In the summer of 1979, I worked on a crew that started restoring the Morgan County Courthouse. It was my first summer of really hard work. My previous summers were spent as a life guard at the West Liberty Kiwanis swimming pool. Now some of you may think dragging yourself out of bed at the crack of 11:00 AM and rushing out to the pool to sit in the sun, listen to music, drink your fill of cold Cokes, and eating hot dogs, chips, and ice cream most of the day constitutes hard work, then so be it.
Okay, maybe I left out the part of having to deal with screaming kids, cleaning filthy bathrooms, and actually being on guard to prevent those same screaming kids from drowning.
The summer I spent working on the courthouse was a great summer. I was employed by a local builder and worked with a knowledgeable, professional, and hard-working crew…well, except for me. I will always be thankful for the patience they showed a former lifeguard with no experience in working at real man’s work. Even though I was the low man on the totem pole (can we say totem pole now in classic American literature such as this?), it was a great summer job.
Most of our conversations went something like this, of course names are changed to protect my children’s inheritance:
Foreman to carpenter, “Bring ten of those shingle bundles up to the roof.” Implicit within these directions were the facts that the bundles weighed eighty pounds each and the roof was a ladder destination about fifty feet in the air.
Carpenter to experienced laborer, “We need ten bundles of shingles up here on the roof.”
Experienced laborer to me, “Kent, go get ten bundles of shingles and bring them up to the roof.”
I can never say enough good things about the crew I worked with that summer. One thing they taught me was to finish college because I was not cut out for this kind of work.
There have been many courthouses on this site. Built in 1907, this particular courthouse is on the National Register of Historical Places. Once condemned with a fence around it and awaiting a wrecking ball, a group of concerned citizens led the fight to save it. I’m glad they were there to save the building.
As a young boy I remember the whittlers and knife traders on the courthouse square. I also remember the Saturday Night Jamboree from the courtroom. My uncle tells about having his tonsils removed in a make-shift operating room set up in the courtroom.
On the night of the tornado, I was glad to see the courthouse still standing, knowing it had taken all the storm had to give. As I stood for a moment and gazed at the battered building, all of those memories of working that summer came back to me — I was filled with relief the crew had had the good sense to never let me drive a nail.
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