The hidden years in Canada 6, gyprock and stuts

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Monday 09 March 08:00

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Gyprock and stuts

 ‘The first floor is to be unloaded,’ said the lip and we knew what that meant. Wagon after wagon of drywall would come from the yard and that would be brought manually to the shed, where they were placed on beams. If you lay them 'cold' on the ground, it would be difficult to pick them up later again. They had to be put on size. There were also heavier plates, which were fire resistant or flame retardant. It was all serious now, everything was made ready for the floor of PlaceConcord that would be poured.

We had to ensure that the materials were all ready in time and in the right places. We were the towing and packing people like those unfortunates who in large droves had been worn out by the former pharaoh's, with the construction of their pyramids. We did not count. Where the offices were to come, the plates were put in piles, along with the aluminum 'stuts' which had an H-shaped profile. After us a team would come and 'shoot' the lying stuts to the ground, staking out the office space, shooting with inch nails through the strut and into the concrete floor. The same would happen to the ceiling. In between at an intermediate distance of one meter parallel stuts, would be screwed in with a drill .. Then the glass wool insulation was crammed in and on either side of the stuts, the plaster boards were then screwed and fitted to place. In no time, then within the frameworks with secretory walls, only the doors were missing and the finishing touch. The crane would hang from outside shielding in large hooks, suspended from the outer wall and the inside finishing of the floor could further take place, to taste in the winter.

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Everyone had their own job and was paid by the hour. You had the stut team who did nothing else but shoot on the marked places on the blue lines, the fixed stuts. Then a second round against the ceiling. Behind them came a team who just put on scale in between stuts, in their places and a boy who had the thankless task to cram glass wool between the stuts. The men with sharp stanley knife were next and cut the sheets to size. We had only one job, that nobody was short of materials.

Then some went back to the warehouse to pick up a load again and we were sent up high, to throw  the building up. Beams were bolted to each other. The trucks came back, the Indians took the bolting job over and we raced down again to bring up the next load.

In everything there is a system in lifting and loading and unloading. ‘I'll show you once with Rico,’ said the lip, ‘and if you do it wrong than I’ll kick your ass.’ The largest size drywall was 12 foot long, which is about 4 meters long and they were always four feet wide. It was a plaster layer like a sandwich, plaster inside with cardboard on the outsides. Machine made to equal thickness. They came in pairs and were always two joined together with a strong tape binding them along the short side.

‘Look,’ said the lip. ‘I'm stronger than Rico so I go up front. If you are going up a staircase then the smallest goes up front otherwise the taller guy needs to go through his knees and then you get strained backs or a hernia.’ He went to a plate and Rico and him picked it up as if it were a feather. They both stood facing each other. The lip had his right hand on the underside of the sheet and his left hand half over the width of the plate. Rico had his left hand as well at the bottom of the plate and his right-hand half over the width line, so that their arms formed two ‘L’ figures towards each other. They pulled the board slightly loose, waved and swung it once to get momentum, and by the second outward swing, the lip mounted it against his shoulder and immediately kept it in an angle, now he shifted his right hand back and he stood with his back to Rico, and his left hand pulled the board against his right shoulder. The plate weighed 80 kilos.

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I could well imagine that a lot of force and pressure was put on the right knee and that you would develop in time something nasty with your right shoulder. ‘Until three high, we walk them inside,’ said the lip 'and then we use the crane to unload but then you’ll have  to go up high preparing the structure, no candy asses here, huh!’ ‘No, I knew it sugar asses were dismissed’. He lowered the board down again. ‘Now it’s your turn,’ he said. I barely got it lifted. ‘That surprises me a lot,’ said the lip, ‘for such a miserable wanker like you.’ All day Rico and I unloaded wagons with drywall and at the end of the day the steering wheel of the Pontiac hurt my hand badly as I passed my hand over it. The blisters that had formed had opened up and after a while it had all become raw. ‘In a week’s time you’ll  have calluses on the inside of your hand,’ said Rico 'and then, you only feel pain in your right joints. Elbow and knee but also in your right wrist.

‘That is about it and then you’ve become board packer.’ ‘You know,’ I said, ‘how is it that we never knew that such horrible jobs existed?’ ‘Because we were spoiled silly without knowing it,’ Rico said. 'Tomorrow bring a dish towel, and wrap it around your hand and get your hand disinfected, otherwise you cannot work and you’ll get fired.’ ‘You do not know yet,’ Rico said, ‘but they only let us all do a part of the work, we cannot leave, we do not have oversight, we are kept stupid. We are unskilled. We are an inexpensive forklift. Throwing the building up is more pleasant work, but if you have just been hauling drywall, then you're right tired and you easily slip and take the big step down. ‘That applies especially in the winter.’ ‘I can picture that,’ I grinned, although it was not funny, I was grinning at the macabre image of someone half sliding waving his arms about and trying to keep his balance. We were dog tired and then everything becomes funny, the slightest joke and the dullest slapstick, become hilarious.

San Daniel March 2015

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