A slip-formed lesson in character-building at Blencoe, Iowa

Mayer-Osborn pay stubs from August, 1954

Mayer-Osborn pay stubs from August, 1954.

Story by Kristen Cart

Just when you think you know all there is to know about your parent, you find a document that tells you something more. In this case, I found the pay stubs for when my dad, Jerry Osborn, worked for Mayer-Osborn Construction Company in 1954. He wedged a few weeks of hard labor between school in the spring and football in the fall.

The project was a large elevator similar to the first elevator Bill Osborn built with his partner, Gene Mayer, in McCook, Nebraska, in 1949. This example of the type went up in Blencoe, Iowa–and not without incident, as we have related in this blog.

It struck me that his pay rate was just that of a laborer. No cushy job for the son of the boss was offered–he laid steel rebar down during the uninterrupted concrete pour, working his way around the bin top as workers jacked the forms and scaffolding ever higher. Dad mentioned that when he worked for his father, he was paid the same as everyone else–a dollar an hour for back-breaking labor. Not a few times, laborers walked off the job after the first paycheck. It wasn’t easy.

Dad managed to find something to do on the job that was worth even less–he put in a fair amount of time at fifty cents an hour. I can only imagine what that job entailed.

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Jerry Osborn had interests other than building elevators for his dad. He was a champion golfer at Midland College. It seems odd that a good golfer, while cultivating the skill and concentration such sport required, would take time out to heave rebar for a summer job.

I’m not sure which year they won the championship, but I like the juxtaposition between the brutality of the labor and the finesse of golf.

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The summer job added up to a tidy sum for the time. Perseverance paid off.

These days, many of our college-educated young people seem too delicate for such work, especially in exchange for such a meager reward. It would make no sense to them.

But my grandfather, William Osborn, might say that this kind of work built character. Especially if you showed up for that second and third week.

6 comments on “A slip-formed lesson in character-building at Blencoe, Iowa

  1. virgbill55 says:

    seeing that made me remember the hundreds of W 4s I typed at the end of the year. Some men will work one or a few days. 1954 was one of the peak years. I really enjoyed the seven years I worked at Tillotsons. The bosses were so good to me,Mary recommended for my next seven years,OPPD Credit Union. virginia Engel Slusher

    • kocart says:

      I so enjoy your comments. I can imagine what a task you had, keeping up with such a sprawling operation. Thank you for writing about your job–and please, as you think of more to add, come back and visit us again. You add a lot of interesting detail to the blog!

  2. Chandler Thomas says:

    The 41 hours of pay at $0.50 per hour is the overtime earned. Notice on the pay stub that the total hours worked for the week was 81. Even back in 1954, the Dept. Of Labor required overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week.

    • kocart says:

      Of course! Overtime explains it. Each week of work must have been harder to accomplish than I thought. The job required many extra hours, or the elevator wouldn’t be completed in a continuous pour. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. Suzassippi says:

    Enjoyed the story, and the “lesson.”

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