by Kabrina Rozine
Continued from Home
Claudina’s father happened to be
the head Conservation Officer for four counties
and he arranged for Elmer to work in a fire
tower. Elmer was very grateful, as the country
was in the middle of the Great Depression
and work was scarce. Elmer sat in the fire tower
10 hours a day, 7 days per week for six summers.
If he noticed a fire, he would call a nearby
fire tower to pinpoint the location so they
could dispatch a team of people to put the fire
out. So many people were out of work, that the
government offered jobs through the Civilian
Conservation Core (CCC). The CCC was helpful in
putting out fires and was also employed to plant
new trees. Unfortunately many people were
desperate for work and would purposefully start
fires so they would be paid to put them out and
plant new trees. Although Elmer did report many
fires, the days in the tower were long. He
Elmer in the Fire Tower
would pass the time by making
wooden items including a crib, a violin and a
model of his future home.
Elmer completed an apprenticeship
as a piano tuner and tuned pianos ranging from
homes as small as shacks to the extravagant
Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island. He appreciated
the wonderful people that he met while tuning
and was known for his attention to detail and
fairness in pricing.
Elmer’s primary job was working
at the locks in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. He worked
there for 35 years and 5 months, ending up as a
lock master. Each day, Claudina would pack him a
sandwich for lunch and he would walk to work.
Upon retirement, Claudina mentioned that she was
relieved she would not have to make sandwiches
anymore. Without skipping a beat he said, “How
do you think I felt having to eat them?”
Needless to say, he did not have sandwiches for
years afterward, but has begun to enjoy them
occasionally again. He has now been retired for
39 years. The job provided a pension, and Elmer
would often joke with another retired co-worker
that the government didn’t make any money on
Elmer tuning a piano.
Elmer in uniform at the Locks.
Elmer built his own home, digging
the basement by hand (which was no small feat in
undisturbed clay soil). When the city contacted
him to say that they needed the land his home
was on to build a school, Elmer dug another
basement and moved the house on large timbers
down the road.
Never afraid of work, he added a
family garden, often having to break up the soil
with a sledge hammer, and began to grow food for
the family. To this day, he still enjoys and
works in his garden, still duking it out with
the clay after 60 years!
Elmer’s approach to life is
practical. He attributes his long life to hard
work and the fact that the higher power is not
ready for him yet. He still lives at home,
enjoys telling stories and continues to learn
about gardening and
alternative energy. He occasionally says
with a smile, “We never know how long we will be
here, so we should make the best of each day.”
Elmer working in his garden.
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