Bill Packard: Working for Snapper at Marriners’
I’ve mentioned work in a lot of my columns. By the time I graduated from high school, I’d worked at a couple of filling stations, but then I went to work at Marriners. It was something that I had wanted to do for a while and I got a taste of the money that could be made in construction. I started out as a laborer, working for Dave Farley, but as was the norm back then, when they were short a truck driver, I got to drive. Driving back then involved a lot of laboring, as well, but I got to ride a couple of times during the day while the rest of the crew was working.
Then I went to work for “Snapper.”
His real name was Blaine Richardson. Work was never the same for me. I learned right then and there what work was in Snapper’s mind. I moved up to foreman and got my own crews, but never forgot the way we worked for Snap. I tempered things a little probably, but for the most part every foreman that ever worked for him ran their crews just like he did.
Every summer, I’d get new guys who were excited about making a lot of money. Every fall, I’d have a group of guys who figured there had to be more to life than this. A lot of people took a more serious look at further education or another vocation. Very few guys came back for a second season, but those who did were exceptional employees. The ones that didn’t return got a valuable education and got paid for it.
So, what was a typical day like?
Working for Snap, we started about 5 a.m. I’d go to Washington, get a load of sand and drive to Boothbay or some other local town. We spent a lot of summers in Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor. We worked from Boothbay Harbor to Searsport and every town in between. We had a couple of cats, Gene and Harry, who sprayed liquid asphalt on town roads and the rest of us hauled sand to cover it. We couldn’t haul sand fast enough to satisfy Snapper. I never got a ticket, but should have gotten several. The cops were called in just about every town we worked in. They’d come out and talk to Snapper and he’d promise that we’d be good and a couple of loads later, the race was on again. By the time people called again, we’d moved to another town.
Once we got to the road that had been tarred, we had to raise the dump body and back up as fast as the truck would go spreading sand out of a tailgate sander. It was important to pay close attention so that you didn’t back off the road or keep going when you ran out of sand. (Both happened quite frequently to new drivers.) We took breaks when the job allowed, ate lunch while we worked and left for home about 7 p.m. Five days a week. Sometimes he’d make us work Saturdays and he’d always tell us, “We’ll only work half a day.” Invariably, as it started to get dark, he’d say, “We only worked a half-day like I promised, 12 hours.”
When I got my own crew, we were paving instead of tarring and I vowed that I’d treat my people better, but I could have done a better job.
We were always a close-knit group. Every crew was. We went to work at 6 a.m. and if you were late, you missed your ride. I didn’t wait. If you drove in at 6 a.m. a couple of times, I’d leave early. You missed your ride again. If you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid. It was always a Thursday because we were on overtime and losing a day’s work meant a lot of money. There were variables that made a difference in the day that looked like they were not in my control, but they actually were. If I felt the crew was goofing off or needed to learn a lesson, I’d keep the truckloads of asphalt coming without a break. No time for lunch for a couple of days and the guys started to smarten up. If everyone was putting out, we’d get a break because the truck wouldn’t show up. I still work the same today, and I work for myself.
This isn’t a cleansing, ‘I’m so sorry for what I did’ article, it’s just the way it was. Hard work for good money. If you don’t like it, do something else. Many of the people who worked for me those summers have contacted me since and said what a difference it made in their life. Smart, young men who learned in the first four or five months after high school graduation that if they didn’t get an education, they would have to work like this forever.
Times change. I was in the Common Market a couple of years ago behind a Marriner’s truck driver. I asked him why he wasn’t working and he told me they sent him home because it was too hot. Snapper would be ashamed.
Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com. He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.
More Bill Packard
Break the rules now and then
With Rockport Fire Chief Bruce Woodward and the Learning Chair
About Elimination Communication
'I didn't intend to offend any mothers. Obviously, I did'
Let's go to court instead
Bill Packard: Legislature could vote it made a mistake about school union mergers