The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 26, 2007

More Mackinac memories…'They showed what union people can do'

By The Building Tradesman



Following are comments made this year by workers about their experiences building the Mackinac Bridge. These first-hand accounts originally were published in a booklet handed out at the 50th anniversary celebration in July 2007. Thanks to Allied Union Services and local union staff for compiling the comments.

Dick Sterk: I was very fortunate to have a chance to work with some of the best and most skilled Iron Workers and Bridgemen in the world. I was almost a casualty on that job. I was in the riveting gang and I got hit in the head with a bull pin. I was out for 16 days. I was fortunate that it didn't kill me. I was off work for about 40 days, but they hired me back. One thing about American Bridge was they taught you how
to work. If you didn't work, you didn't stay.

Russell Tolan: It was alright. I worked on towers and barges all day long. I had a great time. I met a lot of good people. They were all Iron Workers so surely they were all good people.

Glenn Nash: It was the job that started my Iron Worker career. I graduated high school on June 9th. June 10th I went to the hall to sign up. June 11th I went up to the Mac and saw the Steward Ray Himbaugh. American Bridge wouldn't let me go to work because I was only 17. So I got my parents to sign a waiver.

My first day on the job two men went in the hole installing the catwalk. They both died. We knocked off early that day and went back to work the next. Harold Moore was my foreman. We worked on tower 20 on the St. Ignace side in the Guy Derrick gang.

I was there for all of 1956. We took up the lower platform on Nov. 28, 1956. It was the last day we worked on the bridge for the year. It was so windy and the ice was everywhere. The spray went up 50 to 60 feet and froze on contact. They had a really hard time getting us off the job on the tug boats. It was all in all a great memory.

Gerald Kennelly: I worked on tower 19 in 1956. I was in the riveting gang. I made about
$3.00 an hour back then. When you looked down from the top, those barges and tugs looked like canoes. It was a treacherous job, a good job, but treacherous.

Basil Miller: I wish they'd put another Mackinac Bridge up. I'd go back to work. And I hope I'd have as much fun now as I did then. It was really an experience.

Glen Hanson: It was an awesome job. I was just a kid out of High School at 18. Just awesome, a fantastic experience. It was the start of my Iron Worker career. It took a while to believe I was working on the bridge.

Kirk Kirkpatrick: I was there 3 or 4 times if you know what I mean. Sophy's was a great place to hang out. When I was at work, it was with some of the best people I ever knew. I'll never forget it. Young and strong with a good back. This work surely doesn't leave much of you for your later years. It's real hard work.

But I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm really proud of all of the beautiful monuments and structures that this Iron Worker Union has built over the years. And I'm even prouder to have been a part of that.

James Clements: I worked in 1954 on the caissons for CB&I. Then for American Bridge
driving rivets in the towers in 1956. Then I put the cable on the reels. Then they sent them out to be spun. It was nothin' but hard work. After the day was over, I went home and to bed. Beatin' those 1" rivets sure took it out of you.

Leo Harrigan: Those personnel boats they built in Toledo were something else. That was the experience of a lifetime. Just the boat ride out there was enough. We couldn't hardly get off the damn boat. It went up 10 feet then down 10 feet. I worked in the raising
gang setting caissons. We set all the segments except for the makeup section in one shift. That must be some kind of record.

Maurice Gauthier: To me the Mackinac Bridge is one of the wonders of the world. The
workers were the best too. When all the trades from across the country get together, the job is done correctly and on time. I'm proud to be an Operatorand I'm proud of all the other trades because they show what Union people can do.

George Carriveau: It was so dangerous, but I was very proud to be on the job.

Robert Carriveau: It was all work and no play. I'm glad to have been one of the men to help build it.

E.J. Porter: This thing about the bridge is pretty interesting. I remember when they blew up the coffer dam. It blew out all the windshields in the cars in the parking lot. We had some really good times at the Nicholay Hotel too. We had a great group of guys when we built that bridge. I lost some really good friends on that job.