Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A List of My Blog Articles To Date

My Apprenticeship
35 Years Later
4 Point
A Chat with Pam
A Drive in the Country
Arriving in Portland
Aunty, Would You Be Proud?
Bells Wood and 8th Grade Engineering
Brother Don
By Chance
Commercial Work
Custom Fabrication
Dearest Mona
Flying the Friendly Skies
I Once Knew A Woman
In Mexico We Kiss
Language Development
Medical Care
Minnesota English
My Dad
My Dad the Stonecutter
My Friend Pete
My Mom the Rose Gardener
New Joseph Conrad Sampler
Paul's Words
Remembering Rita
Romney Report - June 2015
Sayings I Remember People For
Sister Joan
Teen Years
The 70s
The Inspection
The Sliding Door
The Soo Line
The State of the Arts
Times Are Changing
Tom and Joe
Trouble in Budapest
What Would Jimi Sing?
You Sure Are Wobbly Grandpa
You're Safe, Joseph

Cold Spring Minnesota - Weather, Yellow Pages, Map & More

My Apprenticeship

As a kid I suspect most children of the 40s and 50s generation were given household chores by their mother ranging from doing the dishes to hoeing weeds in the garden, or farm chores if you lived on a farm. I remember the first outside the family job, my brother Tom and I were hired by a man named Krebs to dig a foundation for a building at his lake side cottage.

I don’t remember getting much out of this other then income toward buying a Columbia deluxe bicycle from Sears & Roebuck which arrived by train, in a crate, at at great northern depot in town.

At 14 “Woosht” (Marlin Worstfield) asked me to clean the bowling pins in the six-lane bowling alley in the basement of St Boniface High School. I those days bowling pins were painted wood, which got quite beat up each season. Cleaning was done with steel wool and lacquer thinner. The vapors in the unvented back alley basement room were horrendous. Good thing as pending freshmen I had not started smoking yet. My friend Spitz told me 55 years latter that I came out of there in a daze, something, only he would remember.

Only lesson here gave me some insight on the nature of home town advantage in competition. In the 50s Bowling tournaments with prize money has held at all local bowling alleys in the early spring as the season was winding down. My dad won one year, seemed like big money, this was how the competition was rigged. Old beat up dried out pins like I cleaned were set out the weekend local bowlers played, new heavy plastic coated pins with good bottoms were set out the weekend neighboring town contestants bowled. A early lesson in competition, of course everyone knew.

Going into the freshman year at St Boniface High School I got my first big work opportunity, which when I think about it, eliminated all extra curricular activities of high school, like sports, or theater, or band etc. For the next 4 years. I had a job, which came first. At 3:30 right after school I went to the basement, I must have had a key to the bowling alley. In those days, bowling was communal drinking and smoking activity among friends, for both men and women. It helped get you through harsh Minnesota winter nights. Women didn’t need group therapy sessions to deal with there situation, they had women's league bowling nights, and men could compete twice a week. But it created a awful mess, the place reeked of spilled beer and dirty bathrooms, just as any tavern must be every morning. After every school day then I started out by picking up beer bottles and putting them in empty’s cases, then I filled the cooler behind the bar with pop and beer. Next I wiped down the all the spectator and bowler seats with damp cloth. Then I sweep ed the place out, and mopped the floors. And cleaned the bathrooms. Next, the alley maintenance. The runways were cleaned of all dust, sometimes steel wool to remove any marks, with a special large mop, just for this purpose. After everything else was clean, a special continuous roller cloth the with of the alley was pushed up and down the alley. Then in stocking feet of course a hand pump spray of just the right amount of oil was applied, and moped in with same roller device. . This left a sparkling clean alley, which you could kind of smell as you first entered the bowling alley at 7 pm for the first shift at 7:15.

I then went home 2 blocks and ate supper, which in our house was always remnants of dinner mother served at noon in our German tradition. My brother Tom and I washed dishes and usually fought over who was to do what and I headed back to the bowling alley to spot pins, 7;15 to 9;30. I never spotted pins second shift 9:30 to 11:30, many guys did. We hated certain bowlers who threw the fast bowling ball since 3 pound wooden pins could hurt when they hit you. I could pick up 4 pins at a time big guys could handle 6 at at time, Most bowling balls were between 14 and16 pounds, which you handled around 100 times per single shift.

Not that it matters, but we got 7 cents a line per bowler, five bowlers three games, thirty-five times seven cents, paid one dollar and seventy five cents per two hour shift, for a single lane. Some guys could easily do two lanes at a time. I never did. Two lanes would pay two dollars and fifty cents per two hour shift. That would have been fifty cents a hour above then minimum wage at one dollar per hour. Two cents per line was held by Woosht to be given to pin spotters in the spring, at the end of bowling season, as a bonus if you did not quit Some guys would run up a charge account for cigarettes and candy and pop in case they got fired or quit to beat the two cent bonus rule. Sort of a company store plan back then. I loved it, bought my first car and insurance as junior in high school. '47 Plymouth with suicide doors in the rear. Like any dumb teenager I ruined it trying to be trendy.

More then any other memory of the bowling alley is the memory of walking home from from the bowling alley and seeing rabbits in the garden, on bright moon lit snow and the stillness of the night before snowmobiles, maybe the sound of crunching ice snow under the wheels of a car driving home somewhere. Snow seems to be a great peaceful dampener of sound which sticks in my memory.


I left high school with a felling of failure. I passed geometry and physics quite well but failed chemistry and algebra, was a poor speller but a good reader. Seems to me to be a strange combination but I was glad it was over with. Father Vernon the vice principle agreed, and told me I would not amount to much as I left.


I grew up in a central Minnesota town population of 2500 which was the home of the largest stone fabrication company in the world. This may seem strange to many readers. Blocks of granite from25 upper Midwest locations were shipped, mostly by rail, to be cut and fabricated for architectural projects all over the United States in this little town. The glaciers did the heavy work, removing the top soil uncovering many colored granite deposits. Variates of color helped provide a steady job source for this company. My father and his three brothers and my three brothers, and many other family members worked there in many different capacities. My dad made an appointment for me with Bob Tice, vice president in charge of engineering, where my two older brothers already worked. He hired me as an apprentice pattern maker, I am sure because of my dad and brothers.

In order to better understand what this job was, think about the next time you see a large urban plaza granite job with sweeping curves or complex shapes, or stone fountains, or slopping walls of stone. Each stone was fabricated to fit in a certain place, based on architectural drawing as interpreted by shop drawings and individual shop work tickets and zinc patterns for durability and accuracy in the fabrication process. I, like everyone else, started out in the office basement floor, it was great, minimum wage, and an opportunity to learn, 19 years old as a apprentice pattern maker.

Architects provide general information, site specific, for stone engineers to make shop drawings for stone fabrication, as per their general plans. These stone fabrication shop drawings were made by senior draftsman. And approved by the architectural design firm before fabrication was begun. Stone mill blocks could then be ordered from the quarry the correct sizes and quantities to produce the project. Apprentice draftsmen would make a individual shop ticket for each individual stone on the project to be sent to shop with fabrication instructions for that individual stone. If adequate information could not be put on the individual shop ticket a pattern was made for that stone.

This is how this was done, my first job in stone. I did this for one year.

In the office basement was a space, from my memory, about 40 by 50 smooth concrete floor. There was a large roll of very heavy paper about six feet wide. This paper was pulled out and taped to the floor to make area large enough, to draw out the project full size. Then with the aid straight edges, snap lines, long sticks and points to swing arks, hundreds of pre-made zinc radius templates and other aids, a drawing was made with 6 h pencils, in stocking feet for clean lines. As a example a plan view, of a given radius on a curved wall with given end points defined by architectural drawings, could be lay ed out full size, so equal individual stone pieces could be arrived at. Granted all of this can be done mathematically with the help of logarithms etc. But full size patterns are needed for shop fabrication nevertheless. Full size layouts help to eliminate errors, and often provide a visualization that is hard to in vision mathematically (I wrote a article about this published in Stone World magazine in 1996). The process helps to see three dimensional forms developed from two dimensional drawings.

These full size layouts were inspected by a senior draftsmen and he would then tell you to proceed to the next step, making zinc patterns for the fabrication shop if he found no errors in your layout.

There was a pallet of zinc sheets about three feet by five feet that you placed over the paper layout, of the stone you were working on, and with a sharp scratch awl you scribed the shape of the future stone, the zinc was then bent to break on you line, edges filed, and felt pen ink piece numbered with all the specific information pertaining to that stone. This pattern went to the fabrication shop to be used in connection a shop ticket to fabricate the stone. That was pattern making. Of course I was also every draftsman’s errand boy as well to fetch whatever from the fabrication shop.

The next time you see a Notre Dame football game on TV, look at the large stone mural of Christ and his disciples on the campus profile, made up of many stone colors. I did not do much on this project, but it was all laid out with patterns on the office floor, the first year I was there, I remember fetching stone for a couple of weeks when the project was being cut and cast in panels to be assembled on site.

After one year of working there, it was my turn to go on active duty in the US Navy for two years, were I served one year on a Island and one year on a troop transport hauling American troops to SE Asia and back, 12 pacific crossing in one year, we rarely stopped.

This was my introduction to the stone industry. As stated Cold Spring was the largest stone company in the world, may be 1500 people at that time, so there were many opportunities to learn many trades or professions there. By spending much time running errands in the fabrication shop I could see many aspects of how high production architectural fabrication was done.

I learned how to read shop drawings and was introduced to general drawings which served me well all my life.

I was taught to be precise and neat, which is fundamental to stone work were the product is so unforgiving. And mistakes so costly.

And I got my foot in the door of the stone industry with maybe the best architectural stone company in the world. Few could argue that.

Posted December 4, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Romney Report - June 2015

Romney Report - June 2015
(The Great Alaska Land Sale)

President Obama's secretary of commerce Myth Romney’s office reported today that the Chinese consulate has filed a formal complaint, indicating that that there is US government support for former Alaska governor Sarah Pizzazz guerrilla troops, slowing the Chinese efforts to harvest timber, oil and fish in the SE Alaska wasteland. This was not expected when the land was sold to China to reduce the government debt.

The great land sale, which was conceived and formulated by America's best and brightest, a group of young Wall Street land traders headed up by the great American land developer Donald Rump was presented to the imperial government as a simple land transaction after the government deadlock of 2013. The consulate stated that the land was totally paid for, and the monies put into Wall Street accounts, which were to accrue interest for the American public at a faster rate then its debt ratio. It is not the responsibility of the Chinese republic that this money can no longer be found in the American economy. We have the deed, a deal is a deal. The American Democratic Party is assumed to be the guilty party in these subversive attacks on Chinese free enterprise. No one ever thought they would have Sarah Pizzazz as an ecology advocate in her repulsive behavior. She seems to have somehow aligned herself with the American Indian nations who used to own 10 percent of Alaska's finest properties. These same locations, long known by indigenous peoples to be the best of Alaska land mass, seem to be the source of the most guerrilla activity. Clearing of the forest and deep drilling for the oil has been a top priority of the imperial government as well as harvesting of the abundant protein supplies to to improve the food supply of the under served Chinese people. This progress cannot be hindered, and stepped up military action will be started immediately, not withstanding Canadian protests of collateral damage.

Remember it was generally agreed in the land sale negotiations that a strong Chinese presence in SE Alaska would meld right in with the large Chinese emigration to western Canada since 1985. It seemed to be a perfect fit to the land brokers in there New York offices. These people should be able to get along, as the great American Rodney King once declared. After all, they all look alike. Even the natives seem to have strong Asian characteristics. There should have been few disturbances, although difficulties were expected in the relocation of certain Alaskans.

The relocation process as labeled “160 for all” hearkened back to the past when the Government gave 160 acres of land free to those early American patriots the Tea Party advocates so much admired as rugged self-made individuals. The same railroad family descendants have been awarded the contracts for transportation in the southern Wyoming hill country, since their families still control the best construction equipment for the job. Retired Wyoming Senator Simpson fought successfully for the land relocation here, as you will remember his famous statement regarding mail carriers getting a hernia in Sun City whenever he proposed reforms to the social security system. His shrewd proposal to give all public employees in Alaska a home in Sun City and full early pension with health benefits beyond Obamacare, won over any Democratic opposition to the great Alaska land sale.

Besides the resistance fighters headed up by gun toting Sarah as she fondly called, there have been complaints among some long time Alaskans who have been relocated, some saying they feel like they are being treated unfairly, even though government precedent was established in the 1940s Japanese relocation project. Republican scientific studies suggest that there should be no complaints among these dissidents in that the temperature in this region is on average 10 degrees warmer then they had in Alaska. Complaints about water depletion in the great Nebraska aquifer are benign lodged by the southern California swimming pool association. There suggestion that deep drilling water wells in the settlement area has depleted the water supply have been dismissed by republican scientific studies, as unproven. This matter will be taken up in some future congressional study.

Some Democratic strategists are now beginning to question President Obama's hands-off policy on this project, when he appointed Myth Romney as Commerce Secretary, since the president stated neither he, nor anyone he has ever known, had been to Alaska, it seemed best to leave the matter to the Job Creation experts. Non-interference has been the hallmark of his second administration. The president will be attending the Asian conference next month and is expected to comment on Japan and Indonesian governments complaints regarding fishery depletion in the region. They contend this problem is directly related to the 100-year lease by the American government of the Mariana Islands to China for processing Alaskan fish and refining oil, as well as treating Alaskan timber with fire resistant chemicals before distributing to the Chinese heartland. These matters are of growing concern to the Democratic administration and will be reported on in future Romney Reports.

It may be best to delete this report after reading, to prevent future possible FBI investigations.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Be glad in the gladness of others - Shakespearean quote often used by by friend

The difference between a good job and a perfect job is a waste of time - a friend

I think I am going to scream - a friend

Oh well - a friend

For a price - a friend

NEEW! [NO!] - a friend

The difference between a professional and a amateur is that a professional spends the correct amount of time on each part of a project. - a friend

Never sell something you don’t have - a employer

Bodder you - father in law

Consider the source - growing up in Minnesota

The scrubs - 3rd and 4th high school football team members

A tip from the top - high school friend

Really! - 2011

Quality time - 1970s feminist expression for mothers who don’t have much time for their children

Bottle stone - last stone installed on a job

You betcha - growing up in Minnesota

Enabler - an expression used by people who dont want to be bothered by helping others in need

The burden -an expression used by employer to describe government regulations and taxes on his business.

Opportunity cost - a expression used by employer describing time spent with me.

Lucky to get it - a friend describing customers' stone projects after completion of each job.

Whata you have - downtown Freddy Brown asking if you want light or dark turkey sandwich.

Preferred customer - a friend describing attractive female customers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Remembering Rita

Rita the second wife, because she was Catholic, in a Hindu world,
visited Portland one summer to be near her two sisters ,
all Indian born and raised.

Dark skin, dark eyes, soft to the hand everywhere, with beautiful lips ,
unique to her culture, uttered perfect English.

We spent one summer, walking and talking art,
she showing me newspaper photos and articles throughout the world,
describing her Rocco, were she employed a whole village,
baking hand-formed pottery under the soil.

I said Rita, You're in America,we have turntables and electricity.
She answered me that she sold her historic forms in
Monterey California
Las Vegas, Nevada and
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because she heard,
it was the city of brotherly love.

On our last day together at Mt. Hood she held up the ride on a slide,
because she didn’t want to go too fast.

She then told me on the drive home,

I was shocked into silence, and later asked her sister why.
She answered, it's not you Joe, she always leaves angry,
it never changes.

Commercial Work

One of the first projects my 18-year-old son worked on with me was a conference table, for a commercial real estate sales office in downtown Portland. This was done when cutting and finishing was done with handheld skill saws and grinders. Shaping and detailing an unforgiving and reluctant stone like granite was a real challenge back then. It was a slow and difficult process to turn two raw slabs of granite into a matched three-dimensional stone table.

We were both quite proud of our hard work when we delivered it to the tenth floor of the commercial real state office and installed it on a custom wooden base ready for us. It all came together very well we thought.

Before we left the office, three architects walked in, one stating, “What a handsome piece of stone,” congratulating the other on his stone selection.

Then a group of young commercial salesmen came in, not noticing us, “HOW MANY APES DID IT TAKE TO CARRY THAT UP HERE?” and laughed.

This was my son's introduction to commercial stone fabrication. It's no wonder we all prefer to work for private home owners who respect and appreciate good craftsmanship.

Custom Fabrication

After being turned down by two neighborhood machine shops, I searched the large S.E. District for a metal fab shop.

I found two of the three steel fabrication shops recently closed their business. The third was a large building with four lumbering overhead bridge cranes. There is a sadness about such a cavernous tomb, that must have housed an industrial powerhouse in a different world. I counted six bodies in this dimly lit non-heated block-long building .

The girls at the office welcomed me with smiles and interest as I described my need for four U-shaped metal forms, three inches long, made from ¼ stock.

After much excitement and duplication of words they summoned the plant manager, whom I assumed was the owner, who as he walked in smiled at me, looked at my drawing, and said:

“Yes, we can do this for you. It should cost 40 dollars, however, by the time we process the order, track its process in the shop, receive and answer your phone calls discussing its progress, and schedule you for pick up, it will cost me 240 dollars. Incidentally we can make 20 of these for the same price.”

“Pay 240 dollars now, and we will call you when they are ready,” all virtually said in a minute or less, and he walked back into the shop.

I said thank you and pulled out my Visa card and the girls started to process the order.

I now have 16 extra pieces of metal taking up room in my shop which I have no use for.