Many solid foundations are underfoot

Over the years, I have tried to amble along in the company of good people.

When they are not immediately available, I go off looking for them. Often, I find evidence of their presence underfoot.

Take, for example, the concrete floors at Ella White Elementary School. They were poured in 1950 by Willis and Jerry Lancaster. Earlier that year, the two of them formed L&S Concrete-Lancaster and Sons. Willis was a Lancaster, Jerry his oldest son.

Now, consider this: One yard of concrete requires six bags of cement. Each bag weighs 94 pounds, and every bag in that Ella White pour had to be carried up 14 steps, emptied into a waiting cement truck’s rotating hopper, there to be mixed with sand, gravel, and water to create concrete.

Do the math: Willis and Jerry — the Zann boys helped — carried 28,200 pounds of cement up all those steps, one bag at a time — one step at a time — to mix the 50 yards of concrete that had to be delivered daily, for days, to the Ella White job site.

Now, jump ahead five years to a basketball game played on a gym floor laid on that Lancaster concrete. I’m playing for Bingham School’s seventh-grade team, and we’re pitted against arch-rival McPhee.

Things went well; I was able to contribute to our win.

After the game, Patti LaLonde — a winsome seventh-grade blonde and McPhee school cheerleader — smiled at me — causing my pulse to speed — my breathing to slow and deepen.

Were it not for concrete poured underfoot, that game would never have been played, and I wouldn’t have breathed so deeply.

Other examples are scattered about — we regularly walk on them.

Over time, other Lancaster sons came on board: Bob and “Big John,” both good men now passed. Son Tom pursued other interests.

Today, L&S is run by Jerry’s son, Tim; his wife, Dawn, daughter, Stephanie, and Tim’s sister, Pam Malaney. Jerry, 92, still stops by.

You probably didn’t attend Alpena Boy’s Club Camp on Long Lake in Hillman; unfortunately, it’s long gone — but many did. We lived on floors in camper’s cabins, sat in chairs on dining hall floors, used community restrooms, and walked on sidewalks, all of which L&S helped fashion.

No cost was amortized in any camper’s fees — there was none.

That old bridge to Island Park — its deck was assembled in L&S’s yard, lifted onto a flatbed, and trucked to the island, set on abutments whose forms were filled with L&S concrete at no cost to the tens of thousands of us who walked over it.

What of the new covered bridge?

When next you visit the island, note the evidence of good people incorporated into the bridge that leads you there. A project conceived, promoted, and guided by Mike Kendziorski.

The time, labor, materials, skills, and financial support necessary to its completion were donated by over 70 individuals and entities of this community.

A cooperative endeavor unrelated to political or religious affiliation.

Those massive, hand-hewn beams, its classic roof, the stone rubble so artfully placed; its knotty pine ceiling and planked deck; its finished stonework, landscaping, plumbing, and electrical work all masterfully accomplished — a communal effort — unique, beautiful, functional, enduring.

You’ll not notice, but be aware of the 242 yards of donated L&S concrete lying underfoot.

A final observation.

I couldn’t ride with driver Ricky Wikaryasz — cement trucks accommodate only one, so I followed along. We went out to Wilbert Vault Co., next to Evergreen cemetery.

Ricky drove to the back of a building, entered, and expertly guided his load of concrete down a chute into waiting forms of burial vaults and lids.

Wilbert employees John and Larry troweled the concrete smooth and moved it into voids.

When my remains are laid to rest, they will likely lie in a vault made from stone quarried here, fired into clinker in our kilns, then ground into the cement used to mix the concrete poured into its form.

Evidence of many good people underneath, to either side, over top — and underfoot.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.


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