Tunnel Work

One of the jobs I did on the WSU campus in Pullman was wiring and installing street lighting.  The job entailed working in the tunnels under the sidewalk area along the main drive on campus.  The tunnels were about 6 feet high and 4 feet wide, with access points every block or so.

That year the outside temperature was at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  You would think that in the tunnel it would be a cool working environment in the summer.


There were also steam pipes installed in those tunnels.  Much of the outside insulation for the steam pipes was no longer in existence.  Our job was to drill holes in the concrete walls to feed wire to the light standards.  Every so often we would have to go outside to get some fresh air.  Even though it was 100 degrees outside the tunnel, when you first came out you would shiver.

It was one job where it was advantageous to be small in stature.  When I drilled the holes in the concrete, I could rest the roto-hammer on my shoulder.  When the taller guys did the drilling, they were required to hold the roto-hammer out in front of them.  That was much more difficult.

One day I got sick and could not go in to work.  Another man was sent down in the tunnel in my place.  At the end of the day he said; “No wonder Adrian got sick.  I think I’m going to be sick tomorrow.”

We both held out until the job was done.

The hardest part of the job was setting the light poles.  The poles were manufactured out of concrete and iron rods.  Concrete alone would easily break if the pole were to droop or bend a little.  The rods would be stressed during the concrete pour, thus strengthening the concrete to withstand some droop and bend.

When the pole was lifted into place, it was necessary to use a crane.  The crane would lift the poles using a flat strap wrapped around the pole twice as a choker, holding the pole in the middle of the smooth concrete.  A choker hold uses a friction hold on smooth objects.  Since the pole is constructed in a configuration that goes from large at the base to smaller at the top, there is always the danger that the choker might slip at the wrong time.

Sometime later someone drove into one of the poles and broke it off.  There was just me and the crane operator on the job that time.  It took a full eight hour day to replace that pole.