Working on the Reef Tower Addition in HI

I was working on wiring up a house in Fresno when a friend asked me if I would like to go to Hawaii. I thought that was a good idea because at least it would be warm and I wouldn’t get cold hands while I’m trying to work.

I went to work for Mr. Johnson in Hawaii on the Reef Tower Addition. It was pretty low pay. I had brought my tools with me on the airplane and he was glad to hire me and I thought – This is terrific, I’m able to earn some money while I’m in Hawaii having fun.

However working on the 16th floor of a building looking down at the surfers was kind of not as much fun as it could have been. I got a little bit sunburned while I was wishing I was surfing instead of working. It worked out okay though and one day I decided to ask for a raise. Mr. Johnson said go next door in the high-rise and ask for Mr. Kelly and see if he’ll give you a raise, “But I don’t think so” he said. I entered a room with the gentleman behind the desk and I asked for a raise and he said no $3.65 an hour is all I can afford to pay you. Since I was in Hawaii and happy to have a job I said okay and I left.

Even in those days there were some problems with copper theft. One day I came to work and Mr. Johnson asked me if I knew anything about the roll of copper wire that someone had rolled off the roof.  It had smashed onto the deck, 16 floors below. Of course I was not able to help with that problem.

One of my jobs was to go around and solder every splice in every plug outlet. Because the Hotel was right on the ocean each copper wire connection was twisted and then dipped into a pot of molten solder to solder the joints. I had to be careful not to miss any splices because you don’t want to have a bad connection in a resort hotel. I continued working on that job for a while but eventually I quit and started a business with a friend of mine called Color Unlimited. We did custom color photography and color processing. I lived in Hawaii for seven years.

In 1968 I came back to the mainland and eventually applied for work at the union hall, local #6. When the union dispatcher found out that I had worked on knob and tube wiring in Fresno he said “Great, I have just the company for you”. He gave me a pink slip which I think seems kind of funny because it’s an application slip, not a dismissal slip.  He sent me to Brookline Electric Inc. When I arrived John Brookman said “Super“. I’ll never forget that.

I was assigned to work with John’s brother _____ on the largest wood frame building in San Francisco. It still stands kitty corner across from Safeway at 14th  & Market. The building had been in a fire and we had to redo much of the original knob and tube wiring. My first task was to take 10 or 15 feet of woven loom (sheath) and push a #14 copper wire down the center of it so that we could use it to extend some wire and move some panels to a better location. After working for John Brookman at Brookline Electric and the Union for a while I decided that rather than have to get up so early and go to work for some one else, I would rather start my own business again, as a continuation of what I had been doing in Fresno.

2 thoughts on “Working on the Reef Tower Addition in HI”

  1. Mmmm are you not still with BrookeLine? It was interesting to note you left Hawaii in 1968, for I was knee deep in the Vietnam war and was having my second child. I was fortunate that my first was a boy and very curious as to what was in his surroundings. We lived on Kapiolani Blvd and I was working for Brooks Rent A Car. I too made minimum wage, I wonder if your boss was John Kelly?

  2. Again, an interesting story. So many times I have had to work with knob and tube in the past and each time I did I found myself thanking John Peters for teaching me.

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