Everybody needs someone to show you the ropes, especially when you are a kid on a jobsite. In the 1960’s kids were allowed to work alongside grown men when your father owned the company.
To Dan Tempesta – A World Class Builder and My Mentor:
“Val, I brought a lunch not a sleeping bag,” Dan responded after my dad described the scope of the day’s work. My father, Valentino, was optimistic to the point of unrealistic in his expectations. When I was 12 he’d drop me off at a jobsite, give directions and drive away. For the next eight hours, Dan let me problem solve with him, asking, “How would you approach this-move these blocks or set up this staging?”
When I’d attack the concrete forms as if I were in a race he’d say, “John, we’ve got to last the day.” He’d set a pace that we could keep. Even coffee break was instructive to a hungry kid at 9:15 in the morning. “One donut with your coffee is best,” Dan would say. I ate two lemon-filled donuts and the second one lay like a brick. Dan could tell.
Actually he was a man of few words, but he made them count. We cleaned up at the end of every day; put the tools away clean and orderly, ready for the next day. “We’re not done till we’re done.” He taught me simple things like the right way to roll up cords, fold tarpaulins, and carry heavy loads. He showed me how to share a load and stay in step with him.
Staying in step helped me tackle the difficult jobs like a leaching field (what appeared to be a hundred yards of crushed stone to spread with a wheelbarrow in the glare of the summer sun). “How can we move this by hand?” I asked. “One wheelbarrow at a time, John.” Patient and methodical, he taught me how to approach a task; not to get ahead of yourself but think ahead. Ask questions so your planning is sound.
Even in our work boots, there was synchronization, a flow, as we anticipated the next move, the next place, the next step. I would see his small smile; we were tracking together. Setting up a job and moving the job along, each project was similar but unique. We discussed what we did in Andover and what aspects could be carried over and how we might improve when we went to Raynham.
Weather and the schedule created hardship but I learned from a master how to survive a day in the blistering heat and numbing cold. I worked alongside a man who needed to give himself to all kinds of tasks and last, not until vacation or the end of the day, but until retirement.
P.S. We visited Dan last weekend. He said when he looks back on his years with Tocci, he doesn’t regret a single day. “When I first came to this country from Italy I had no job. Your father took me on even though I had no car. Your grandfather would come to my house, pick me up in the morning, and take me to the job. We were working in Franklin, a long way from Newton. At the end of the day, he brought me home. I said, ‘This is too much. You can’t keep doing this for me.’ But he did. Every day till I got my own car, he drove me to the job. Your grandfather, your father, and you have been very good to me.”
Dan Tempesta lives in Falmouth, 22 years into retirement with a solid pension from the Laborer’s Union.