by Ralph Jones

The first subdivision I worked in had small, lower cost homes in the south-east part of Memphis.  These houses were only 900 to 1200 square feet in size, 3 bedrooms, one bath a living room and eat-in kitchen.  A sink with a two foot cabinet on each side of the sink and a washing machine hook up was the extent of the kitchen.  There was a space allotted for the range and refrigerator as well, but neither of these was furnished.  All were built with a concrete floor, no garages and only the larger units had a single carport.  All the driveways were gravel unless extra money was paid, and most folks did not have enough to purchase the house hardly, much less, a concrete drive.

We had regular sub-contractors that did all of the building, be it concrete work, framing, electrical, plumbing, heating or whatever.  There was a foreman and one hourly labor, “step and fetch-it” guy on the job other than the sub-contractors.  This hourly laborer cleaned windows, hauled debris, and was there just in case an extra set of hands were needed.  Except where I was concerned and they were trying to teach me how to be a foreman so they put me with one of their best, Robert Herring.  I took almost every step that Robert took and sometimes more.  I learned all that I could from him and soon enough they turned the subdivision over to me to complete and moved Robert on to a new area.  We started early in the day, about sun up, and quit late in the day at dark or past.  It is almost like Mr. Kimmon Wilson, founder of Holiday Inn use to say, “You only have to work half days for me, the first 12 hours or the last 12 hours.”

The company I worked for had about 8 or more subdivisions going at any one time and these sub-contractors would move around to the other jobs as needed.  There were three brothers that did concrete work for several of the subdivisions, named Bohannon.  These guys worked for me out in the Parkway Village are and one day the payroll clerk, Pat Roper, called me in and asked me about their payroll.  They had worked for three different foremen that week and had spelled their names different on each work sheet they had turned in.  I told her they were indeed all the same people and to just pick the name that looked right and pay the guys, they too were good men and hard workers.

One of the contractors we had was a very nice person that did our electrical work.  He had a crew and they did a good job.  However the boss of that crew, let’s just call him “Frank,” had broken his neck in the past somewhere, and although it had healed; his head always leaned to one side.  We all got use to this head leaning and thought nothing of it, like I said; he was a real nice fellow and a hard worker.

Sometimes when things were very busy he would jump in and help his men wire the house.  I could tell when he had been helping with the “finish-out” of the house.  All the receptacles and switch plates were crooked.  They all leaned in one direction.  I’d walk into a finished house and there it would be staring me in the face, all the electrical plates leaning.  I’d call him over to the house and say, “Now Frank, you’ve got to straighten all these receptacles and switches up before it will pass final inspection.”  His reply to me was always, “Well, they look alright to me!”  We’d both laugh and he would have them repaired and corrected before the inspector came.

I would have him wire anything we had and never would there be a problem except if he did the “finish-out” all the visible plates would be crooked; but they “looked alright to him.”



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