ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES

The year was 1982.

It was my first real job.

I was 18.

Ironworkers

Hanging out on the avenue doing nothing.  Sleeping late.  Staying out late.  Going to bed when people were waking up to go to work.  Sliding down the path of destruction.

A few of my friends were graduating from high school and heading to college.  Some were stepping out into the work world. Some like me, were unemployed.

As for me? I was still looking for answers. Wait a minute, I didn’t even have the questions. No roadmap of life in my possession.  That is until my mother called her brother Tim and they “put me to work.”

The males in my family were Ironworkers (most of them anyway).  My grandfather, Ray Corbett was the business agent for many years for Local 40. “Never miss a day of work,” was his advice.  I was too stubborn to follow his sage advice.

My uncles and cousins were proud of their trade.

My skill on the iron wasn’t great to start.  Things started slow but they quickly picked up as I worked with good people who took the time to teach me the trade. Joey Alba was the best.   Knowledge is power. Andy Purcell was another gem.

As an apprentice, I was trying to find my way down at Battery Park.  Climbing the steel isn’t for everyone, I was forced into the craft out of desperation; I had nowhere else to turn. It was my last resort; so I thought.

When I was twelve I came in contact with the iron for the first time.

It was a rainy Friday afternoon.  Mom brought me over to New York (That’s what we called Manhattan). My father was on a job and she needed some money.  She chased him around a lot.  He made it hard on her.  He always made her chase him for it.

Standing on the corner of 53rd and Lexington,  I looked up as we came out of the subway.  There was a guy straddling a beam about three floors up.  He was tightening some bolts with a wrench.

As we stood there waiting for the light to turn green I glanced up and to my surprise, this guy with the steel hard-hat and tool belt waved to me.

I stood there memorized. I was hooked.

“Mom, I wanna be an Irownworker,” I recall telling her on the train headed back to Brooklyn.

Yesterday down by Battery Park,  they topped out One World Trade Center.

Congratulations to all the Ironworkers on this job.

Respectfully,

Red

Hoops135@hotmail.com

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4 Responses to ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES

  1. jiimyvac says:

    Very inspiring to watch..

  2. bob terry says:

    You used the title of one of my favorite movies of all time: Angeles With Dirty Faces. It had a great cast: James Cagney, Pat O’Brien (I knew his daughter), Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey, Gabriel Dell & Huntz Hall. It was a real New York movie & a great story. I was an iron worker too. I worked on The 59th Street bridge for one year as a welder while I attended Hunter College @ night. I remember Ray Corbett.

    • hoopscoach says:

      Bob,

      Yes, I saw that movie. Also, I recall someone use that line when they described Ironworkers. Forget who said it…

      Did you like the ironworking business?

      • bob terry says:

        My simple answer would be no, but it was a good experience. For the last 45 years, I’ve been in the investment business. My dad, grandfather & a few uncles were all ironworkers.

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