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Good Old Days?

Boy did seeing that pipe-threading tool make me feel my age (68) ( Letters To The Editor, January 2004).

Fifty years ago when I first started in the plumbing industry, everything was hard, heavy and dirty. This tool certainly was all three: hard work, heavy since you used it on 3-inch or larger pipe (by changing the dies, you changed the pipe size) and dirty with the amount of oil used to lube the dies.

I guess we figured the more oil used, the easier the task. What a joke that was. This was no one-man job and didn't require a Gold's Gym membership to build up your biceps.

I'll attempt to describe the working of the tool: Two men would set the die on the pipe and lock-set screws located at the end. Using two handles (which would have been placed inside the two stems you can see on the top photo), the men would rotate the heading-cutting threads. After two threads or so, the handles were removed and a ratchet handle was used to rotate the dies with oil, more oil and still more oil until the thread mark was reached.

A half hour was not uncommon. Then, thanks to Ridge Tool Co., along came the universal drive and we went electric. That half hour became five minutes.

I really enjoy your magazine and see how life has changed in the industry.

William Downey
West Roxbury, Mass.

More 'Trash Talk'

I agree: Union apprenticeship programs are excellent.

I agree: ABC should respond to criticism regarding enrollments and cancellations.

I agree: Unions are the last bastion of craftsmanship - but only because “bastion” means “fortified position.”

Jim, let's get some people trained in this industry! ("Trash Talk Over Apprenceship," February 2004.) The UA's California training sites are great, but they only graduate an average of 300 a year, and we need thousands.

I believe apprenticeship programs - union and merit shop - ought to be held accountable with an annual report that shows enrollments, cancellations and graduations. Maybe then you and I would be able to tell whether a particular program was achieving its stated purpose.

By the way, bias does exist. The California PHCC has been dragged through the mud for five years, but we're still standing. Our apprentice graduates have won the national apprenticeship contest four years in a row. I can't speak for our instructors' “spiritual” commitment to craftsmanship, but they are pretty darned committed.

You've got a lot of experience with union programs, a lot of it first-hand. Why don't you come out to California and take a look at our program? We don't very often get an unbiased perspective.

Steve Lehtonen
Executive Vice President
PHCC of California

I am not a fan of the politics of the trade unions, but I have heard that most of their technical training is high quality. So I read your Editorial Opinion with an open mind ("Trash Talk Over Apprenticeship," February 2004).

When I read the last sentence, I uttered an expletive that your magazine couldn't print. “Last bastion?” Please! Since when do the unions have exclusive ownership of craftsmanship?

I pride myself in my craftsmanship and teach in one of the apprenticeship programs that you sneer at. I do the best I can with the resources I have and try to convey my craftsmanship and pride in my industry to my students.

Could we do better? Of course! Should we be painted with a broad brush as lacking craftsmanship? Of course not! Perhaps you should rub elbows with the other 90 percent of the workforce. You would find some very high quality people there also.

Phil Post
DeYoung Plumbing & Heating
Rensselaer, Ind.

A Little Appreciation Goes A Long Way

I just finished reading Al Levi's column on Lou Dinnella ( “Who's Lou?” March 2004). What a guy! But the reason I felt compelled to contact you was how impressed I was with how much Al, his boss, seemed to appreciate Lou's service and dedication.

I've been involved in the heating oil and HVAC business for more than 40 years now. Started with dad back in 1961. We operated a small heating oil business back then, just me, mom and dad (reached $1 million one year). Then we sold out to another firm, where I've been for the last 28 years.

I've been what I have always thought was a dedicated employee, always going the extra mile, often designing jobs at home evenings on my own time, etc. But I've never felt I was appreciated, and very seldom been thanked for anything.

I'm now working for the third generation and so far no changes in site. It was just so refreshing to see Al's appreciation for Lou show through. I've tried to get my employers to consider Al's consulting services, but, so far, no luck. I hope Al, Dan, John and all the rest keep writing. I read PM from cover to cover the minute it arrives.

Name withheld upon request