Today’s Thoughts About Yesterday’s Work Ethic

Today I was preparing for a ceiling mural project I’m about to begin and I reached for the carpenter’s square so I could make a template.  But this wasn’t any carpenter’s square.  It was my Grandfather’s.  I’m sure it was one of many.  “Pop” as we affectionately called him was a Union carpenter.  He, along, with tons of other men, worked on the construction of the Verrazano Bridge in the early 1960’s.  He showed me the medal he had gotten as being part of the construction crew.  This was a man, hard around the edges, who took pride in what he did and worked hard every day.  He was a man with a strong work ethic, resiliency and integrity, who persevered through many a hard time in the 20th Century such as The Great Depression, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam.


Pop was all about doing things the “right” way.   Sometimes his way was the hardest way, but he felt that’s when things were done right.  Everything else, in his opinion, was a “Snow Job.”  I used to chuckle about that phrase as a little girl.  Sometimes I still do.  But, that work ethic was ingrained in my head.  The driveway had to be topcoated with a brush, the railing needed to be stripped of paint before a new coat could be painted.  The chain link fence had to be painted by hand with a brush.  Those are just a few examples.  Even when he retired from working, he would be involved in making things.  I think I was the only little girl who had a square ice skating rink in my back yard.  Yep, he built it for me.   When he built something, it would last FOREVER.  And, you never knew any construction took place.  He was that neat.

His basement was a carpenter’s candyland.  I remember seeing a planer machine, all kinds of cross cut saws with their decoratively carved handles hanging from nails, sanding belts, recycled baby food jars that held neatly organized wood screws, nails, bolts, nuts.  Each jar had differently sized items and the lids were attached to a plank of wood screwed into the basement ceiling beams so that the jars hung overhead.  There were  labeled storage cabinets with even more tools and gadgets but they were off limits to us grandkids.  He knew where everything was at all times.

Because I was a girl, I really wasn’t shown how to make things but I watched and listened. (My Dad, being a dad to all girls (yes, he should have been canonized) taught me how to build things and fix things myself.)   My cousins–all boys–were part of Pop’s construction crew whether they wanted to be or not.  Two of them went on to continue Pop’s legacy of  creating, building, repairing.  I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of working with one of them on many a painting project early in my career.  All of them have that work ethic, perseverance, integrity .  And all of them are about keeping the job area clean.  “Marcine,” my cousin would often say, “Keep the space cleaner after than it was before.”

Work ethic–  call me old fashioned, but yes:

-Things have to be done the right way; no “Snow Jobs.”

-The job has to be done.

-Say what you’re going to do and do it.

-And, the space has to be cleaner than it was before.

Thanks, Pop.