Submitted by John Lincicome.
It was the upper/mid 1970’s, I’d been working at a local Big Boy Restaurant for the past few years; Kebo’s Big Boy. Went from bein’ a dishwasher to a cook to a night manager since graduation from high school in 1972/Lakes, back then. Married a beautiful young gal a year or so younger than I during that period of my life, that would later regret she ever met me. Together we bought a house in Lake City at 8309 Winona.
Came a time that some sort of silly young man restlessness found a home in me. While I appreciated the compensation and bennies afforded by my employer, Kebo’s, I was somehow discontented, a malcontent. So I quit the job at Kebo’s for no reason at all cepin’ the restless thing. After a few months of makin’ unfinished wood things and sellin’ ‘em to a local business that retailed ‘em, a few months of tryin’ to explain the “why” of the quittin’ the Kebo’s job thing to my beautiful young wife, it became clear that I had to make another change, a meaningful one, if I were to live to see my wife’s eyes for another sunrise. As luck would have it…
I found a job with a small time contractor; Clarence Taylor and his company of the same name; Clarence Taylor Construction. Now…
Clarence was less than six feet in height, and probably a tad over 200lbs if memory serves me any justice. He had a bit of a belly, wore baggy clothes, had kind eyes that trembled in such a way that it was hard to get and maintain eye contact with him. Folks said he had cataracts, but I knew nothing of that stuff, only knew he was a nice man with busy eyes that gave me a job when I needed one, and as time would betray, a good human.
His voice, Clarence’s, was nervous, he stuttered a bit and repeated himself often. And while it was easy to make fun of him, the fella never missed a payday, NEVER, and always, ALWAYS took our whole crew out for a sit-down lunch on Friday’s, and paid the tab. Everyone had medical insurance on the crew, too, Clarence saw to that.
Monday through Thursdays the carpenters and I ate our lunch outside, around a fire built from wood scraps from the job site. There was always a radio playin’ nearby at lunch, and Paul Harvey stories occupied a 5 minute thing at some point during those outdoor, fireside lunch’s. There’s a silly, romantic component to those fireside lunch years hidden beneath the write. Ya getting’ this? Good times/memories – Anyway…
His work rig was a station wagon. Yep. Not a pickup truck. A station wagon. A white station wagon with wood grained side boards and an electric rear window borne of the 1960’s. Don’t recall if it was a Ford or a Chev. What I do recall is that…
Whenever one of the crew needed a new saw blade or sheet rock blades, Clarence would announce he has some! He’d scurry off to his station wagon, insert the key in the rear door and lower the fancy, electric window. Then he’d dive in.
All a fella would see of him after he dove in was his big butt and them baggy drawers of his as he disappeared in the rear of that wagon. After a long minute, maybe two or more he’d struggle out and ultimately emerge with whatever he was lookin’ for, and proudly, I emphasize proudly, announce; “I told ya I had one!” as he brushed his thinning hair and sweat from his forehead. The carpenters he employed loved Clarence behind his back, made fun of him to his face. Dignity sprinkled with humility, comes to mind.
There were two of ‘em. Brothers by birth. Jimmy and Ray Olson/Olsen. They were both in their late 50’s or so back then in the late/mid 1970’s. Their best years were behind them; I figure the 1950’s or maybe 40’s were their fancy years, but that’s just a guess. Both of them were top notch carpenters when they crossed my path in life.
Jimmy was the hot dog of the two, the “git her done” fella. His brother Ray was the finish carpenter, more gentle, polished in his carpenter and wordy ways. Ray belonged to a Rhododendron club of some sort. Ray wasn’t married, but his hotdog brother, Jimmy, was.
For some stupid reason I recall the hot dog carpenter fella, Jimmy, bent over hand nailing studs with 16p nails to a wall plate that we would later sheath, nail off and stand up as a group. He, Jimmy, would skillfully roll 16p nails from his fingers with smooth precision and rarely miss a beat with his 20oz, Eastwing framing claw hammer with a well-worn, blueish handle as he went from one nail to another. As he did his nailing work, snot streamed from his nose. When he was done nailin’ he’d stand upright and wipe his nose with his sleeve. Just how it was, eh? Yes.
Ray on the other hand, was a bit more collected, if there was a sense of urgency in him, he kept it out of sight, much to the chagrin of his hotdog brother, Jimmy. If snot was running down Ray’s face, he’d stopped workin’ in favor of pullin’ a linen hanky from one of his many pockets, and wipe it. That irritated the begeebers out of his brother, Jimmy.
The job/project –
Was a home that’d had been built in the 1930’s or so. An absolutely beautiful, classic, cape cod with a Dutch hip roof. The plans called for a complete remodel, and only one wall of the original structure was to remain. It was a year-long job.
The finished project would boast an architectural integrity of a contemporary flavor; Vaulted, cathedral ceilings with car-decking over rough sawn 4×10 timber rafters. Hardwood floors throughout, and a medium butt, cedar roof. Vertically defined 1×4 T&G cedar siding, and high quality wood windows.
The home was on the water in Willotchet. To get there a fella had to take the 1st exit while westbound over the Narrows Bridge, then passed the old Span Drive-in burger place, passed the airport then a left when the road came to a tee. The owner of the home was a jewelry guy; Hartley Kantor(sp).
At some point during the project I was able to get my buddy, Allen, on the crew. Together he & I wheeled tons of concrete, packed tons of lumber and did all the do’s expected of laborers. Allen was a drummer, a musician, back then, and still is to this day, albeit retired now. He needed a day job back then, eh? Yes. Just like me.
Came a time the job was finished. It’s an emotional thing when a long project comes to a close. Hard to explain, easy to feel.
Allen went on in life to find the footlights, find a stunning, elegant wife that keeps him around, too. Can’t imagine he thinks of that then often, if ever at all.
I went off to pound nails as a carpenter with Clarence, Jimmy and Ray for another year or two, and ultimately I became a contractor. Married a time or two after that, and for the record I rarely think of those carpenter thens. Cepin’ this night, eh? And for the record..
My beautiful young wife and I of that then had a child, a beautiful daughter/girl child. Shortly thereafter she & I & we split the sheets. She remarried and hit the jackpot.
Life, when all is darn near said and done, is all about the remember things.
John L. Lincicome lives in Tacoma and you can read more Kid Life stories on the You Know Your From Lakewood, WA If… Facebook Page. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.