Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tell me about when.....

The one thing I guess I never got tired of hearing from my grandfather was the stories of his life. He would sit for hours telling us all kinds of tales, of pirates and buried silver. Of pranks he played, of decisions he made. He was 19 years old when his father was killed walking down the road, hit by a bunch of teenagers in a car trying to make the ferry. My grandfather then had the responsibility to raise his siblings and take care of his mother. He was the oldest of ten children, the youngest only 3months old. He promised he would stay and raise them until they were able to take care of themselves, and he did.

After his father died  he went to work building the Edgewater Gulf Hotel. This is his story in his own words, as I wrote them from the recording made many years ago when we asked him to tell us about back when.........

"Building the Edgewater Gulf Hotel"

After papa died. We came back to Gulfport in 1926. I had to, because at that time I was 19 years old and only making seven dollars a week! I couldn't feed Mama and them on seven dollars a week. So I told Mr. Mitchell, who I was working for then. He said, "If you got to go, you got to go, but I hate for you to go." But I said, "Yeah but I can't feed mama and them on seven dollars a week." 

So, they were building the Edgewater Gulf Hotel. My cousin Edgar Knight was a brick layer. His mama was papa's sister y'see, Aunt Lillie.  I stayed with Aunt Lillie and Edgar, he had a brand new Model T Ford. I stayed with them until I could get mama and them with me, about a month after papa died, they had to stay in Waveland, and I worked up at Edgewater. Hard! Edgar's the one who got me the job, talked to the manager, and told him about my daddy and that I had a big family. And he said bring him, and I'll give him a job. It was hard! I was rolling wheel... I was only about a hundred and thirty pounds, 'bout like Roger, skinny. I was rolling them big wheel barrels, not these little things. Rolling with mortar on them, up planks about that wide, y'see. They were pouring the floor about that time and I'm rolling them big wheel barrels with those big strapping husky men. I told Edgar, man, this is killing me! He said, "I'm going to get you a better job." And he did! 

First he got me a job with the brick layers, he talked to his boss. And all I had to do was carry bricks where they wanted them, you know up on the scaffolding, hand them bricks. And kept them supplied. That was much easier. Then I was making twenty-five dollars a week, and that was good, I mean from seven! 

Well, so my cousin went and talked to the manager from New York who was putting in the refrigeration. He told him about me. "Bring him to me" he said, "I'll give him a job, that way he'll make more money." Edgar said, "Well he needs it!" "Well I'll give it to him!" 

So he says, "Now son, I'm going to put you down here," They were putting down big angle irons for the shelves, in the big refrigerator. As big as this room. And I had to cut the... an angle iron is shaped like this...they had a concrete floor, it was already down. And I had to take a star drill, they called it, and you hit,.. it was a round piece of iron about as round as your finger, and on the end was grooves, cut like a star. And you tap, He told me in the evening when he was leaving, "Now you can work, I'm not going to be here, I'm going home, but you can work till six, seven, nine o'clock as long as you want to work and I'll pay you over time." So I said okay, and I worked till nine o'clock, after working all day! And he'd put the mark, and I'd come along to that mark and I'd take the hammer and hit, turn, hit, and turn it. Until you got a little hole about this deep. You kept on till you got all the way around it. You had to dig, I think it was an inch or more in that concrete, and it had to be right! Where those marks were. And then they came with that angle iron see, and they put them in there and cemented around them. And one of the first weeks I worked with that man, I made fifty-six dollars! I was thrilled to death! And he was too. And he even wanted me to go to New York when they finished the job, he said, "Son," It was the Loyal Lloyd Refrigeration Co. from New Jersey. "Son, you come back, and go home with me. I'll get you a job in the plant, where they make all these refrigerators." 

He was one of the bosses from that plant y'see. But I told him,"Man, I've got my mama and nine children, sisters and brothers." He said, "Well you come, you come and work and make enough money. And send to your Mother and them." he said, "And you can also make enough that later, you can move them up here." And I thought, Dang! New Jersey from here? Eww, that's too far from the Gulf Coast for me! Boy, (laughing)! So, I said, "No, I think I'm going to stick around here. I don't think I'm coming." But anyway, he really wanted me to go, he said, "I'll help you every way I can." He sure was a nice man! He helped me too! I guarantee ya! 
So that evening, see we got off at four o'clock, and they gave all the workers, painters, carpenters, electricians, laborers, and they said. "Look we have to get all this paint off these windows, we're opening tonight and we've got to get these windows clean." So they said, "If ya'll work on it, we'll feed you." So they fed us two or three times that night from the kitchen. We went into the dining room and ate! Y'hear. So we up on about the fifth floor and we're cleaning the windows, see. And the guys are working with me and one was sitting in the window, he put the sash down and he'd hold on and wash the outside, and I washed the inside. So this fella said, "Ladner, your turn to get outside." I said, "Like hell!" (laughing) I said, "This guy'll go home, I'm not sticking myself outside that window! Five, six stories up in the air! (laughing), Uh Uh, noo way!" But he got outside, that, sonofa" ( laughing) We had to wash windows all night. They were paying the mechanics to do that labor and work. Their wages, y'see. But they had to have the place ready. So we went a couple of times that night and ate. Boy, I mean they fed us too! So I worked all day and all night. And I made more money, that I made in a whole week, in that day and night. They paid us over time that night.

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