First Job

Cement Mixer Cleaner

When I was fifteen years old I got my first job.   Actually my brother got it for me. He had just come home from Vietnam and was working in construction.  I don't know what he did. I think he was a carpenter.

I was hired as a general job site laborer. This construction site was a block away from my school so every day after school I would walk over there, put my boots on and go to work.  I worked from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM, five days a week.  I'm not sure my Mom liked me working there.

I had to do anything my boss told me to do.  I would pick up scrap lumber and other trash from the job site.  One time I got to light a big fire and burn all the trash. During slower times I had to sweep out the inside of the buildings. That was BORING.

I was making $2.50 an hour. That was an incredible amount of money for a kid back then. All my friends who were working in fast food were making minimum wage, which was $1.65 an hour in February 1973. I ended up working there for only three months.

This construction company was constructing an apartment complex. I think the complex ended up being about five or six buildings.  The buildings were probably 75 yards long and each building contained about 20 individual apartments. When I was hired the foundation was poured and the frame was up for the first building.

I had a passkey to every apartment. Which was pretty cool.

These guys running the construction company had this old cement mixer from the 1950's. It was a red International that was all beat up.

Because I was 15 and kind of small I got an interesting task one day.

My foreman showed me a 40 pound jackhammer. It was air powered.  He wanted me to get inside the drum of the mixer and use the jackhammer to chip away dried up cement on the fins inside. The metal fins jut out from the walls of the inside of the drum. As the drum turns, the fins keep the cement mixed.  As you know, if the drum stops turning, the cement will dry.

It's been thirty years but I think it went down something like this...

My foreman put a pallet on the forks of a forklift. He has me a ride up to the opening of the drum. I carried the jackhammer up with me. I scrambled down into the drum with the jackhammer. Then I blasted away at the dried cement. As you might imagine the noise was deafening.   After a while the air was filled with cement dust. I tied a handkerchief around my mouth and nose and kept blasting.

When I had a sizable amount of cement chunks I would stop hammering and chuck the rocks out the opening at the top of the drum.

I jack hammered on that cement mixer for almost two days. I didn't get all the cement off the fins. But I got enough off so that the mixer was usable again.The company used that old cement mixer to pour the foundations of the other buildings.

As a fifteen year old boy this was by far the coolest thing I had ever done.