Dad¶s Apprentice ± Four By the time I was 15, I had learned to do a wide range of things by working with my Dad, carpentry

, plumbing, electrical wiring, auto repair, major and minor appliance repair and how to fish and hunt. Yes, we did take time for other pursuits beyond work all of the time. As I mentioned in previous chapters, we had sold the Guernsey Lake cottage and bought a much more expensive lot on a lake closer to home. It was also attractive to Mom and Dad because it was located in the ³neighborhood´ where they were born and raised. Since the lot purchase had consumed most of the proceeds from the cottage sale, Dad was looking for economical ways to acquire the materials for building a new cottage at Morrison Lake. The opportunity arose in the summer of 1958. Michigan State University about 20 miles east of home in East Lansing was preparing to replace the frame construction married housing they had quickly put in place for the surge in WWII veterans going to school on the GI Bill. The frame units were 110 feet long containing 5 apartments each. The university, to get them removed expeditiously was offering them for a few hundred dollars to anyone who would agree to have them torn down and hauled away by mid-August. Dad purchased a 44 foot section (two apartments). Each unit came with bathroom fixtures, kitchen fixtures and each unit had an oil furnace. Since we had to move quickly, Dad bought an old Chevy stake rack flat bed truck with dual wheels on the rear and a 5 speed floor shift transmission linked to a Chevy ³suffering six´ engine. It wouldn¶t win any races but it would haul massive loads with ease. We would only drive the big truck over when we had a load to take to the dump or a load of lumber to bring home. The buildings were built in sections so they could be disassembled by section and hauled home for further disassembly and rebuilding into new sections consistent with the new cottage plans. During the time of the tear down and haul away project, we worked like long distance sprinters. Dad would go to work at 5:30 every morning and then get home about 4:30 in the afternoon. I would be ready to go and Mom would have a meal packed for us to eat on the drive to the site. This was a 7 day a week process. On the weekends we would leave home by 6 AM and on Saturday (as Monday thru Friday) we would work until it was too dark to see, usually getting

home at 9:30 to 10 PM. On Sundays we would quit early and get home around 6:30 PM. I know I worked darned hard during that time but Dad with working his full time job plus working on our project worked really hard. This was the first time I really understood the old saying that when you get home from something like those days, you need to leave the door open for half an hour to let your fanny drag in.

While the tools we used for the teardown were mostly standard carpentry tools, one tool new to me was a nail puller. We each had one and they were ideally suited to pulling the nails at the section junctions so that we could take things apart without causing massive damage to the lumber we were salvaging. The nail pullers were designed cleverly to be able to do the whole job of pulling nails without needing other tools such as hammers. If you look at the pictures, I show the puller in extended and compressed modes. Notice the narrow opposing claws that were hinged to accommodate different diameter nails. The long two piece nested handle was used by using the slide action to drive the claws deep enough into the wood on both sides of the nail to be able to get under the nail on both sides. Next you would close the jaws, extend the handle for maximum leverage and torque the nail out. We used them so well with all out practice, I think we could have used them in our sleep. And maybe at the end of a long, long day we may have actually done that. The process started by removing the interior plumbing and fixtures, the furnace, kitchen cabinets. The next step was to remove the roofing. They had used roll roofing instead of individual shingles. This actually made it easier to remove because once you got it started at the peak you could basically pry it loose along its

length and ³roll´ it down the roof to the eaves with repeated prying along the length of the roof at lower and lower points we could finally push the roofing off to the ground where it could be loaded on the truck for a dump run. Then it was time to remove the windows for transport home. The siding was some sort of cheap compressed board that was not salvageable so it went to the dump too. Next was the time consuming and careful process of removing thousands and thousands of nails one at a time to be able to take the sections apart without damage. At this phase we brought the big truck more and more often because we had lots of stuff to bring home. We would stack sections still attached to their wall studs or rafters or joists on the flat bed as high as we could, well above the top of the cab. One aside was that Dad thought all of our drives each day would be a good way for me to get driving practice. I had driven farm tractors and similar trucks while working for neighboring farmers but never on the road or at more than slow speed. The old Chevy was a challenge to drive because the transmissions of that era didn¶t have syncros built into them so you had to learn to double clutch when shifting up or down to avoid grinding your gears to powder. Once you ³got it´ you wonder why it took a bit of time to learn. I liked driving the 57 Chevy family car better than the truck but both were good experience. We made I don¶t know how many trips to the dump but we met the deadline with a few days to spare. My football practice for school started a few days later and then I was into school full bent. Dad worked all fall and into the winter, further pulling apart the sections and rebuilding them into the required pieces for the new cottage which we constructed the following summer. One story related to that is worth telling because it was funny (to us, not the participants I would guess). We were working on shingling the roof of the cottage and a guy and his wife were not far off shore in a runabout. He was trying to get her up on water skis. Well this went on for some time with both getting more and more frustrated. Of course, they didn¶t seem to realize that the sound of their arguments traveled so clearly over the water to us. Dad looked at me once and said, ³I wonder if that marriage will last.´ I can¶t answer that question but suspect the husband may have slept on the couch that night or perhaps in the doghouse.

We didn¶t really take any pics during the project but this is a picture of me taken at Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge on a trail following the Grand River among the ledges that Grand Ledge is named for.

Epilogue²A time to impress Dad Years later while I was living in my first house in Colorado Springs, we were expecting our third child. The house was a three bedroom tri-level. I decided we needed more room and decided to dig the crawl space into a fourth level (by hand). So I went to the regional building department and talked to them about how to handle the foundation and requirements for windows. So I cut a window in the back wall away from the street, dug a hole outside that opening for a window well but also as a place to throw dirt out of the crawl space as I dug it down. I had a slope to the rear of the lot and made a railroad tie retaining wall to hold dirt along the whole width of the lot. I started working on my knees with a pick and short handled spade until I got a hole deep enough to stand up in. I would throw the dirt out the window opening until It was full. Then I would go outside and load the contents of the window well into my wheelbarrow and wheel it to the retaining wall area I had built. Each window well full took several wheelbarrow loads to empty. I repeated this most nights and weekends for a couple of months. It turns out I had to remove about 110 cubic yards of dirt to get it to the depth required for a fourth level. Another challenge was that the furnace and hot water heater were in the crawlspace. The water heater was larger diameter and squat and the furnace was a horizontal design. I used metal strapping to suspend them from the floor joists above while I was digging. At the end of the excavation I had filled the retaining wall area and rented a conveyor to go out the front window cut. I hauled many trailer loads to a neighbor who wanted fill dirt. Next came pouring the foundation walls and then the floor. I hired that part done because I didn¶t want to buy the material for the forms. Once that was done, I installed the front and rear windows. Next I installed a new upright furnace and all of the new ducting required to service the various ³runs´ to the rest of the house. I also installed an upright water heater and plumbed it into gas and water lines. Next I built the partition stud walls for the closet and bath for the new master bedroom. To gain normal access to the fourth level I rented a rescue saw and cut through the concrete floor in the family room to make room for a half flight of stairs down to the new area. It worked really well with a nice straight cut but the

amount of dust it created would have choked a herd of cattle. I built the stairs and trimmed out the opening to finish it. Finished the partitions and the wall treatments around the outside perimeter and did the wiring for plugs and lights. I used a suspended ceiling approach which worked well. On Dad¶s first visit when Craig was born, he allowed as how it was a nice change to the house. Years later after Mark (middle kid) had visited Dad, he told me that Dad had shook his head and said, ³I don¶t think I would have tackled that project, myself.´ That was the ultimate positive comment or else a recognition that you would have to be a little stupid to take on something like that. I chose to believe the former. Paul Richardson 2010

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