Rusty Gross and I were chatting at a mutual friend’s annual Mardi Gras celebration.
He said the newsletter brought back a flood of memories of his growing up in Richmond. Then he went, “Oops, correction, I have never grown up and hope to be one of Richmond’s oldest teenagers to the end.”
He commented on how much of our lives were so parallel growing up in the same time and circumstances and how our parents, teachers and so many others in our youth became so much smarter as we got older.
His ultimate goal in life is to write a what not to do book rather than a how to do book from doing things his way with sometimes dire results. The lesson learned from his many broken bones and scars is, “Stupid Hurts”.
I suggested he send me one of his stories and here for your enjoyment is The Quickest Job I Never Had.
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The Quickest Job I Never Had
by Rusty Gross
As kids growing up we all fantasized becoming and maybe became Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses, Teachers, Fireman, Police officers, Cowboys and so many other things.
For me, I was overwhelmed with motorcycles and the sound of power and freedom they projected as they passed down the streets of Richmond.
From then on at five years old it became an obsession that would consume my life.
Fast forward after many motorbikes, scooters and very worn out motorcycles that were challenges to either get running and most important keep running, I was on my life’s quest.
Being a poor student in school with nothing on my mind but motorcycles and the people / lifestyle, for whatever reason I just happened to look at the classified ads in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and like karma there was an ad for Hod Carriers @ $1.65 per hour.
For those of you that never heard the term Hod Carrier it is a Vee shaped box with a pole to carry bricks stacked to the max to deliver to the brick masons for laying in place. I am guessing easily 40- 60 plus pounds.
Eureka, I’d found my destiny in life to quit school and work at this great paying job until having saved enough to buy a 1957 Triumph 650cc motorcycle and head out to sunny California and live the good life.
The next morning I jumped on my 165cc Harley and rode to where South Side Plaza was still in the building stages and saw this trailer with a “help wanted- apply inside” sign leaning there.
Without even looking at the free standing building facing Hull Street Road I went straight into the office to apply for the position. The foreman immediately asked how old I was and without hesitation I replied “19 Sir”, even though a few years had been thrown into that answer hopefully to get hired.
He began to tell me that work started promptly at 7am and to wear my oldest clothes since “you’ll for sure be covered in brick dust from start to finish every day.”
He mostly dwelled on the fact of how demanding the job was, in both strength and perseverance to be able to adapt. Since many people on day one were so overwhelmed and worn out they never came back from lunch break or quit in short order.
Being focused on the $1.65 per hour and the Triumph it was California here I come.
As I walked out of the trailer with the foreman he pointed up at the building and said ” be here before 7am and meet whatever his name was up there and he would provide me with a hard hat , gloves and whatever else was needed for safety and to expect to be pushed to the limits by the brick layers to hurry, hurry, hurry since they were paid on performance and speed of the job.
When I did see the building under construction, it was to become the Miller & Rhoades Department Store, all kinds of workers were scurrying around on I-beams that looked to maybe be 12 plus inches wide .
That was maybe my first epiphany of realizing that even to this day I take up more room just walking on sidewalks, there was no way could I ever walk on those bloody I-beams.
Needless to say, I said, “No thanks sir.” I stayed the course in school.
And yes, I do have a ’57 Triumph to this day in my collection.
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