No hard hats here

Look at this photo and count the number of things you cannot see. It’s a building site.

Well, that may be considered ‘stating the obvious’ but if it were not concrete some may think it a demolition site because there are not the things you will see all over building sites today.

If you can see in the foreground some tools lying on the timber floor. There are three hand saws and a chisel – hand saws? Yes, they were much slower than circular saws but in skilled hands they could cut through timber with incredible accuracy.

It may be one is a rip saw – ever used one? I have, and I very nearly lost a finger. Ahead of the handsaws are two men leaning on a stack of flooring boards (incidentally, the flooring is pre-fabricated in sections – or is it boxing for a concrete floor?) looking, I should imagine, at a set of plans.

It was seldom that a chap in a suit, or in this case a sports coat, would ever be on a building site to chat about anything other than the plans and he is no doubt explaining a niggling detail to the chap with the white stick – probably the foreman.

To the right of them are two more chaps at a lower level. They are stripping the shutters off the concrete. The shutters are the wooden frames you can see beyond the two workers. They were sectional boxing and had to be bolted together through the edge timbers.

This is pure nostalgia for me. I started work on multi-storey building sites earning about twenty quid a week net. Just before christmas a Mr Stewart from a Bank phoned to say I’d got a job there. I went from twenty quid net to about eight quid net. The major difference in the bank was that I was indoors when it rained.

Notice how much a building site has changed; it’s what you cannot see that causes me to marvel at it. None of the workmen is wearing safety gear. No hard hats, no safety boots that you can see, no goggles, no earmuffs. But, neither are there any power leads so it follows there are no power tools.

Oh yes, the ladders are wooden and they were heavy. At any rate, the thing really is that what these men are doing, they are doing with hand tools.

In the background (from the left) is the old municipal building in Alma St, now radio station 1XH. The large white building and the house in front have long gone and are unidentified. To the right of the house is a very difficult to make out bookstall called ‘The Bridge Bookstall’.

In those days there was a footpath from Claudelands to the CBD which ran along the side of the rail bridge to Victoria St. There was constant pedestrian traffic but the rush hours would have proved very profitable – newspapers, Best Bets, Turf Digest, cigarettes, comics for the kids, sweets and a chipper ‘Mornin’’ thrown in for free.

The large building behind was a motor reconditioners workshop with a frontage to Alma St. On the right, the large two storey building was Kings Chambers. Originally known as Kings Theatre, it was the site of the first films shown in Hamilton. In its later life the building was converted to offices only to be demolished to make way for McDonalds (now the TSB).

Oh, what cannot be seen here? Nail guns, circular saws, laser levels, chain saws, electric drills… how would they cope today?

Note: Twenty quid = twenty pounds = forty dollars in 1967 = $500 in 2012 for a junior labourer.

Eight quid = eight pounds = sixteen dollars in 1967 = $207 in 2012 for a bank junior.

For further information, email Perry here – and quote HCL_07757
Hamilton Central Libraries

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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