Posted by Kevin V. B. Schumacher
Today’s theme was iron and steel in bridges and metal structures. I’m going to do my lead devil best to not use the most obvious pun (and I know you’re all glued to the edge of your seat waiting for it).
President Sue Hansen called our meeting to order by ringing the Rotary Bell. It’s the only part of our meeting that isn’t the truth (because it was forged, ).
Lolo Robison’s invocation was worthy of the British heavy metal group, Iron Maiden. She found and recited Carl Sandburg’s Prayers of Steel. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s the first time we bowed our heads and asked a higher power to “Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.” Maybe that’s what it takes to redeem some of us! Although we’re smitten with John Dale Smith (whose last name derives from Old English meaning one who works in metal, a form of smite) was absent and so Hari Kern ably served up some mood music (alas, no heavy metal) at the beginning of our gathering. Hari, accompanied by Ken Beachler, lead (typo is puntentional) us with our patriotic song, America the Beautiful. A big shout out to Hari for nailing it on the piano this week. Our special music this week was a banjo and guitar performance by Andrew Callis and Steve Robinson. They performed Union Maid, a Woody Guthrie labor song and I’m guessing they had steel strings. Ben Rathbun got his new member Red Badge this week, congratulations Ben on your new tin badge.
With the club steel reeling from all of this beating and hammering and steeling, we were introduced to our speaker of the day, Vernon J. Mesler, Welding Instructor at LCC. Vernon impressed us with his wealth of knowledge about the unsung hero of metal structures, the rivet. Not to be confused with a frog’s ribbit which is how those of us with a tin ear sing, the rivet is a means to fasten two pieces of metal together, permanently. The Mackinaw Bridge used 4,851,700 rivets, 95% of which were done in the shop vs the 5% that were field. Hearing Vernon speak, you gotta believe he grew up with an Erector set and actually knew how to use it. Vernon and LCC are one of the last bastions of practical knowledge on riveting (there, I said it). LCC offers Riveting Certification (how to hold people spellbound?). LCC has offered demonstrations on how to drive rivets and trained actors on how to look riveting. For the 75th Anniversary of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, LCC put on a riveting (no pun intended) demonstration. Vernon regaled us with his tale of buying coal in San Francisco, which was easier than one would think.
Perhaps the coolest part of his presentation revolved around the preservation of local history. Just outside of Battle Creek is the Historic Bridge Park. There, where the North Country Scenic Trail tracks the Kalamazoo River as it crosses I-94, are 7 historic mid-Michigan Bridges that have been relocated to preserve them for history. Apparently when an historic bridge is decommissioned, it can be bought for a dollar (if you believe that, the old ruse, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you is apparently true, ( Historic Bridge Park is just a few miles West of the I-69 and I-94 intersection. Click on the following link for more information: It’s a really cool park and I strongly urge you to stop in and see it some time. Trumpie and I will scout it out for a Rotary Bike outing there and report back once we’re done with our adult sports beverages. Vernon fielded a number of questions and President Sue closed the meeting.
Kevin V.B. Schumacher