The Book - Bart Beck

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About Bart Beck

THE NUN ENGINEER

There are two divisions of The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union. Inside and Outside. We were concerned only with the Outside. The lines of jurisdiction were pretty well defined, however there were situations when it was a little difficult to determine just which branch the work belonged to.

We worked with all of the "Inside" contractors, Beall Gibson and Roush and Rowan and Blair, in Kalamazoo and Koontz Wagner in South Bend, as well as several smaller contractors in both places. Their work was primarily Industrial, whereas, ours was predominantly pole line construction for Utilities and Municipalities. When any of those contractors were asked to give a price on a job, that had pole line work on it, they would ask us to give them an estimate for that phase of the work. We would do the same if we were asked to price a job that contained any "inside" work. We didn't solicit that type of work, however, it usually paid good and was, in most cases, not too difficult to schedule.

I particularly remember one such job in South Bend at a Catholic woman's college. Koontz Wagner had been asked to bid on the electrical work in connection with a new building that was being planned. A part of the work required the installation a new sub-station and several spans of new primary conductor. Phil Tanger who was, pretty much my counter part, with Koontz Wagner, called me for a price on the overhead line work.

As usual, the architects had designed a beautiful substation, but provided no way to get the primary voltage (7200/12,500) to it. I called the College and talked to whom I thought was the Chief Engineer's Secretary. We made arrangements for me to meet the Chief, on the site of the work, at a certain time.

When we met I discovered that it was not with the Chief's secretary, that I had made the appointment, it was the Chief that I had been talking with. She was a properly attired Nun that I took to be about thirty years old. When we looked the site over, I could see that the work would be a little tricky, because of the congestion and the narrow streets. After I had made a few suggestions, she said "what do you think about putting a double dead end and a sidewalk guy, right here, and then a slack span into the sub."

I about lost my breath, she not only knew the right way to do the job, she knew the right language to describe it. I ask her if she would like me to make a sketch showing how we proposed to do the work and she said, "No, I have already made one."

That further bears out the old maxim, "don't try to judge the depth of the well by the length of the pump handle."

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