(We are here straining the limits of the randomness that defines (note: that’s a joke, there) this here blog. You’ve been warned.)
The joy associated with emptying my late sister’s house was increased dramatically by the discovery of an ancient brochure put together for my dad’s business. Step aside, H. naledi – I got your earth-shaking find right here.
In 1962, my dad, Sid Moore, started a sheet metal fabrication company he named, in the spirit of Sputnik and Mercury, Astro-Fab:
I love the groovy name coupled with the Old West typeface – don’t know what, if any, thought went into that, but it’s weirdly cool.
My first real job, at age 11 or 12, was sweeping that building every Saturday. Armed with a push broom, a trash barrel, and a bucket of that dust-suppressing oily sawdust stuff, you worked your way through the paint area, shipping and receiving, material storage, welding, shearing, forming/brake press area, to layout and fabrication – 8 hours later, the floor was pretty clean, for a building housing a bunch of oily, spattery machines run by a bunch of sweaty guys.
At a buck an hour, I was probably wildly overpaid – but I worked hard, and, to this day, have some serious sweeping chops, even though my hands have gone soft – no more callouses on my palms. Over Saturdays and summers through age 19, ended up learning how to do most of the manual stuff – never did layout or welding (except for spot-welding, which is different), but most everything else – punch press, fabricator, shears, brake-press, grinding, painting. And lots of sweeping up and getting rid of the scrap metal (which might be the most dangerous job in the shop – that stuff is sharp and pointy!).
The real hardship, such as it was, was the lack of insulation. Inside that building it was often well over 100F in the summer, and it took a long time to warm up in the winter. As hard as it is to believe and contrary to the received mythology, it can get down near freezing in SoCal. When it did, that building stayed cold for most of the day. Working with your hands when they’re numb is not a lot of fun. Yea, yea, uphill both ways.
The brochure is from around when I started working there, maybe 1970. Astro-Fab had moved to this location a few years earlier, after it had outgrown the original shop. At home, it was just known as ‘the Shop’, as in: dad’s going to the Shop. It was located a couple blocks into Pico Rivera from Whittier, right off Whittier Blvd, in LA county.
Astro-Fab meant that we went from a family of 9 kids getting by on the wages of a sheet metal worker (certainly doable, but as much fun as it sounds) to living pretty well, in the working-class idea of what that means. by 1970, there was a nice house where the kids (mostly) had a bedroom to themselves, new cars every few years, a one-week vacation usually to the mountains or beach, and my dad could write a check to send me to college (it was a lot cheaper back then, but still). I am grateful. Certainly, my older siblings got very little of that.
Anyway, here’s to Astro-Fab, the American Way, and hard work. These are not myths, but reality. They are certainly not the only things or most important things, but they are real.