During 1968-73 I worked as a concrete framing carpenter throughout the Chicago area.

The particular experience I’ll reference for this story was during the construction of two Chicago Housing Authority housing projects, located on South Drexel Blvd in Chicago that my dad was the general superintendent on.

The project was just coming out of the ground as we had just finished pouring the foundational slabs and rough forming the framing of the forms to pour the columns for the second floor. There were about 4 carpenters 3 laborers and two foremen on the southern of the two building sites that were about a block apart.drexel blvd

This is the Southern of the two structures we were building on Drexel Blvd, on Chicago’s Southside. As journeymen, we were forming the first floor columns. The ‘X’ marks the spot where their car was parked. The subsequent ‘encounter’ took place in the middle of the construction site. (Picture captured from GOOGLE Earth)

This was about the time that the group called The Black Panthers had a meeting ‘location’ about 6-8 blocks NE of where we were working on Drexel Boulevard. The reason I know this is that on occasion when traveling with my dad, he pointed out the buildings ‘location’ as we were driving out of the area after work. He also told me to be careful if ever I was driving near or through this neighborhood.

paperOk… I was aware…

Now, this one particular afternoon, in 1968-9, when there were major activities of civil unrest going on throughout the Chicago area, we were in a mid-Thursday afternoon work day, when a Cadillac with 5 black men stopped in front of where we were working. Then four of them walked up to the carpenter foreman, Jimmy S., and told him/us that “for our safety we had to immediately stop what we were doing, pack up our tools and leave the area… right now…”.

The fifth man, standing by the car, was wearing a baseball cap and holding a baseball bat.

We immediately complied. In putting our portable power tools and generators away, we had to load them up into our trucks and get it all back into the security of the construction companies storage ‘yard’, which was about 4-5 miles away.

We loaded up the pick-up truck with our equipment and headed off to unload them at the storage site and then quickly leave the area, heading home for a few days… until things quieted down and, when called, we could return to work.

I was sitting in the passenger seat of the pickup truck, Eddie was driving.

Now, as I’ve said before, I don’t think about what my hand appears to look like I’m doing that often and today was no exception.

As we were driving through the congested South-side of that Chicago’s neighborhood, I had my arm on the open window opening and my hand was gripping the upper part of the cab of the front door, just like you see pictured here.truck

Moving down the storefront street there was a boom and immediately pellets hit the back of the truck and the load we were carrying. We commented, as Eddie stood on the accelerator, that this neighborhood was nuts and we best get ourselves out of here.

A few blocks later we pulled up to a traffic signal and just to my right was a good sized furniture store. The display window was showcasing bedroom furniture and was chock full of mirrors…

Mirrors where I saw my reflection and the reflection of my dominantly displayed right hand…

Geeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… not my hand again…..

Needless to say, I quickly put a glove on my right hand right then at the traffic signal… and after we unloaded the overloaded pick up truck, we left the area.