Submitted by John Lincicome.
It was in the mid-1970s, I had been working at a local Big Boy restaurant for the last few years; Kebo’s big boy. I went from dishwasher to cook to night manager since graduating from high school in 1972 / Lakes then. I married a beautiful young girl about a year younger than me during this period of my life, who would later regret that she had ever met me. Together we bought a house in Lake City at 8309 Winona.
There came a time when some kind of stupid young man’s agitation found a home in me. While I enjoyed the compensation and allowances given by my employer, Kebo’s, I was sort of unhappy, unhappy. So I quit work at Kebo for no reason, which is hectic. After a few months of making unfinished wooden objects and selling them to a local business that retailed them, a few months of trying to explain the “why” of leaving Kebo’s job to my beautiful young wife, he became clear that I had to make another change, a meaningful change, if I was to live to see my wife’s eyes for another sunrise. Luckily…
I found a job with a small entrepreneur; Clarence Taylor and his company of the same name; Clarence Taylor construction. Now…
Clarence was less than six feet tall and probably just over 200 pounds if memory serves. He had a bit of a stomach, wore loose clothes, had kind eyes that quivered in such a way that it was difficult to make and maintain eye contact with him. People said he had cataracts, but I didn’t know any of that stuff, I just knew he was a nice man with busy eyes who gave me a job when I needed it, and how time would betray, a good human.
His voice, Clarence’s, was nervous, he stammered a little and repeated himself often. And while he was easy to laugh at, the guy never missed a payday, NEVER, and always, ALWAYS took our whole team out for a sit-down lunch on Friday and footed the bill. Everyone had medical insurance on the crew too, Clarence looked after that.
From Monday to Thursday, the carpenters and I had lunch outside, around a fire built from offcuts from the construction site. There was always a radio nearby at lunchtime, and Paul Harvey’s stories took up 5 minutes at one point during those alfresco fireside lunches. There is a silly and romantic component to those years of fireside lunch hidden under the writing. Do you understand that? Good times / memories – Anyway …
His work platform was a station wagon. Yeah. Not a van. A break. A white station wagon with wood grain side panels and an electric rear window from the 1960s. I can’t remember if it was a Ford or a Chev. What I remember is that …
Whenever a team member needed a new saw blade or rock leaf blades, Clarence would announce they had them! He would rush to his station wagon, insert the key in the back door, and lower the sophisticated power window. Then he would dive.
All a guy would see of him after he dove in was his big ass and big drawers as he disappeared into the back of that cart. After a long minute, maybe two or more, he would struggle and finally emerge with whatever he was looking for, and proudly, I proudly point out, would announce; “I told you I have one!” as he wiped his thinning hair and the sweat from his forehead. The carpenters he employed loved Clarence behind his back, laughed at him to his face. Dignity sprinkled with humility comes to mind.
There were two of them. Birth brothers. Jimmy and Ray Olson / Olsen. They were both in their 50s or so in the late / mid-1970s. Their best years were behind them; Guess the 50s or maybe 40s were their fancy years, but that’s just a guess. Both were first-rate carpenters when they crossed my path in life.
Jimmy was the two’s hot dog, the git her done dude. His brother Ray was the fine carpenter, gentler, polite in his carpenter and wordy manners. Ray belonged to some sort of rhododendron club. Ray wasn’t married, but his hot dog brother Jimmy was.
For some stupid reason I remember the hot dog carpenter Jimmy leaning over his hand to nail nails with 16p nails on a wall plate that we were later going to cover, nail and lift as a group. He, Jimmy, skillfully rolled 16p nails of his fingers with gentle precision and rarely missed a beat with his 20oz claw hammer, Eastwing with a well-worn bluish grip as he went from nail to nail . While he was doing his nailing job, snot was dripping from his nose. When he was done nailing, he would stand up and wipe his nose with his sleeve. Just how it was, eh? Yes.
Ray, on the other hand, was a little more collected, if there was a sense of urgency in him he kept it out of sight, much to the chagrin of his hot dog brother, Jimmy. If the snot was running down Ray’s face, he had stopped working to pull a linen handkerchief out of one of his many pockets and wipe it off. This angered fans of her brother, Jimmy.
The work / project –
It was a house that had been built in the 1930s or so. An absolutely gorgeous and classic cape with a Dutch hipped roof. Plans called for a complete renovation, and only one wall of the original structure was to remain. It was a year’s job.
The finished project would claim architectural integrity with a contemporary flavor; Vaulted cathedral ceilings with car deck on 4 × 10 rough-sawn timber rafters. Hardwood floors throughout and medium-tipped cedar roof. Vertically defined 1 × 4 T&G cedar siding and high quality wood windows.
The house was on the water in Willotchet. To get there a guy had to take the 1st westbound exit on the Narrows Bridge, then passed the old Span Drive-in burger restaurant, passed the airport then left when the road came to a tee. The owner of the house was a jeweler; Hartley Kantor (sp.).
At one point during the project, I was able to have my boyfriend, Allen, on the team. Together he and I rolled tons of concrete, packed tons of lumber, and did everything that is expected of workers. Allen was a drummer, musician then, and still is to this day, although he’s retired now. He needed a day job at the time, eh? Yes. Exactly like me.
There came a time when the work was done. It is a moving thing when a long project comes to an end. Difficult to explain, easy to feel.
Allen has gone on in life to find the limelight, to find a gorgeous and elegant woman who keeps it too. I can’t imagine he thinks about it often, if ever.
I went hammering in as a carpenter with Clarence, Jimmy, and Ray for another year or two, and eventually I became an entrepreneur. Married once or twice after that, and for the record, I rarely think of these carpenters. Cepin ‘tonight, huh? And for info ..
My beautiful young wife and I then had a child, a beautiful daughter / daughter. Shortly after, she, I and we separated the sheets. She remarried and hit the jackpot.
Life, when all is said and done, is all about the things to remember.
John L. Lincicome lives in Tacoma and you can read more Kid Life stories on the You Know Your From Lakewood, WA If… Facebook page. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.