assignment to the Khyber Pass. I could continue to make the Air Force a career or return to civilian life. The Air Force promoted me to captain in the regular Air Force, ostensibly to influence my decision to make the Air Force a career. I was told this is very rare because ROTC officers are normally promoted within the Reserve. Unconvinced and motivated to pursue a civilian career in heavy, industrial construction, I left the Air Force in April 1965. In retrospect, this decision proved very rewarding.

Chapter 2


Therefore, I have decided to leave the Air Force so that I may better pursue my goal of becoming a professionally competent engineer, in the design and construction of large-scale systems of constructed facilities.

I am comparing this last paragraph of my required Air Force exit statement to a letter of appreciation from the comptroller, Headquarter Aerospace Medical Division, and the base commander. The letter stated:

Please convey my personal gratitude to each person who contributed in the development and establishment of the AMD Commander’s Status Room. Your accomplishments are an example of the imagination, skills and pride of workmanship which I know to be present in the Civil Engineering Division. In addition, a special footnote was appended stating, I take special pleasure in passing on to you this letter of appreciation. Please accept my sincere thanks for a job well done.

The footnote was dated April 15, 1965, and was signed by the deputy base civil engineer. Such was the conflict that I and my family had been wrestling with for the last six months, centered on whether or not to make the Air Force a career.

Geri had recently received her bachelor’s degree in nursing, and our family had grown to four with our sons Joe, Jr.—one and a half years old—and Wil—two months. Should the family continue with the security and stability of my Air Force career, or should we venture into the unknown? To aid my decision, I solicited and received promising interviews in three areas of civil engineering: a Boston consulting firm, Metcalf & Eddy; a Connecticut heavy, highway constructor, Lane Construction; and a Cleveland mining management firm, Pickands Mather and Company. I decided to accept the interviews, venture into the unknown, and leave the Air Force.

In the early evening, to the sounds of tongues of the holy rollers blasting from the open windows of the church across the street from our rental home, at 739 Ridgewood in northwest San Antonio, we departed in our loaded station wagon for Vermont. Geri’s sister, Gail, was accompanying us to help with the children. The car did not have air-conditioning, so we had decided to travel at night to escape the extreme heat.

As we rolled north toward the Arkansas border, my thoughts regressed to my trip south along the same route, from Vermont, three years earlier, to report for duty at Brooks Air Force Base. We had lived in a bubble for the last three years. During this period, the beginnings of the great controversies that would consume the baby boomers were emerging. Civil rights, union versus merit shop, and the Vietnam protests were gaining momentum. Tom Brokaw summarized it eloquently in his book BOOM!

There are many voices and many different judgments in these pages, but there is at least one common conclusion. Everyone agrees that the Sixties blindsided us with mind-bending swiftness, challenging and changing almost everything that had gone before.³

We stopped at a gas station near the Arkansas border, and I observed that no longer were the restrooms and drinking fountains labeled black only and white only. When I had traveled south in 1962, the Freedom Riders were traveling around the southeast, testing the enforcement of the new federal laws that prohibited segregation in interstate travel facilities. President Kennedy had sent National Guard troops to the University of Mississippi campus to force the enrollment of the first black student, James Meredith. Medgar Evers had been murdered. I had been disallowed an honor, as president of the University of Vermont, Delta Nu chapter of Theta Chi, because I had sponsored an invitation to a black pledge. Fraternity bylaws prohibited black members. If I could have foretold the future, I would become a trailblazer in the union versus merit shop struggle and experience the center of a major Vietnam protest.

Returning to the moment, we had reached our first destination, a public campground in Arkansas, and pitched our tent. Using the tent and the back of the station wagon as our bedrooms, we slept through the day, enjoyed an evening picnic, and continued traveling through the night. This reverse schedule seemed to agree with the boys, and they became very good travelers. We reached Vermont without incident, and I embarked on my interviews.

The winner was Pickands Mather and Company (PM). I accepted a position as resident engineer for the construction of a power plant addition in Taconite Harbor, Minnesota. PM was the management group for the consortium of Bethlehem Steel, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Steel Company of Canada (STELCO), and Interlake Iron. Their mission was to develop taconite iron ore mines worldwide, and transport the finished taconite pellet—in this case—to the Eastern United States iron ore smelting facilities for conversion into pig iron. PM had completed a seminal taconite process plant, railroad, power plant, and docking facility in 1958, at a cost of a third of a billion dollars—Erie Mining Company. Now, seven years later, they were embarking on an extensive expansion that included adding 12.5 MW of power at their Taconite Harbor facility on the shores of Lake Superior.

We had not unpacked upon arriving at my dad’s in Vermont. We had left our furniture and possessions in government storage, pending release when our final destination was known. We traveled from Burlington north to Canada and across the Trans-Canadian Highway, dropping south to Taconite Harbor, Minnesota. PM had created a company town, adjacent to the power plant and docking facility, on the shore of Lake Superior. We were allowed to buy an available home with a mortgage caveat that when we left, PM would repurchase the home at no loss to us. I was also given a brand-new company jeep. The premise was that the jeep would revert to the power plant superintendent when I left. This did not make me an immediate friend with the plant superintendent. The tradeoff was that if he wanted a new jeep, construction had to buy it. Thus, I was the temporary beneficiary.

Labor relations were still the driving predicator of a successful construction project. One of the most powerful executives in PM was the overseer of the Taconite labor agreement, who visited the site on a regular basis and coordinated with the project superintendent, Mitch Parrish, for the design-and-build constructor, United Engineers. Mitch, about ten years my senior, soon became my best friend. Success of the project had more to do with his ability to manage the labor conflicts than the engineering. The engineering was left to his able staff. Mitch believed in personal contact both on and off the job. We became regulars at the Lutsen Resort, a couple miles north, where Mitch and I, along with our union labor force, created the Polar Bear Express. The drink honored the stuffed and upright polar bear greeting patrons entering the lodge. It had been bagged by the owner, George Nelson, Sr., on a hunting trip to Alaska. After a couple of Polar Bear Expresses in front of the fire, crackling in the fieldstone fireplace that graced one side of the bar, any animosity accumulated during the day soon disappeared.

Lake Superior created a beautiful summer experience in the town nestled between the lake and the rising mountains. We enjoyed the big-city experience by driving about an hour down the coast to Duluth, and the small-town experience by driving about a half hour up the coast to Grand Marais. However, the winter could prove diabolic, when unreal ice storms blew in from across the lake. One storm left us without power for over a week. The irony was that an Erie Mining Company agreement with the Arrow Head Electric Cooperative prevented installing a five-hundred-foot tie-line to directly supply power from the company power plant to the town. Fortunately, our kitchen stove was gas powered, and with some concern for safety, we left it on to supply limited heat.

In the summer, trout fishing was abundant. In the winter, productive deer hunting was readily accessible by entering the forest from a parallel road about a mile above the town and driving the deer down toward the town. Lutsen Resort was also developing the mountain into a first-class ski resort. I had grown up in Richmond, Vermont, the future home of the skiing Cochran family, and had been a ski instructor. Therefore, I readily bonded with the Nelson family and watched them train their budding Olympic champion, Cindy. It was hard not to love life in this work-and-play setting. In fact, one of the labor leaders stated, After four years of epic construction, the accomplishments had been without equal in good management-labor relations.

Quality control soon became my primary focus as the resident engineer, along with cost and schedule. By today’s standards, quality control was still quite primitive. This was considered a remote construction site, and we had to construct our own concrete batch plant. We also developed and maintained our own aggregate pit. Producing quality aggregate that met specifications was a challenge. Concrete batch and strength testing, to ensure good quality and consistency, was my paramount focus. Pouring the turbine foundations, which had large diameter and dense reinforcing steel, also provided a challenge. I had to balance limiting porosity in the concrete with loosening concrete slump requirements, allowing flowability but preventing honeycomb. Exacerbating the problem was that our concrete cylinders were transported seventy-five miles to the Erie Mining Laboratory for testing, causing a delay in obtaining timely results. Extreme winter weather was a challenge, overcome with temporary enclosures and salamanders. The trick was to keep the temperature within the enclosures consistent and above freezing. To the contractor’s credit, we produced a quality project, on schedule and within budget. All too soon, our stay in paradise was ending.

My next assignment with PM was in Red Lake, Ontario, Canada. PM’S partner, STELCO, was proposing to build a sister mine to the Erie Mining Company. Our family had now increased by another boy, Michael, born in January 1966, after a harrowing ride in an ice storm to Grand Marais Hospital, and Rom, our pet Weimaraner. With Michael eight months old, the family loaded up the station wagon and headed north to the border. Missing was Rom, whom we had shipped back to live with Geri’s parents. We were not allowed to take Rom to Canada. We left early in the morning and in the dark. Thud! I bolted upright. I had hit my first deer. I stopped, inspected the car, and observed slight damage. The deer lay unconscious in the road. Following local protocol, I pulled the deer to the side of the road for the state highway crew to find and dispose of, assuming the deer did not first recover and run into the forest. I considered myself lucky, because the density of deer along the highway was such that hitting a deer was very common and frequently the damage was far more extensive.

We arrived at Canadian Customs without further incident, and I presented all my papers. For some reason, we were singled out for a more in-depth interview and inspection. Maybe it was because our entry status, as landed immigrants, did not allow us to return to the States before an interval of eighteen months. Geri’s creativity shone forth, and Michael started screaming with gusto. It wasn’t long before we were allowed passage.

Red Lake, Ontario, is midway between Sault Ste. Marie and Winnipeg, Ontario, and two hundred miles directly north from Thunder Bay. It is serviced by the Hudson Bay Trading Company and abuts an Indian reservation. The Canadian settlers are mainly engaged in employment and support of the area gold mines. A substantial body of taconite rock had been discovered adjacent to and under Bruce Lake. STELCO had hired PM to manage the design, construction, and operation of a new mine and a 1.5-million-ton-per-year process facility to convert the taconite rock into taconite pellets, similar to the Erie Mining Company facilities. The rock, as found in nature, is 30 percent iron; the finished pellet is 65 percent iron. Canadian Bechtel (CB) was our design/builder. I was the civil/ structural resident engineer, completing a three-man construction management team. The electrical resident engineer was Gale Reynolds, and the construction manager was Herb Pelton. Gale was a longtime PM employee, in his mid-thirties. Gale and his family had transferred to Red Lake from a PM mining facility in Tasmania. Herb was brought out of retirement after a long career with US Steel. His beautiful retirement home was in Coral Gables, Florida. A picture on his desk kept him focused when the weather turned diabolical. A dredging consultant was also part of the team; Clyde Boots Davis also had been brought out of retirement and had a permanent home in Florida. Fortunately, the owner’s management personnel received housing privileges that allowed us to move into a new, sixty-foot, company trailer. It also helped that Gale and his family opted to live in an apartment in downtown Red Lake. It was more convenient for his school-age children.

The first order of business was construction of the supervisory trailer colony for thirty-six families, about thirty miles from the main construction site, and the labor force trailer camp, at the worksite, to house eight hundred personnel at peak construction. We arrived about a month before completion of the supervisory trailer colony, so that we lived out of a suitcase, in one room, in the town’s only motel. Our trailer colony had its own sewage treatment plant and common laundry room. All the utilities were enclosed in insulated, heated, wooden utilidors. Each trailer parking stall had a built-in block heater for our car engines. Herb controlled the company car. The daily routine was that Gale drove, dropped us off on the way home, and picked us up in the morning. In temperatures as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit, our car block heater was perpetually plugged in. In the morning, the tires were frozen and square. A few miles of driving were required to heat the tires and stop the bump, bump, bump of the frozen tires.

Eventually, I met the PM plant manager, Pete Morawski. He was a brilliant process engineer and graduate of Yale. It wasn’t long before I realized that Gale and I would run interference between Pete and Herb. They were akin to oil and vinegar. Herb was

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