1978 - 1982
Daredevil Days: Union Carpenter Apprenticeship
After graduating from college in 1978, Leslie at twenty-one years old discovered that her liberal arts degree had in no way prepared her to make a living. Seeking the highest paying job available and enamored with the danger and glamour of construction, Leslie applied to work as a union carpenter apprentice with the Carpenter Union Local 108 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The apprenticeship required four years of working construction, as well as evening classes which taught specialty skills such as draftsmanship, finish carpentry, surveying and estimating before journeyman status was awarded.
Leslie's first job was working on a series of highway bridges. She learned to walk on steel beams, climb down into and out of 40 foot high concrete forms between the steel rods and scaffolding.
The next job Leslie was sent on was the Bank of Boston building in downtown Springfield where she worked for Daniel O'Connell and Sons. With a tower crane which rose out of the center of the building and a crew of 300 men (and 6 women!), the eighteen story high rise went up swiftly. During this time, Leslie purchased a large dilapidated Queen Anne Victorian home in the Maple Hill Historic District. During the winters when she was laid off, she worked to restore the home to its former glory.
In 1982, Leslie went to work as a carpenter apprentice on the renovation of an apartment building. One memorable day while working on a fifth floor scaffolding, she developed a sudden (and continued) fear of heights.
Leslie completed her apprenticeship by entering a statewide carpentry contest for apprentices being awarded journeyman status, placing fourth place. hen, unable to climb now, it was obviously time to do something else.
On the lighter side, I am so glad I survived those dangerous and crazy years! But as my father says, at that point in my life, if I wasn’t working as a union carpenter, I probably would have been doing "some other damn fool thing!”
Working on construction crews taught me a lot about team work and the importance of being cheerfully committed ---- freezing on bitterly cold winter mornings and suffering through hot, hot summer afternoons. I also learned the importance of a sense of humor when the day involved doing dull repetitive work like taking out hundreds of identical bolts for an entire week! For obvious reasons, I also learned the need to assess risk before beginning a task.
And naturally, being a carpenter has proven to be invaluable in so many ways.