Thursday, March 12, 2009

Only Yesterday

Ooooh, I have been such a bad blogger lately. No posts for days, late answering comments. Well, I'm trying to mend my ways and get back to a little more frequent posting rate. I have no idea what has been distracting me lately (hee hee).
So, I'm going to answer another one of the great questions posed by my wonderful readers. This one from Island Rider asked, how did you go from art school to construction work? And I'm sure you may also be asking yourself what these photos have to do with anything? Patience, weedhopper, I'll get to that. These are photos of the Barber Motorsports Museum just outside of Birmingham, AL. A really cool place, even if you don't care for motorcycles and race cars but, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Both of my long time readers will remember the story of how I went from art school to construction but I'll tell it again. After graduating from college I needed a job ASAP, as most do, and a fellow I met in college offered me a job working with him. He maintained and repaired many of the grandest pipe organs in quiet a few of the big Birmingham churches. It wasn't the best pay but a decent job with someone I knew while I tried to decide what to do about graduate school and all that. Well, one of the largest and best known churches in Birmingham caught fire and the pipe organ was heavily damaged, so we began an immediate restoration. A local construction company (whose owner belonged to the church) also began repairs on the sanctuary at the same time and Allen was the superintendent for the project. We all became friends with him and his carpenters and worked for several months together. During this process however, my boss suddenly developed an intense and all-consuming cocaine habit. Obviously, this did not make for good working conditions so I began searching for another job as we were actually close to finishing. Allen suggested that I apply to the company he worked for as a field clerk and, because he knew I could weld and use tools, he had them put me down as a laborer also.
So, I got the job and became the first field clerk/ laborer for my company. Allen requested I be sent to his job so he could help me get started and knowing at least a couple of the guys helped me feel more at ease in the beginning. The job was a large house (I showed a few photos from recently) and the owner was the same man that built this museum, Mr. George Barber. I did a lot of welding and miscellaneous labor work on the house and the guys all made a great effort to teach me all they could about anything from building to auto repair and running heavy equipment. This was also the job that I met The Man From 12 Years Ago on, although it has been 15 years ago from that time. Now, this house was nothing like a regular house as it was completely structural concrete and steel, much like what this museum looks like, so I got a good education in commercial construction. The Man and I went to the museum for our 'official' first date. I thought it was appropriate. Neither of us had been before although he actually worked on it's construction but had never seen it finished. He also used to race motorcycles and cars in his wilder youth, so I thought he might get a kick out of going there. We had a wonderful day talking about old times and catching up. He was a good guide too because he could tell you about most any of the cycles or cars there. There were a couple of cars there that I remember Mr. Barber frequently driving to the house too.

But, I'm off the subject again. So, after about a year I was transferred to another job because it was federally funded and the government likes to employ minorities on such projects. My company had learned that I could do the work in the field and offered me the position of apprentice carpenter. This almost doubled my pay so I jumped at it.
I still remember my first day on that new job. I had forgotten some tools or something on the Barber house so I went by there first, before going to the new site. The sun was barely coming up over the hill and it was a soft, cool fall morning. The Man From 12 Years was the only other person there and when he saw me drive up, he came over to talk. I told him I was very nervous about going to the new job and I hated that I was not going to be working with any of these guys anymore. I didn't know even one man on the new job. He wished me well and I left. I remember feeling glad that he was the last man I got to see before leaving. I knew I would never go back there. The Man told me recently that he had been heartbroken when he found out that I was leaving the job but, of course, there was nothing he could do about it. My intention was to work that federal job to completion and then either go back to school or something but I guess Fate (or something) intervened and I met my first (and only) husband on that job and he, uumm, insisted that I remain with the company and in the field with him. By the time I divorced I had been set up to journeyman and had actually grown to like the work.

So, I just kept on working construction and grew to be halfway competent at it. The men that I have worked with are just the best in the world. They have always treated me so kindly and fair. They taught me much of what I know and were patient when I didn't understand something. But they were always ready to give me a slight kick in the pants when I needed it for having a crappy attitude or acting like I wanted to quit on something. There were many skeptical looks in the beginning but they gave me a chance anyway. And now I've been doing it so long even men from other companies that I don't know have heard of me and I often get the "Oh, you're Annie!" Then they smile and step out of my way.
All in all it's been a very interesting trip so far. I've done and built some stuff that most of society doesn't even know is possible. Hopefully, I have helped make it maybe just a little easier for any women that want to follow after me. I've raised a little hell along the way and made the acquaintance of several, hhmmm, lovely men through the years. I've acquired a world of skills that have really come in handy for many areas of life. And now to have The Man From 12 Years come searching for me over so many years and such distance....I just have to smile; I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
*Appropriately enough, The Carpenters


Allen said...

And so began the legend of Annie

Anonymous said...

What a great story. I'm sincerely thrilled to have read it! Would it be okay if I linked it in my blog? And please, if you don't want me to, you don't even have to give me a reason. I won't be offended in the least!

edifice rex said...

Hey Allen! Ha! yeah..

Hey Annette! thanks!! Sure, go ahead. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Pablo said...


Ed Abbey said...

Though I never asked the question, I have wondered it myself and now I know the answer. Thanks for the story.

Floridacracker said...

Your happiness is shining through :)

countrypeapie said...

Who knew Fate drove a motorcycle?

Island Rider said...

I can't believe you got to work for Mr. Barber. He is my husband's HERO! We went to Barber Motorsports Museum for my husband's fiftieth birthday. We drove 10 hours after work one Friday so he could be there on his fiftieth birthday. He had always wanted to go, and he was not disappointed. When the director found out what we had done, he took my husband on a behind the scenes tour that will never be forgotten. They are great people there! And when I sent a thank you letter to Mr. Barber complimenting him on his staff, he sent us a letter back! We arrived in time for the doors to be opened and stayed until closing staying several hours on each floor. My husband was in heaven and still talks about what a great day it was. How lucky are you to have known such a special man and to have the museum practically in your backyard!

The Country Experience said...

Great post, Annie. Great pics of the museum, too. They have made me want to go see it.

Rurality said...

Nice pics! I still haven't seen the museum, but the track is really great. Now if they would only offer some races when it's not 90 degrees outside...

edifice rex said...

Hey Pablo! Yeah! there you go!

Hey Ed! Glad you enjoyed it.

Hey FC! heehee!

Hey Pea! Ha! I never would have thought it!

Hey Rider! Wow! that's a great story! Mr. Barber was always very nice to me and a real funny guy. I always enjoyed talking to him and I would walk his dog every morning. It was a very interesting experience. Glad ya'll got to see the museum.

Hey CE! Thanks! I think you and your husband would enjoy the museum and track.

Hey Karen! I think they are having a race this month. We are going to try to go to one soon.