Time Travel

I was thrilled to add this 10# American grease can to my collection recently. ab13
I know it’s got condition problems, it’s not a collectible size can, and it’s really not all that desirable in any way. So you’re probably wondering why I’m so happy to own this can.

This can has a great story!

A couple months ago my nephew Joe and I had a conversation about one of the buildings where my Dad, brother and I all worked. Dad started there in the early 1960’s doing maintenance. The job grew from a part time maintenance of one 5 story office building to a full time gig maintaining and remodeling 20 commercial buildings and several houses. My brother worked with Dad for several years, and I spent a short time working there when I was a senior in high school and the summer after graduating from high school.
I’m getting ahead of myself……

I was only 3 or 4 years old when Dad started there. Unlike most kids, I got to tag along to work with my Dad. He always had something for me to do if I wanted. Things like filling nail holes, cleaning up the work site, etc. Or I could just watch him work. It was a great learning experience. I didn’t realize until much later how much knowledge I had absorbed from just watching Dad work. The 1st floor was mostly retail space, but the upper floors were all office space. Several of the tenants were very influential business and civic leaders. Not only did I learn about many aspects of construction from framing to finish carpentry, to electrical and some HVAC. I learned about maintenance of boilers, pumps, etc. And I also learned about how to deal with people and how to handle certain situations. My favorite part of the building was the basement with it’s boiler room, pump room, store rooms, Civil Defense Fallout Shelter, etc.

Joe relayed some of the stories he had heard from his dad and grandpa from their time working there. I told him about what I remembered from being there as a kid and later working there. Joe suggested that I contact the current owner to see if I could tour the basement. I figured a guy with several million dollars of commercial real estate had better things to do than be bothered by someone that worked in one of his buildings forty years ago. That night I thought about the conversation I had with Joe. Old memories that I thought were long gone started coming back. I sent Joe a long email detailing many memories. Everything from putting several boxes of legal documents in a store room in 1976, to cleaning a boiler, to the very early years when one of the boilers was still coal fired, etc, etc, etc.

Joe called a few days later to ask if I had a couple hours to meet with him. I asked what was up. He said he had called the owner of the building and got us a tour. I think Joe could sell ice to an Eskimo. So a few days later I found myself in the basement of the building where I worked forty years ago. The building was completely remodeled in 2004, but the basement hasn’t changed that much. The lawyer who gave me a couple bucks to put the boxes of legal documents in storage is long gone……but one of the boxes is still there! There’s still a fiber drum with a Civil Defense label in what was once the fallout shelter. The oil fired boiler that I maintained is still there, but no longer in use. The coal bin is still there. About the fortieth thing I pointed out to Joe, that was just as I had described in my email, Joe said this is unreal. In my email to Joe, I had told about accompanying my Dad to a Standard Oil Company (IND) bulk plant to get a can of grease when I was four years old. A dozen or so years later I was tasked with using grease from that very can to lube a pump. Now some forty years later I was back in the pump room holding that same grease can that I first saw around 1964!

And thanks to my nephew Joe, and a very kind building owner, that grease can that I first saw in my childhood is now in my collection. Yeah, it might not be much of a can, but it has a great story.

Thanks Joe, and thanks Buck! It means a lot to this sentimental old guy.

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