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Cement Slingers: 1955

Cement Slingers: 1955

From around Columbus, Georgia, circa 1955 come the two strapping lads last seen here and here seven years ago, though they don't look a day older. Playing catch with 94-pound sacks of cement must keep you young. 4x5 inch acetate negative. View full size.


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Heavy, man

In 1966 I got a job as a construction laborer in Middlebury, Vermont, during my college summer vacation. In addition to cement trucks we mixed concrete on-site. While working on the third floor the elevator broke (or was flagged as being unsafe). As a result the other laborers and I carried those 96-pound bags up three flights of stairs all day for three weeks. When I came home I was a quarter inch shorter than when I went to work. Maybe that’s why I have back problems now.

Less is more

Some twenty years ago the weight of a bag of cement was lowered by Dutch health and safety from 100 to 50 pounds a bag. Builders were pleased: now they could carry three bags at a time instead of two.

A stout hand truck

The bag currently being loaded will bring the load to just shy of a third of a ton, more than the quarter-ton payload capacity of a small pickup truck.

1955 Technology

The pallet and the forklift don't seem like they'd be all that hard to come up with. That said I spent a summer making pallets. Hard work.

[Fork lifts and pallets were around much earlier than 1955. - Dave]

Before fork lifts and palletizers

I grew up in "cement country", and worked summers at a cement plant to earn college tuition money. My father and many relatives spent their entire careers in cement plants. These "lads" seem to be unloading a truck or trailer. At the beginning of the journey, a group of men had to load that truck. Or a boxcar. And often spent all day long placing cement bags onto a hand truck, wheeling them into a truck or boxcar, and then neatly stacking them. Even if it was July and hot and humid. Before pallets, palletizers (the machine that automatically places the bags on forklifts), and fork lifts.

Good product placement

I notice Dave put the Shorpy watermark on the next bag of cement.

Mix ¾ oz gin, ½ oz liqueur ...

... with a dash of powdered cement, stir and serve.
I guess I expected something else.

Slinging cement - right and wrong!

A few years ago at a Home Depot, I watched as one strapping fellow loaded cement bags into a lady's car. Granted, these were probably 60-pound cement bags as opposed to 90+ pound concrete mix, but …

He would bend over at the waist, reach down onto a pallet for three bags, stand, turn and drop them into her trunk. I have visions of him today, barely able to stand up!

Good God

... Almighty. For once, I wish I was a sack of cement.

No need for a Gym membership

We'll just sling 94-pound bags of cement for 10 hours. Can't imagine people working like that today.

Hubba hubba

As that new t-shirt ad says, front seats to the gun show.

OED Fellows

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, usage of "strapping" as a descriptive goes back to 1657, when it applied to a young woman. "And, now and then, one of the bolder strapping girls would catch him in her arms, and kisse him."

Apparently derived from association of large size with violent action, as in "whopping," "bouncing," "spanking."

[P.S. Dave gets full credit for the title of this comment.]

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