Elbridge Giles and I bonded over dynamite. Not your average coffee table conversation, but an interesting journey, nonetheless.
We had different but similar experiences to share. Elbridge, his father and grandfather all had something to do with the creation of local waterlines, cellar holes, gravel pits and general blasting for construction, building and area terrain revision. I, on the other hand, with my father and, to a lesser extent, grandfather, altered massive expanses of the Earth, much, I should add, to my sadness in later years. We moved tons of explosives throughout central Pennsylvania. Our work varied but was largely involved with the coal mining industry, interstate road construction, demolition and the recalibration of mountainous profiles.
I started driving explosives trucks and making deliveries when I was 16. It was nothing to travel 100 miles with a five-ton load. An interesting coincidence Elbridge and I shared was that we both used Atlas explosives. This probably doesn’t mean much to many local folks, but for us, it further solidified our experiences. Initially, we used explosives manufactured by DuPont, Austin, and Hercules, but settled on Atlas for reasons I don’t recall. Elbridge only recalled using Atlas products but we shared many memories of the different types, sizes and strengths of explosives used for specific projects. It opened the door to some marvelous stories. Elbridge has some stories!
He shared the time he and a crew blasted on Monhegan for Don Cundy. And the creation of the water line ditch which runs under Western Avenue between the house where Ralph Spinney grew up and his parents’ place on Mill Cove. Elbridge mentioned the laundromat there once, on the water side, and a swimming pool where Douglas Carter’s house is now. I’ve seen old photos of his father’s crew working in the ditch preparing for the water line.
As many longtime area residents know, Elbridge has been busy over the years. His big pit off the Beath Road is now a water source for the golf course. He has an equipment yard near there with many unique machines. I think it’s fair to say that Elbridge does not like to part with his acquisitions. It’s also fair to say that much of his older equipment takes me back to another time and place when I worked around Caterpillar, Mack, Ingersoll-Rand, and Autocar. Those were the days, as some might have said.
Sixty years ago seems like yesterday. Elbridge could open a museum. He would be one heck of a curator.